My Entry Essay to the Arts Institute of Vancouver

Greetings; my name is Peter J.T. Langdon. I was asked to write a short essay about why I wish to study video game programming at the Arts Institute of Vancouver. I feel the best way to do that is to tell you a little about myself and about where I’ve been in life.

I love stories. I love everything about stories. I’ve always loved reading, watching, listening to, and telling stories. I firmly believe that stories make up a large part of who we each are as people, and bind us as a society, more than governments or borders. Stories allow us to explore our past, our present, and our future. They allow us to delve into the depths of the two most fascinating, while at the same time most terrifying, words of the English language: “What If…” These words inspire the philosophers and scientists of our world. The stories we tell give us answers and open possibilities these words hint at. These words have been explored for centuries in various mediums; photography, literature, film, theatre… and now in video games. Video games are, to me, the ultimate in interactive storytelling, the ultimate in expressive art forms. They combine all other forms of media in an interactive format never before equaled. I want to explore how they are made, how they are structured, and how they work. I have my own stories to tell, too, and what better way to tell my stories than video games?

I grew up living below the poverty line in a small town, often an outcast due to financial status and because I was always a little different; at 13 I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and other “severe learning disorders” as they called them. I was shunned and ostracized even worse, and grew up being told I was less than “everyone else,” that I was stupid, that I couldn’t learn, that I amount to nothing. They are wrong. I’ve learned, through many personal challenges, what my strengths and weaknesses are.  In recent years, I have come to more fully realize that I have far greater potential than any of those naysayers would have led me to believe, and how foolish I was to have listened to them. My “learning disabilities” may make some jobs harder for me, but they make me stronger in other areas, and I want to focus on those strengths. To hone them and make them even better. I have a talent for stories, and a passion for games of all kinds. I’ve always had a knack and a fascination for computers; when I was working internet technical support for Convergys, I was top of my team for technical knowledge and customer satisfaction.

Between 2006 to 2008, I tinkered with an MMO server emulator and was single-handedly growing a community of players for the game that server emulated. My passion for the intricacies game development truly began, however, with the announcement of Star Trek Online by Perpetual Entertainment. I started wondering how they’d implement the art, gameplay, sound, writing, etc. I started hunting articles and information on the subject; what the various jobs were, what education or training they looked for, what the process of building a video game truly entailed. After Perpetual lost the licensing and Cryptic Studios picked it up, my fascination with the development process grew. It’s continued to grow and grow through the life of the game. My dream job would be to be the Assistant Executive Producer on Star Trek Online, and take over the EP role when Daniel Stahl himself retires from the industry. That particular dream maybe too specific to be likely, but that does not change my desire… nay, hunger for the industry and to be a big part of it.

I have the raw talent and the determination; I need the training. Sure, I could go to several different schools and get similar diplomas; but mediocrity was what was dumped on me as a child, not what I want for myself. I don’t want to just simply be “good enough.” I want to be great. I want to be the best I can be. I want to ascend higher than the life I was trapped in as a child, I want to be the best. I want my name to be known by people around the world for quality, innovation, and creativity. That means I need the best skills, taught by the best schools. The Arts Institute of Vancouver is the one place I know of that can teach all the skills that I want to learn at the level of quality I hunger for. The Arts Institute has a reputation for producing some of the best talents in the industry, and I want that kind of reputation at my back. I have no doubt whatsoever that I can and will earn it.

The past 10 years have been a torrent of personal failures and disasters, I admit. I’ve followed job and career advice of the wrong people, and neglected to follow my heart. For all these years, I have been setting aside my passions and dreams to live what others have said is “better” for me, putting my trust in others before myself. No more. I’m ready to take my life into my own hands, to live the dream that’s been mine all along, and share that dream with others who’s passions make them my peers, rather than conform to the standards and desires of others. I’m ready to take on these new and exciting challenges, struggle through these academic battles for the priceless treasures of knowledge and skill, to conquer my personal dragons, and join the ranks of the victorious in this field of expertise. I know that I will not let this institution down. Thank you for your time, and your consideration.

 

Sincerely,

Peter J.T. Langdon

“Live each moment as though it were being used in an epic montage.”

Thought for today – “You get what you pay for.”

I’m writing this on the city bus as I make my way to the Arts Institute of Vancouver to meet my new financial adviser  I had been checking my email when the cheap backup battery I had been running my phone on just suddenly died. No low-power warning, no shut-down sequence, it was just dead. This has happened a few times with this particular battery and it’s twin; I bought the two together from a China-based vendor I found on Ebay for only about $10. As I popped in one of the more solid (and pricier) batteries I brought with me just-in-case, a thought crossed my mind: “You get what you pay for.”

Everything in life has a cost, a give-and-take; we cannot escape this balance. In the case of my batteries, what I saved in money was paid for in sacrifice of quality. Another phrase comes to mind; “nothing in life is free.” This is true, there is always a cost for anything we want in our lives. Sometimes that cost is money, and that is the one we can measure and understand the easiest, but there are other “currencies” we use other than just forms of money.

Sometimes we pay in effort or energy; bodybuilders are a good, simple example of this. So is education; you want the good grades, so you exchange for those grades with working hard on projects and doing homework. Even just being employed is an example. You aren’t spending your money, you are spending effort and skill; your employer is spending his money in exchange for that effort and skill.

Another currency we expend is time, and it is one most people squander most and think of least. Time is often exchanged in fairly balanced proportion as effort; studying and homework take effort and time, not just effort and not just time. But time is the most valuable commodity we have, as it is a non-renewable resource. Effort can be regained with rest, money can be earned again and again; but you can never get back the time you spend on anything.

The universal truths of everything having a cost and getting what you pay the price for are not new concepts. They can be found in pretty much every society, every religion. To use Christianity as an example, there’s the Law if the Harvest – what you sow, so shall you reap. Wicca religion teaches a similar concept, and all 3 Wicca “magics” (white, grey, and dark) all use a “do this, that will happen” process. Buddhism teaches that by putting out selfishness into the universe  you get pain as a return. Even in science: “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Now, before you science fanatics get in my grill about that not being what was meant, calm down. I know what this is originally referring to. Think about it, though; where in science can you find anything that just happens without some kind of catalyst starting it somehow? And how many of THOSE have no kind of “reaction” that has resulted from the initial event?

Everything we do and everything we want has a price. Everything. You want to be good at sports, you train. Want to be good at computers, you study and tinker. You want to be good at music, you rehearse. Want that big screen TV? You gotta spend that money. You want a long-lasting, healthy, happy relationship with someone, you have to make the effort and be willing to both compromise a little and sacrifice a little. You want to have a better life? Then do what it takes.

Suicide is not the answer to cyber-bullying, cyber-bulling is not the answer to anything.

An interesting article about Amanda Todd, still getting cyber-bullied even after her death. I just want to say something briefly. I have great sympathy and respect for the family and friends left behind by someone who has committed suicide. I don’t condone bullying at all, or blackmail. I have great sympathy for the suffering that was gone through that lead a person to suicide.

That said, I have zero respect for the act of suicide at all. It is the act of a selfish coward, and I firmly believe that it is never a justifiable option. Ever. For any reason. No matter how bad the bullying or the pain, there are _always_ other options. Sometimes it takes changing yourself and your perspective on things, sometimes it takes being vocal and pushing for the situation itself to be changed.

Suicide was not the answer. I understand the anger from people who knew her and are angry she hurt them by selfishly ending her own life. That said, I also don’t condone the actions of anyone simply trolling or defaming her memory now that what’s done is done. Suicide is hurtful, selfish, and stupid; trolling anyone’s memorial, online or otherwise, is just plain douche-canoe and deserves even less respect than the act of suicide.

This article and the death of Amanda Todd make clear the necessity for the situation to be changed in so many ways; not just in how we deal with kids bullying, but in how we teach people do deal with and cope with bullying of any kind, including cyber bullying. This shows that social media needs to crack down on cyber bullying of children and speed up any reporting and investigation process into cyber bullying. Amanda Todd might not have chosen to even make a first attempt at taking her life, let alone the second or the third, if she had been given the help she needed to cope with it and stop it from continuing. We need to be more willing to take kids, and anyone at all, more seriously when they either talk abut attempting suicide or make an attempt to kill themselves. People today are still foolish enough to think that they should not be getting help emotionally, and the stupid taboo about getting help from a psychologist or psychiatrist is just compounding the problem.

What we don’t have enough of in the world are well-trained therapists, psychologists, and counselors. We need more people willing to give their time to help people like Amanda Todd seriously, through just basic therapy or even advocating with or for them to stop bullying of any kind. With the speed at which society is advancing in so many ways, we more and more need those professions; we need that help to stop and catch our breath more often, or we become swept away and lost in the torrent of everything around us. This is a big reason why I want my Ph.D. in Counselling Psychology – to be able to teach more people how to be good, or better, psychologists, therapists, and counselors. There is such a huge demand these days, and nowhere enough people that are trained and able to fill that demand.

We are so stupidly superficial and judgmental these days, and we teach our children to be the same. Then at the same time, we don’t teach children properly to respect others. And now you see what it has lead to. Yes, you are unique and precious and special… just like everyone else. Just as you deserve to be respected, so does everyone else around you. Give respect to everyone, and remember that though individual actions are sometimes stupid or foolish, they are not the end-all and be-all of a person, especially kids. Kids will make mistakes and not always think things through, because they’re still learning to do that. Forgive them for that, and kids, forgive each other and yourselves for making foolish mistakes; you’ve got a lot more ahead of you. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.