Sunday, May 24, 2015

Reflection #37/40

One night, sometime around 2010, Steve Johnson, Carter Newton, and I were in a hotel room in Collinsville, Illinois. We were there as representatives of Hex Games. Hex, as you may or may not be aware, is the company that Steve and I founded way back in 1997 to self-publish role-playing games, and we’ve been doing that ever since.

It had been a long day and Steve, Carter, and I were talking about hobos, because everyone loves hobos. We started bouncing around ideas and eventually came up with the concept for a game called Hobomancer
. It would be about magical hobos who had to ride the rails to keep the song lines in tune in order to prevent reality from collapsing. We loved the idea, but we have a lot of stupid ideas at night. The trick is to wait until the next morning. If you still love your idea in the harsh light of day, then maybe it’s actually good. The next morning we still loved the idea. We decided to proceed with it.

Soon we pitched it to
 Josh. Steve and Carter (and Colin) are all college friends, but Josh is someone we met through doing Hex stuff. The greatest benefit of being a part of Hex, for me, has been the friendships I’ve made along the way. Who could imagine a world in which I don’t know Josh? Anyway, we pitched the idea to Josh, and he also loved it.

We divided up the work on the book, and Steve, Josh, Carter, Colin, and I co-wrote it. Josh, Jeffrey Johnson, Juan Navarro, and Chris Newman illustrated it, with Jeffrey designing the cover. It took years of work, but we ended up with a book we were all proud of, and released it in May 2012, just in time for my 37th birthday.

The thing that makes Hobomancer more special to me than our other books is that it’s about things that are important. While I’m proud of the work I did on Leopard Women of Venus, that book doesn’t really express anything deeper than a love of pulp science-fiction. Hobomancer has a moral and sociopolitical message, about the dangers of our rampant consumer culture and the importance of community. Also there are monsters.

We felt like Hobomancer was the best thing we’d done, so Steve submitted it to the ENnie Awards. And, to our great delight, the panel of judges nominated it for Best Electronic Book.

Some people say that the ENnies are like the Academy Awards of the RPG industry. That’s not an entirely accurate comparison, because there’s no academy. The awards are decided by popular vote, so while it is indeed an honor to be nominated, literally anyone can go online and vote.

Once we were nominated we got on Facebook and encouraged everyone we knew to vote for us. Many people, including family and friends who didn’t know what the hell an ENnie was, were kind enough to do so.

The 2013 ENnie Awards were held at Gen Con in Indianapolis. My Hex friends were there at the con, but they were all busy during the ceremony, so I went as the one Hex representative. I had an acceptance speech prepared, just in case.

The ceremony took place in a ballroom in a hotel. There were hundreds of people in the crowd. I got increasingly nervous as the ceremony went on, through category after category, until finally they got to Best Electronic Book, and they showed the nominees up on the screen. We didn’t win the gold medal . . . but we won the silver, and they called our name, and played the musical clip we had selected (“Hobos are my Heroes.”) The crowd applauded as I walked down the aisle, went up to the stage, accepted the award, and gave my speech.

That’s one item marked off the bucket list.

I got a lot of laughs with that speech. It was a much easier crowd than my usual classroom of teenagers.

After the ceremony I met Steve at a nearby bar. We were giddy. After years of hard work, it felt great to be acknowledged. I only had one drink, but I left the server a $10 tip; that’s the sort of thing you do, when you’re a big shot award winner.

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