|Programming, Japanese, Game Theory, Music, Mathematics
|Bob's Pipe City (unfinished), Megazeux Combat Trainer, Various DoZ entries
Email: wervyn [at] gmail [dot] com
I wasn't always so mellow.
Man, where did this whole thing begin anyway? It feels like so long ago and so much has changed (and by turns, stayed the same). I guess I should start with what I can remember.
From the beginning, I was probably what would be considered a prodigy, at least on the small scale. I think I used to be proud of that, but not so much anymore. After all, it's not like that's something I ever had any control over, and the part that I did control, the application part, I tended to slack on. All the talent in the world doesn't make an ounce of difference if it goes unused, and I was generally content to be "that smart kid". In any case, I got hooked on math pretty early, and was ahead of the grade from kindergarten onward; first a year ahead, then two, and then thanks to some summer courses, as many as four years ahead of what's considered standard. At least, I think it's still the case that a lot of people don't take Calculus until they go to college (if they go to college at all). I was doing Calculus as a high school freshman.
Programming, too, that started early. I think I was only out of fourth or fifth grade when I went off to a computer camp for the summer and learned BASIC, and then Pascal the following year. And even before that I remember doing LOGO. The idea of giving a computer instructions and getting it to do something in response was enticing and intoxicating; I was in love from the very first. And I do remember, even at that time around 1990, getting an old 5 1/4" floppy disk labeled 'ZZT' and playing around with it with a good old friend of mine.
Oh, those were the halcyon days of my youth, and ZZT was a veritable toy box of nifty doodads and widgets. Not that I was very good at first, but how many of us really were? I know it was quite awhile before I even figured out how to attach boards together without using passages, not to mention working out exactly what was entailed by setting these "flag" things. And I suppose I never had the experimental curiosity necessary to work out any of the really interesting exploits and hacks possible in ZZT for myself; it was years before I discovered STK, after it dawned on me that I could use the internet to look for other people who used the program. But for what it was to me then, it was fun. For both me and my friends, but ultimately it left lasting influence on me alone.
It was the summer of 1997 when I first made the connection that the internet, being vast and infinite, must be home to other people who also used and loved ZZT. A rudimentary search proved my guess, and among other things turned up a slew of ZZT games. Most of them sucked, granted, but during that time I discovered barjeese and Nightmare, CJ's Wuzzles and Yindle, and learned who GReg JAnson was and why I should care about him. I also chanced upon an inexplicable site called "The Saga of the ZZT/MZXers". It didn't have any games on it, so I ignored it for the time. But I had no idea of what that chance connection would cause.
I suppose I would have inevitably stumbled on Megazeux one way or another no matter what the case, long before I actually got involved in the community in a significant way. But that's what happened: this internet epiphany had occurred at a summer program called TIP (I was there learning C++). When I got home that August, eager to find more ZZT games to put on my own computer and to try out some of the things I'd learned about it, I also looked into this thing called MZX. And from that moment onward, ZZT really didn't stand a chance. From the moment I started up the program and was greeted with that now legendary orchestra hit, ZZT had lost its hold on me. Megazeux was bigger, better, and badder in almost every respect than its predecessor; it had freaking MUSIC, man, and scrolling boards, and editable characters... I was captivated, utterly, before I'd had a chance to form a bond with the ZZT side of the community at all.
Honestly, as far as MZX and ZZT represent basic philosophical ideologies, this probably would have happened no matter what. But I do sort of regret that I missed out on half of the story. However, given my extreme hesitance to publicly enter the community, I wonder that I wouldn't have missed out regardless. I discovered MZX in the autumn of 1997, but I didn't start actively interacting with the MZX community until two years later. During that interim, I sat, and I watched, and I lurked, and I worked on Bob's Pipe City, and all the while wondered whether this IRC thing was really all that and a bag of chips like everyone claimed it was.
I don't remember the exact date anymore, but definitely, some time that fall I finally bit the bullet and got on AustNET to see what this #megazeux thing was all about and start making a name for myself. This was in large part due to the urgings of a guy named ZZco, whom I kept in occasional contact with for a long while, and at that time I was helping him with an ambitious game project he called 'The Misty Mountains'. ("So you're referencing Tolkien?" "...Who?") I really wish I could still remember the chronology of what happened back then, but at that time I very quickly distinguished myself as being more than just another newbie. I impressed a few people by showing them BPC (which to this day is still only about as complete as it was then), joined a Day of Zeux with Exophase and Guyver, witnessed the collapse of administration on AustNET, and moved to Esper, then to pfnet, then back to Esper again while working my way into the trusted circle of operators.
Regarding that final move back to Espernet, I do remember very well how tensions in the channel spurred us to devise a split, whereby we would leave the people we didn't like on pfnet and hightail it with the people we did like over to Esper. Actually I'm not sure if it was really a laid out scheme, but it worked so well that it's hard not to take some credit for it. And to be sure, it didn't discriminate as cleanly as we might have hoped. We divested ourselves of piman (giving my spot as operator of the channel to him was my own personal touch), but we also lost teferi and Stargazer, whom I actually really liked. The actual ideological split then somewhat resembles the schism between the ZZT and MZX communities now, if I remember right, with the notable difference that piman was extremely Linux obsessed. We were more staid and conservative and interested in directed discussions that might actually have something to do with MZX, while they were more chaotic and anti-authoritarian and wanted to be able to talk about whatever topics they wanted.
And then there was DigitalMZX. Back in 2000, mWorld was the de facto HTTP resource when it came to MZX. But as that year came to a close, and with the general quality of the forums there (both in technical capabilities and in content), many people, including myself, abandoned it for this new site run by these two guys no one had ever heard of (or at least I certainly hadn't). I was probably a later adopter than others, I really always have been, but I came over in December that year. And in it, I found a pseudo-political arena much more suited to my tastes than IRC. I let my positions of power on IRC slide into obsolescence with the natural flow of things; when #roundtable collapsed and #mzx was born, I did not (and still don't plan to) pursue an operator position. Instead, I used my connections to climb the administrative ladder at the new forums.
When Tixus introduced his pet project, the Elite caste, I was among the first inductees. Later, I gladly took a position as Moderator over the same domain that Lancer-X is holding now. In summer of 2002, I took a break for Lent and so passed up the opportunity for promotion at the same time as Terryn, but before the year was out I had secured that coveted position of Admin, where I've remained to this day. Of course, during that time the gung-ho zealousness with which I had been approaching power struggles in the community began to abate. For a long time I had loved to argue and debate with people, but as DMZX became more about work and less about fun that passion faded. Over time, I've tried to set up policies that foster an enjoyable environment for everyone, but the active participation that would really cement those policies by example has just been too burdensome to attempt. I'm an apathetic husk now, content only to apply band aids to serious injuries and occasionally to tell people what I think they should be doing.
This really brings everything back around to some of my original problems. I've pretty much always been a heavy procrastinator, and prone not so much to losing interest in things, but in losing the motivation and energy to do them. This problem was only exacerbated when I got sick, back in 1998. I still wonder if I might have produced more with and for MZX if that hadn't happened, and I'm still not sure exactly what long-term effects the whole thing has had on me. I just know that it has inarguably transformed my attitude and approach towards life, some for the better, and some perhaps not so much. But none of you ever knew me before the illness.
The illness I contracted was called Sydenham's Chorea, and my general advice on that is if you ever get strep throat, get it treated instead of just waiting it out. You really don't want the debilitating side effects of a rare secondary disease that can last for years afterwards. Besides the shaking, which really only lasted a couple years, my energy level dropped dramatically, I started sleeping a lot more, and for a long time I felt like the disease had prematurely curtailed my ability to learn new things and disciplines, or even to apply old knowledge. School actually became hard for me, and not just because I started taking my courses from home; I remember being very distraught because I simply wasn't "getting" Chemistry, which was something that I'd never had to deal with before.
All things considered though I really had no problems getting through high school. The courses, even the AP courses, were only up to a certain level of study, and I was after all gifted, so ultimately, despite a few bobbles (AP World History definitely comes to mind), I was able to just coast through without having to worry that I had an open excuse for absence that I did take advantage of, as well as mediating teachers working to make concessions for me. All this combined to reinforce an extremely poor work ethic for college, which was nearly a disaster for me multiple times. I had to get an emergency medical withdraw from my first semester because I simply hadn't done any work by the end, and was only able to do so by pleading the extenuating conditions of my illness. This tactic wasn't going to work again a year and a half later, when I failed four out of five courses for the same reason. I was two years in, and despite some course credit from AP scores and joint-enrolled classes I had taken before entering college, I was a year behind schedule when I should have been a year ahead.
Things got a little better from there, but really only because there was nowhere to go but up. Still, that summer marked the beginning of my relationship with GTRI, and a closer relationship with my good friend Miles when I moved into the same big house with him and a bunch of other students. Miles is the sort of guy any parent would probably regard as a "good influence": genial, studious, and extremely good-natured. He was also pretty well aligned with the sorts of things I was interested in. Even so, it was still rough sailing, with fall generating a withdrawal and a D (which couldn't be counted even as passing credit, due to requirements for major related courses), and spring being only a little better, where I barely managed to eke out a C in a Systems course based largely on pity.
I spent the following summer exclusively at work, and I did do some things I was proud of then, but I know my boss, who's a very nice and understanding guy, was still very concerned about my attitude towards work, which produced very nice results when it was producing, but which also lent itself to distraction very easily. I'm not sure exactly how close I got to being fired outright when I was at GTRI, but I definitely received some stern talkings to and some hard ultimatums about my performance. Still, things were on the upswing moving into fall.
Fall 2004 began my continuing love affair with Japanese. Before that point, I was probably in the same camp as Es regarding the language: people who learn Japanese are just anime-obsessed posers. However, ever since Gundam Wing, I'd slowly become more and more anime obsessed myself, and I wanted to find a grounding point that I could use to help me improve my diligence towards school and especially in attending class. Back in that dismal spring where I failed four courses, the other course I actually made an A in, because it was a circuitry course and that's always been a sort of pet hobby of mine. I was interested in the material and I was interested in attending, and so I did extremely well. I hoped Japanese would provide the same sort of draw for me, and that I might be able to apply that to my other courses.
At least some of this plan actually did work. I attended Japanese more regularly than any other course ever in the past. This was in no small part due to attendance being required, and the fact that I really did want to do well in this course, as opposed to courses with similar attendance policies that I was generally ambivalent towards. And my grades did improve that semester, despite the fact that my overall class attendance wasn't really improving in them. Part of it was, no doubt, that I was in a position where I had to either succeed at school or concede that I'd wasted too much of my parents' money on failed courses, but I was definitely more engaged than I was before.
Still, I wasn't really out of the hole I'd dug for myself until the next year. The following spring saw a dip when I took a half semester to work at the same time, and only mustered a C in Physics II while maintaining my A in Japanese. Summer was a near disaster, when the combined circumstances of no Japanese course to take, worsening conditions at my campus-side house, and foolishly getting addicted to World of Warcraft, nearly sabotaged my grades again. I managed to squeak through Squeak in the end, but I had to take a serious look at how I was approaching school again, because clearly I still wasn't quite getting it.
And then somehow, from that point on, everything just clicked into place. Things began to improve very rapidly that fall. I account a large part of this to what I see as a spiritual revival, but there were other factors. I moved to a new apartment that wasn't dirty and starting to fall apart. I finally got tired of just drifting through school a semester at a time and worked out exactly how I was going to graduate in the next two years. And I started trying to actively pursue more extra-curricular activities, many of them not MZX related. Some of them took off, some did not, but I really started paying attention to what I was doing with my life, instead of just letting life happen to me.
So from that point onward, I consider myself effectively cured of my lingering illness and depression. I'm still not as active as I'd really like to be, and I still have unresolved issues with procrastination, but the progress I've made in reorganizing my life has given me a lot of hope and a lot of peace. In the end, I've become mellow, and I've discovered that it's a wonderful feeling.
(to be continued)
I see Wervyn as the most mature person in the whole Megazeux community. I'm not sure the DigiBoards would even hold up together without his support and guideance.
Wervyn is a fantastic man. His programming and storywriting skills are definitely a step beyond being up-to-scratch, and in general he's a great person to talk to.
Now he just needs to make something new~!
~ Lancer-X 10:03, 9 November 2006 (CST)
We could all learn something from this most excellent guy. Finish the autobiography, Wervyn!
--asgromo 11:46, 26 November 2006 (CST)
When Wervyn makes a post on DigitalMZX, it's usually one of two things, if not both: 1) Incredibly profound, 2) Someone who's out of line getting owned in a very awesome fashion. Wervyn is awesome.
Kkairos 17:08, 22 May 2007 (CDT)
Memoirs of a Gakusei - A blog of Wervyn's trip to Japan; no longer updated, preserved by archive.org.