Giant ROM: Find Yourself & Jam

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zandravandra

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Edited By zandravandra

We cried for hours. After 15 years together, we broke up. And the following day, Giant ROM began.

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I had just finished Commander Ryckert, a very silly game about Dan's adventures in space. It was getting positive feedback in the forums and I was elated. Then someone mentioned how a lot of people were making cool games with a Giant Bomb theme lately. Someone else said a game jam would be cool. Another implored someone, anyone, to start it up.

This was early 2015; my resolution for that year had been, and still is, to silence that voice inside me that said I couldn't do it, whatever "it" was at the time. I started up a thread and put together what would become Giant ROM.

I had never organized a game jam before. Hell, I hadn't even participated in one. But I loved making prototypes and small games, and I figured this would be a fun adventure. Interest and support poured in; people supplied logos and free art resources. Others offered up game codes for prizes. It quickly grew out of nothing, into something with potential.

That was right before PAX East, my main motivation for wrapping up Commander Ryckert. The game itself was a ludicrous concept that had grown out of a pun, and I had gone with it. Why not? I had free time and I wanted to make games. And, due to my contract as a game designer, I couldn't sell games I made on my free time, so why not make games that I couldn't sell anyway? Finishing it before PAX was key, because it would be a neat icebreaker if I met people from the Giant Bomb community or, fingers crossed, any of the staff themselves. I worked hard, made my stupid, stupid game, and everything went well. I even got to ask a question during the Giant Bomb panel: the best time to hold the game jam, i.e. the least busy time for the GB staff. April-ish was the answer, and that's what I went with. Giant ROM would take place over 9 days; two weekends and the five days between them. I returned from PAX East. Time was growing short and the date was soon approaching, but everything was coming together.

At that point, I had been with my wife for 15 years; married for the past 5. She's an amazing person; always behind me 100%, supporting me with my endeavors, inspiring me, helping me grow. And for all of those 15 years, I had been denying who I was because of a tortured mess of impostor syndrome, faulty self-analysis, doubt and fear. For years I had convinced myself these deep, powerful feelings were lies, that I wasn't really who I felt I was, deep down. And if I was, well... it couldn't work out the way I wanted, so why even try? If I couldn't have perfection, it wasn't worth having anything at all. I had myself figured out.

At PAX Prime, and then PAX East, I was alone, away from everybody I knew, far from all of my familiar landmarks, miles from my comfort zone. I was separated from the things that distracted me from who I really was. And then I was surrounded by incredible people who had found themselves and were living it proudly. I met passionate fans. I met inspiring creators. I met Samantha Kalman.

For weeks after returning from PAX East, I was a wreck. I didn't eat. I couldn't work. I went from therapist to therapist, looking for confirmation of who I was. Looking for a solution that could make me happy while at the same time making my wife happy. I was on the verge of finding out who I really was, but what if that person was someone that my wife would no longer be attracted to? The thought of being alone, of losing a relationship that I had invested so much time in, was the most terrifying thing to me. I was all about compromise; I always found the solution that pleased everybody. I was never willing to sacrifice one part of the whole.

Then it happened. "I know you," my wife said. "You've already made your decision. You're just too afraid to admit it." And she was right.

We cried for hours. After 15 years together, we broke up. I finally accepted the truth: I was transgender. After years and years of self-hatred and denial, I was transitioning. And the following day, Giant ROM began.

It was the most chaotic period of my entire life. My entire being was being questioned and re-evaluated. Secrets piled on top of secrets. My reality turned upside down. My longest relationship irrevocably changed. My dearest hopes and dreams finally beginning to come true. My fears raging like never before. But I had to make a game, and I had to organize a jam, so I made a game and I organized a jam. And this focus helped me make it through the storm.

Braking Brad, another silly game, came out of that emotional maelstrom. Along with 19 others, all of them exquisitely unique, made by passionate members of the community. We all came together in celebration of this rag-tag bunch of charismatic jesters who never failed to entertain us; to help us keep our spirits high during difficult times.

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And then, some weeks later, John Drake, Adam Boyes and Dave Lang watched and judged every single game on Giant Bomb's Big Live Live Show Live as Drew played and Jeff hosted, to the delight of each of us. It was the wonderful culmination of our hard work and admiration. It was magical.

It feels so long ago today. But then again, 2015 has been such a wild, crazy, amazing year for me. Three months ago my life turned upside down...

...And yesterday, I lived my first day out in the open as a woman. What a long, strange trip it's been. The past few months have seen the highest highs and the lowest lows of my life, but I wouldn't change any second of it. I've finally figured myself out; I found out who I really was. And every single moment that I can be myself, surrounded by the support and love of those who are dear to me, makes it all worth it.

In the meantime, PAX Prime 2015 is coming soon, and I have another silly, silly game to finish before then. It's going to be pretty rad.

I hope to see you there. :D

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Torbot

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#1  Edited By Torbot

Congratulations! This was a really great read as well.

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Euler_Riemann_Zeta

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Congrats! I'm sorry you had to go through such a hard transition, but I'm sure you made it out a stronger person for it.

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alistercat

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I'm so glad this has a positive end because it sounded so tragic when you got to your wife. You're far stronger than pretty much anyone I know. I have friends who aren't out yet, and I see how hard it can be.

You're awesome, and Chariot is pretty awesome too.

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ThePS2Collector

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Thank you so much for sharing this post. My hope is that the more these personal stories are told that others will be able to discover themselves as well (in whatever way that entails!).

I can't imagine everything you had to go through relationship-wise, but on a smaller scale, I also had to finally acknowledge my gender dysphoria as something real. It's TOUGH -- the results are 100% worth it, though. I'm happy to see you will finally be living life on your terms, as the woman you have always been on the inside.

Congratulations! If I were attending PAX Prime I would definitely want to give you a hug or at least say hi :).

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conmulligan

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Congratulations! It was already awesome of you to organise Giant ROM and knowing you did it during a time of personal upheaval is extra inspiring. So glad I forced myself to participate in that thing. Also, this just confirms that Samantha Kalman continues to be MVP. If we ever do another Golden Duder award, she should win by default.

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zandravandra

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I was nervous about posting this, but it warms my heart to see all your kind words. Thank you so much! ^^

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billymaysrip

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One of the best post-mortems to a jam I've ever read. Thanks for sharing duder.

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TN04

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#8  Edited By TN04

Man congrats dude. It's an incredibly brave decision to make, especially what you lost but it's going to be worth it.

Good Luck and I hope it works out.

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BakerMikeRomeo

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#9  Edited By BakerMikeRomeo

Thank you for posting this.

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Novis

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Holy crap! All of that and a transition?! Proud that you had the courage to face yourself and finally realize who you are! CONGRATS DUDER!

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zandravandra

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#11  Edited By zandravandra

Thanks everyone, you really give me hope for the future. ^^ Hopefully the next jam will be bigger, better, and way less tumultuous! :D

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ShadowSwordmaster

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@havochq: I wish you the best of luck on you next game.

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heatDrive88

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This is a truly wonderful read. I obviously don't know you, but I am happy for you and applaud your courage to write this to a bunch of strangers nonetheless. Congratulations, and best of luck!

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IcyEyes

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Amazing story, thanks for sharing. I can somewhat relate to the experience of building a game during a very traumatic time -It can feel strangely therapeutic-, but I can only imagine the bravery it must've taken you to finally make such a life altering decision. I find it incredibly fascinating to think how human beings are seemingly the only species capable of convincing themselves they are something they aren't.

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planetfunksquad

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Congrats! I cant fathom how difficult it was for you but I'm happy you made it out the other side. It's great that you feel comfortable sharing your experiences here also. You're stronger than I'll ever be.

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zandravandra

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You're stronger than I'll ever be.

When you test your strength, you can really surprise yourself with how far you can go! For the past 15 years I was sure I could never go through with it. And yet, all it took was to decide that, this year, I would dare to do the things I thought I couldn't - and it turned out that more often than not, I could. I'm sure you'll find out the same about yourself if you try. Good luck, and never underestimate how wonderful you are! :D

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MattyFTM

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#17 MattyFTM  Moderator

I somehow managed to completely miss this when you initially posted it. Congrats, duder, I hope your transition continues as well as it has been so far.

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NipCrip66

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Thank you very much for posting this. It is inspiring to see someone be so open and accept who they are and I hope you and your ex-wife can stay close and be happy in your separate lives.

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russcat

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Wow, this is a beautiful and amazing story. Congratulations on all counts.

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whitegreyblack

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#20  Edited By whitegreyblack

A strange thing happened to me today.

I was reading lots of silly things on a website about video games, and suddenly a story of someone's courage and challenging journey to find themselves made me cry all over my keyboard.

Thank you for sharing your story. It takes a lot of guts to bare yourself like this and I appreciated reading it.

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facktion

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This story warmed my heart and is exactly what I needed to see today. Thanks for your hard work organizing the Giant ROM. My sympathies for your breakup and best wishes for your continuing transition.

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aurahack

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I've nothing but smiles for seeing you share this with the Giant Bomb community at large. (I hope) I've said it plenty but: congrats. :> Can't wait to give you hugs and finally say hi in person at Prime.

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BigDaddyTool

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I had a lot of fun participating in Giant ROM and I just wanted to say thanks for organizing the whole thing. The fact that you did so even in the midst of a maelstrom of personal discovery and heartache is even more impressive. I wish you and your loved ones nothing but the best for all your days to come.

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Cogzwell

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I was nearly in tears after reading this, happy tears though. This is such an amazing thing and I'm so glad you were willing to share it all with us, this community has been a really great place for me to finally meet the people I needed to and I'm glad it seems like it was for you too. I'm always beyond joyed to see other trans people in the giant bomb community, and what's more amazing still is they're all so wonderfully nice and talented.

Sorry for getting a little emotional, your work is really nice and Commander Ryckert was well made. I'm excited to see what you do in the future. :)

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rcath

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Well well well well wishes to you.

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dantey

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Happy for you and your new life as a dudet. I envy your strength and courage and I hope this story inspires more like it. Have a nice one. :)

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Earthen

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reading things like this make me think that video games are pretty okay. Good luck, friend I haven't met yet. Maybe I will get to play your games in the future! And remember: life is an adventure, and no matter what happens the sun will rise tomorrow.

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bigmess

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#28  Edited By bigmess

I just got around to reading this and just wanted to say thank you.

Also, chicken for the whole galaxy!

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Player1

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Thank you for sharing this with the community. This is a special place with special people.

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indieslaw

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Wow, good for you.