The dawn of 2011 saw me living and working outside of California for the first time in my life. Chicago was exciting, it was daunting, but mostly, it was a chance to grow not only as a person, but also as a designer. It was a time for meaningful resolve.

I make resolutions every year; resolutions that, despite my efforts, I inevitably fail to follow through on. I wanted 2011 to be different, though, for I felt very strongly that the future of my career depended on my writing. I resolved, then, to restart my blog, and this time, THIS time, nothing was going to stop me from writing.

Mission Accomplished, I must say, but I didn’t do it alone. I had help.

This time of year is usually crammed full of “Top Tens.” Lists of games, movies, and other such narcissistic insipidity. Myself, I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to list the top five things that helped me and pushed me to keep writing this year.

5) Thankful commenters – I believe that great writing is about taking a stance; and, consequently, I knew that taking strong stances in my writing would alienate people. I always told myself, however, that if even one person finds what I write helpful, then I have achieved my goal. I generally don’t reply in the comments on things I have written. It’s a stance I took, long back, because I realized that if I respond to one, then I feel compelled to respond to all, and I’d go crazy. Despite this, it should be known that I read every comment. Probably several times. Like, obsessively. And every person who has ever left me a note about how they have been helped by the things I have written have been a great inspiration to me. It really does help me to keep going. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

4) Carlo Arellano – Whenever I struggle with a new topic, I run it by Carlo. He always has the exact kind of insight that I need, and he delivers it in such a way that I can work out the solution on my own. Discussions ranging from what the future holds for the industry, what makes compelling concept design, what Hollywood knows that the game industry doesn’t, whether Ninja Gaiden is better than Devil May Cary, and why Skyrim is the greatest game of all time have been a staple of our friendship for many years. Moreover, whenever I lack for inspiration, I check out Carlo’s work. Through Carlo I learned that being the best at what you do is about always pushing yourself; and to do so through hard work and dedication. That has always been my goal with my writing: to tackle topics that I felt were challenging. Thanks Carlo.

3) Jen Aprahamian – Words like driven, hard working, and caffeinated, were things that I always felt I had a strong grasp on. I knew what they meant, and I had my mental pictures of how they applied to myself and the world. And then I met Jen. I was deep in the heart of crunch on Mortal Kombat, and working myself to, what I felt was, near death, yet it all seemed like a walk in the park next to the herculean life of Jen. A normal person takes something like one to two grad school courses; Jen, however, was taking three. A normal person, given that life, would have just exploded in a caffeine related apocalypse. This was inspiration enough, but Jen also pushed me, though she may not have known it, to learn new programming languages, and, in general, renew my love for coding. It’s something that I doubt I would have done had we never been friends. Also, she got me addicted to twitter. So there’s that. Thanks Jen.

2) Mike Acton and AltDev Community – I could say a lot about AltDev, as anyone in the author list is aware, but for the sake of brevity let me just say that I love what Mike Acton is trying to accomplish. Over the year the site has grown, and, while the community doesn’t all agree on the direction it is or should be going, I know that Mike’s vision is one that I share. Putting a voice and a face to the industry, and creating an environment of encouragement to authors of any walk. Little else has pushed me more in this last year than the other authors. The quality of articles is oft discussed, but I never have trouble finding something that changes how I look at a problem. I look forward to the future of AltDev, and I am so proud to be a part of it. Thanks Mike, and thanks to all the authors.

1) Eric Williams – I first met Eric when I was working on Chains of Olympus. He really knew his stuff; I mean, he really fucking knew it. Meeting someone with such a strong understanding of not only the work, but also who he is and how he fits into the whole was exactly what I needed as a young designer. It cauterized the vision for where my career was headed. In the years that I worked at Ready at Dawn he was constantly, and patiently, pushing me to learn more. Much of my style and knowledge comes from the stuff he beat into my brain. Earlier this year, Eric posted on his blog, and he gave a shout out to articles that he felt others should read. Included in that post were articles that I had written. It was a transformative moment for me; and this was, I think, the greatest inspiration in my desire to keep writing this year. Thanks Eric.

It is such a charged, warm feeling to realize I have accomplished my seemingly insurmountable goal of writing articles with monthly frequency. My most sincere thanks goes out to all of the people that have helped to push me to continue. Now I just need to decide on my resolutions for next year…