Certain experiences lend perception a new aspect and a different lens through which to look at the world. We tend to get wrapped up in ourselves, in our careers, in what we’re doing in the here and now, where we’re going to be in five years. There’s a lot we take for granted.
In July, I was introduced to a man called James. James was suffering from liver cancer, and was told he wouldn’t live much longer. I’m just a few years older than James, so to hear that news was profoundly saddening.
His approach to life was an inspiration – not only to me, but to the whole studio. When I say that, you have to understand what I mean. I don’t mean inspiration in the throwaway word sense. I mean a genuine inspiration – altering my perspective permanently.
The Willow Foundation – an absolutely fantastic charity – got in touch with Rob (our Brand Director) and asked if we’d mind showing James the studio, as he was a big fan of the series. We were moved, and humbled.
It so happened that the date James could come in was the day immediately after Rome II was announced. James visited the studio at a time of energy and excitement, and we were able to not only take him around the studio, but let him get hands on with the Siege of Carthage. James became the first person to play Rome II.
What really struck me was how my colleagues reacted to James coming in. I was inundated with emails offering help with James’s day. The tour organised itself, as the guys around me scrambled to show James what’s going into making Rome II. It underlined what a special place this is, and how lucky I am to work for a studio full of people who care – genuinely care.
Mauro – one of our character modellers – suggested that he could put James into the game in some way in his spare time. He took reference photos and measurements of James and created an absolutely brilliant representation of James that will eventually feature in Rome II.
James was remarkable on the day. His enthusiasm knew no bounds. He asked passionate questions, and offered clear and concise suggestions on features for the game. He was kind in his approach and brave beyond words – and after just a few hours of spending time with him and his brother, he’d had a huge impact on me.
James sent a crate of wine to the studio as thanks, despite our protestations. A remarkably selfless act, and one that’s hard to process. To think of us at such a challenging time for him was a true marker of the type of man he was.
When I recently learned that James had died, it was devastating. Even though I had only spent a few hours in his company, it was absolutely devastating – because he was able to show us all here in the studio how passionate he was for our games.
And although he won’t get the chance to see Rome II released, he will live on in some small way in our game – and every time I see him I’ll be reminded of what a great guy he was. In many ways, James represented what’s best about working in videogames. Crafting games that people enjoy, and that stay with them. It’s why we all do what we do, and why we’re so passionate about it. He really brought that home to us.
If you’d like to donate to the Willow Foundation, please do so here: http://www.willowfoundation.org.uk/FundRaising/Events/Donations
Any support you can provide will help young people like James experience things they’ve never had a chance to do before.
Community Manager, Total War