I find myself part way through a week off work and feeling contemplative about life, especially when I remembered this blog and how different things are since I last wrote. I thought I’d share a snapshot of moments.
I’m still at CCP. I’ve moved house twice. I had some mixed times romantically putting myself out there. I found someone special when I’d decided to stop looking. I was desperate to travel. It had been on my mind for years, watching eagerly from the sidelines as friends see more of what the world has to offer, finally I was fortunate enough to travel out of the country – multiple times!
In 2015 I went to Fanfest, in Iceland. We were there for just under a week, and it was frantic. Every day was an early start setting up EVE: Valkyrie, non-stop showing it to players and press, and late evenings being sociable. I won’t lie, I spent many spare moments gazing out the windows of the Harpa, I’d love to go back to Iceland and explore some of the landscape I could see in the distance. We were surrounded by a beautiful snow-capped panorama, and I think having not been away for so long it really tantalised me.
The weather was remarkably changeable, blizzards seemed to pass through followed by clear blue sky. On my first evening I saw the northern lights, nearly everyone ran out into the streets to admire the sky turning green. The enthusiasm of everyone I spoke with at the event was uplifting, I’ve never experienced anything like it. In particular I’ll never forget the convoy video being shown in the main hall, the incredible reaction from the audience sent chills down my spine.
At last, my longings to go out into the wild were answered when I went on holiday to Romania. I trekked with a group of people across the Carpathian mountains, primarily sleeping in mountain huts. These huts get provisions transported from below by mules, or helicopter. It amazed me that you can be seemingly many miles away from anything, and still have a hot meal, a cold beer, and a place to put your sleeping bag.
The weather was incredible, warm and sunny for the most part, with huge storms in the mountains. Metal guide posts buzzed with electrical charge. The reverberations of thunder and lightning all around made the most incredible sound I’ve heard. As we ascended Moldoveanu, an old man stopped me to tell me he saw 3 bears (at least I think he did, he was speaking Romanian and miming). There seemed to be many stray dogs roaming the mountains, they looked remarkably healthy, and often walked along with us like a companion. Romanian sheepdogs (more correctly, livestock guardian dogs) wear a sort of stick around their necks, to deter them from endlessly chasing down wolves or bears, and keep them close to the flock.
Our group was varied, from Canada, America, Australia, and a range of professions; a dairy farmer, a teacher, a doctor. When I said I make video games, I found the group perception of it to be what I expected maybe 10 years ago – that it’s surprising a woman makes games, that all the female characters have unrealistic proportions and wear bikinis. I realised a lot of the variation now isn’t really visible in the mainstream.
Our guide told me Romania’s national sport is the barbecue and favourite vegetable is pork – the vegetarians in our group didn’t have a great deal of choice, but it’s great if you’re a meat eater. Everything in the distance seems to have a warm hazey smog. Although many homes look run-down, they always have lush, vibrant gardens abundant with fruit and greenery. In more tourist spots people line the streets selling blackberries and raspberries. On our last night we were hosted by a couple who run a farm and a hotel, so we were fed mostly by their own produce, including cheese.
My next holiday was to Poland for a long weekend. They’d had a heatwave just a week or so before, but the weather had closed in while I was there, it never poured but it was damp and cloudy. Although the weather masked a lot of views from summits, I think it also added to the atmosphere as we climbed Rysy from the Slovakia side, we were above, and within the clouds.
We walked through beautiful old forests, where nature is left to run its course (trees are allowed to grow tall, and naturally blow over in the wind, creating room for new growth). The presence of lichen is an indication of the quality of air, and the lack of pollution. We often heard stags in the distance. I talked at length to a junior doctor in our group, she had travelled a lot in her profession, but was also suffering in her work. What particularly struck me was her lack of time to stop and eat or take a break during long and late shifts, that the intense hours often leave you resorting to quick junk food, a nasty downward spiral into fatigue that game developers are familiar with – yet we’re not responsible for others lives while we work. Now with the current strikes over changes to junior doctors contracts, the prospect that working conditions may worsen still from the anecdotes I was given at the time, is worrying.
Unlike Romania, the only dog I saw here was in a well-fortified dog house, with about 6 other houses within, I believe they were protected due to danger of bears. After a bit of reading this looks like it could be a Polish Tatra Sheepdog, like the Romanian sheepdogs, they have the same role of being a livestock guardian.
The food was delicious, again, more so if you’re a meat eater, (a Slovakian hut jokingly had a noose for vegetarians) and I was once again blown away in terms of provision and comfort provided by mountain huts. This particular hut near the summit was so warm inside the windows were steaming, and we enjoyed a cold glass of Kofola, a syrup-flavour Eastern European rival to Coca Cola.
I was lucky enough to go to Amsterdam with CCP, to show EVE: Valkyrie at EVEsterdam. Amsterdam is dominated by bicycles, followed by mopeds, and some motorbikes. As a commuting cyclist I wish Newcastle and Gateshead had this formula. We had a boat ride around the city which is a wonderful way to take in the picturesque surroundings, and like Fanfest I was once again riding a wave of encouragement by the people who played Valkyrie, we have a great deal of support to be thankful for. I stayed at an Air BnB, and my kind host left me a dog postcard and delicious stroopwafels before I left for my plane in the morning.
It was so important for me to see a change of scenery, and I’m very lucky I’ve been able to do that. I’m hoping the next time I write here, it’s to share a chapter of motorcycle adventures, but we’ll have to wait and see!