March 5th, 2008.
I was casually making my way back home from school with my parents. Earlier than usual, as a matter of fact, due to one of my professors calling in sick at the last minute. It sounded like a real boon that afforded me more time for studying and, of course, gaming on my spanking new PlayStation 3. Things were initially looking swell.
Then, disaster struck at the most inopportune of times. As we were about to exit the highway, an 18-wheeler on the right side of the lane veered left without bothering to use its turn signal. My relatives were caught off-guard and proceeded to evade the truck by making a similarly sharp left turn … despite there being a Jersey barrier.
The collision was inevitable.
The car spun out of control and I paid the price dearly by not wearing my seatbelt. The next thing I knew, I got thrown around like a pinball and broke one of the windows in the process. A scarred earlobe and fractured left clavicle were sustained as a result of my negligence.
Miraculously, the pain was nonexistent (except when I attempted to raise my arm). I felt no fear, just sheer bewilderment at what occurred. It was as if I couldn’t process the accident I just got caught in. I had no time to think as the ambulance and police cars rushed to the scene, my parents clutching me firmly like how one would hold a deceased loved one in their arms. Again, I was too confused to fathom the gravity of the situation.
Why am I telling you all this, you might ask? Because it was through that unfortunate event that my gaming life would experience a major shift, one that foreshadowed my current self’s prospects.
Logically, my friends caught wind of the accident and prayed for a speedy recovery. Apparently, the Almighty Lord echoed a similar sentiment as it took a paltry three weeks for my clavicle to return to its original state with nary an operation. During that time, I had received all kinds of presents that were geared at consoling my surprisingly calm self, including a few new gaming releases.
Two titles stood out. The first game was, believe it or not, Burnout Paradise. Yes, a racer that sported all sorts of spectacular-looking crashes which constituted a huge appeal of the series. Despite having taken part in an automobile accident myself, I was not triggered in the slightest by the onscreen carnage. Contrariwise, I took joy in watching it unfold.
As much as I enjoyed the above game, I never had the chance to complete it. That’s where #2 comes in. The one that sucked me into its world with its whimsical presentation and robust gameplay. A title so monumental in its design that it fully molded my opinion of the genre it belonged to and the developer responsible for crafting such a revolutionary experience.
That game was the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion by Bethesda Game Studios.
I had heard of Oblivion while perusing GameTrailers shortly before the baleful turn of events. I used to gawk at the PS3/X360 comparison videos for hours on end, and constantly read the reviews for it. I was intrigued by the level of freedom and detail on offer, which was a stark contrast to the more structured JRPGs I previously played such as Persona 3 and the underrated Steambot Chronicles. It wasn’t until I popped the disc into Sony’s big black box that I realized that Oblivion was never meant to be a vicarious experience.
As soon as I got out of the Imperial Sewers that formed the title’s tutorial, I instantly became flabbergasted. Here I was, facing what would soon become one of my favorite settings in gaming history, a land named Cyrodiil full of quests, dungeons, characters, and opportunities for killing, spelunking, looting, haggling, stealing and mucking about. I remember my dad being impressed by the water ripples my Imperial pilgrim created. That observation marked the dawn of a new console generation for me, and the beginning of my love affair with a developer whose only other game I played was Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Jack Sparrow.
On Christmas Day 2008, I was treated to a PS3 copy of Fallout 3, Bethesda’s newest RPG epic. If Oblivion laid the foundation for my rejuvenated admiration of RPGs, Fallout 3 cemented it in perpetuity. Vault 101 still ranks as one of the most memorable opening sections I ever witnessed, and foreshadowed the 300+ hour-long journey I would embark on, one full of visceral combat and ambient locales that matched and, in some ways, surpassed what Oblivion offered by comparison. My path throughout the seventh console generation had been set in stone.
Around the turn of the decade, I began following all things Bethesda, including their third-party offerings which I equally relished, and my high school years were drawing to a close. I knew which college I was heading to when everything came down to the wire (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and I had a concrete idea of what I wanted to do for a living (game development), but I never took the time to figure out where I’d end up once the academic dust settled. Where would I land after two decades of studying and two years of writing for and about games?
The answer is now clear.
On July 5th 2017, exactly 112 months after the accident and following an incredible internship in 2016, I joined Bethesda Softworks as a Quality Assurance Tester.
Even now, I can’t even begin to understand how big of a deal this is. The fact that an easily avoidable car crash, one that could have taken my life in a blink of an eye, introduced me to a gaming outfit that shaped my middle-to-high school years and revitalized my interest in a complex genre remains hard to believe. To think that I’ll be working alongside the same individuals responsible for crafting massive RPGs filled to the brim with interesting stories to uncover, tales I witnessed in my youth and bore indelible conclusions and ramifications (that Dark Brotherhood questline in Oblivion is still the stuff of legends).
“No”, I said to myself. “This … This is all real.”
Looking back at what transpired these past nine years, I understand that I’ve been on a transformative path. Going from a consumer of all things entertainment to a creative talent has been a long and fascinating transition, one that has provided me with skills I’ll leverage at the House of Fallout and the Elder Scrolls. I worked so hard to get to where I am now, and I look forward to seeing what the future has in store for me.
Most importantly, I hope that this post will serve as inspiration for whatever endeavors you’re engaged in and goals you seek to fulfill. With the right mindset, work ethic, passion, and dedication to your favorite hobby and craft, anything can become a reality, no matter how surreal and ambitious it might appear at first glance. Just put your nose to the grindstone and let success ensue when you least expect it.
If I told my 12-year-old self that I’d be part of the Bethesda family, I’m sure he would have laughed at my face in disbelief. Yet here I am, standing in front of the building housing the folks who built the landscape that greeted me outside the Imperial Sewers.
Quite the turn of events, ain’t it?