Why do you do what you do? As part of our ongoing narrative series, we are sharing peoples stories about how both gaming and fitness have influenced their lives. This time we bring you another one of our team's stories. So here's Ed's tale, The Road Goes Ever On.
I went to college for video game design. In 2011 I moved from Chicago to Austin to pursue my dreams of working in the video game industry. I lucked into a sweet job at Electronic Arts where I felt fulfilled and everything was good. I was part of the fledgling eight person team that interacted with the community on social media for the corporate office. It may sound dry, but it was a great job, in a great environment with great people and I had sort of just...lucked into it. That’s how most of the good things that have happened to me have begun, I think.
But after living what I thought was the start of my dream sequence, I realized I just wasn’t in love with it. I had this moment in early January of 2012. It was after the company holiday party; I had spent that time drinking champagne and schmoozing with John Riccitiello and Peter Moore, being completely star struck that I was even in the same room with these guys. Some people grew up idolizing athletes and movie stars, but I grew up idolizing game developers and the world’s they created. Meeting the people at the top of the food chain was, is and will always be a wild experience for me.
So it’s the week after the holiday party and I had been putting in extra long days. I was hungry for a promotion and for my contracted position to turn permanent. It’s 6 am, and I realize I didn’t clean my desk from the previous day. It was absolutely covered in empty Dr. Pepper cans. Maybe 15 or 16 empty cans of Dr. Pepper from just the previous day. The office vending machines were just 25 cents so it was easy and cheap on a long work day. I sat down, opened my phone and decided I’d use these wee hours before co-workers arrived to upload my party photos. As I scrolled through to find the good ones, I realized I only had one with Johnny Ricky. And looking at this photo was like seeing myself for the first time. I looked terrible, and I felt terrible.
In high school I was 120 lbs. I was active every day and played sports despite my social outcast status and gaming habits. In college, that sort of started to degrade and I had begun playing WAY more games than I had been, becoming totally lost in worlds like Azeroth and Hyboria. I was focusing on my body way less, though I guess I never really focused on my body in the first place. I always just sort of showed up to practice or gym class and the body elements just happened. Anyway, I saw this picture of us and I was just blown away by how unhealthy I had become. It was like I hadn’t looked in a mirror in 5 years. I had gained a lot of weight and gotten very unhealthy without even realizing it, and now I’m sitting at a desk with 16 empty cans of Dr. Pepper on it from a single previous work day and I thought I was gonna vomit all over myself. This was my big epiphany moment. I knew that I had to make a change.
I started researching health and fitness. I figured out how actual exercise worked, cut soda and started eating better. I started putting it all into practice around February, and by August I had lost nearly 55 lbs. From that moment on, I just couldn’t sit still. I’m already a notorious leg bouncer, so you can imagine what renewed vigor did to me. I couldn’t even sit at my desk. Old co-workers may remember me doing bodyweight squats while on the phone, because I would take any excuse to stand and move. I woke up one morning and it was a beautiful day outside and the thought of spending it in a stuffy office was driving me insane. I knew I had to make another change.
I exited the game industry in 2013, and moved back home to Chicago to pursue schooling in physical education and nutritional science while working at a mom and pop nutrition shop to get my feet wet. At the beginning of 2016, I became a nationally certified personal trainer and moved back to Austin. One of of my driving reasons to become a trainer was inspired by my family. I come from an unhealthy family. Whether or not that affected me or the way I lived my life was something that I had never really thought about until now. My dad has been very overweight my whole life, and my mom has also been decently overweight (sorry mom I know you’re reading this please don’t cancel my birthday), and my younger sister and I struggled with our weight while growing up. I had this idea in my head that if I can get to someone before their habits and thought processes are past that point of no return, that I could help them and I could educate them and I could change them. I could make sure that no one had to worry about not being able to walk down their own street because your hips and knees hurt too much. I could make sure that no one had to worry about not being able to play catch with their kids, or getting diabetes or heart failure and dying before their time because of their unhealthy lifestyle if I could just get to them before that moment, before that point of no return. And even though I was accomplishing that, I felt so unaccomplished and I couldn’t figure out why. It haunted me from the recesses of my mind.
I was doing exactly what I set out to do. I was making people healthier and educating them, and fulfilment wise I thought that was it, that’s exactly what I wanted yet I felt so unfulfilled. I realized then that it was an issue of caring. I just didn’t care enough about the people I was helping. And I thought about it. Why didn’t I care? When I really started to dwell on it, the people I really wanted to help were the people closest to me. After all, they basically were me.
I’ve played games all my life and it is central to who I am. I don’t even know what life would look like without it. And everyone I’ve met over the years from my best friends to random industry acquaintances have all for the most part been tremendously unhealthy whether they realize it or not. People that are very overweight, people that are very underweight and people that were just ticking out the clock until they inevitably hit one end of that spectrum and all the accessory problems that come with it. I realized then that what I really wanted was to help those people - my people. I really wanted to get out into my own community because no one was doing it, and I felt strongly that I could make an impact somewhere. I thought to myself, “these are people that want to change, these are people that know they need to change and become healthier, but they aren’t necessarily the people that know how to go about doing those things.” The companies that were making things for these communities, they didn’t feel like they were out to help fix problems, they felt like they were out to make a buck at the expense of the health of the community.
Around this time of unfulfillment, I was expressing my thoughts to Kyle (who recently posted his own story), looking for some advice He’s been one of my closest friends for 25+ years, and was telling me about D20 for the first time. I immediately felt that pull, you know the pull you feel when you just HAVE to be involved in something? I felt that. Like how love feels in your chest. Nothing else I was doing even felt like it mattered anymore. I knew I had to be part of it. It was cosmic, that I happened to have gone down life’s path in this way and though I don’t necessarily believe in destiny 1 or 2, I definitely knew this what I was born to do. Finally, a way to blend my love for gaming and it’s communities and my love of health and fitness. He told me I had to move to California and I said “OK.” At the time, I had no plan B, no savings left (trainers don’t make much), and no path to take but the one forward. Duty calls, Guardian. I quit my job as a trainer, packed everything I owned into my car, drove off into the horizon without two dimes to rub together and headed to sunny Los Angeles, a place I’ve never been before, to work on launching D20. Once again, I had basically lucked my way into some incredible adventure.
For me, D20 represents the chance to actually solve problems both for myself and for my community. Things like achy joints, back pain and garbage filled diets from sitting around playing games all the time, and insomnia from staring at screens during really long gaming sessions -- a problem that has plagued me since adolescence. And other things that I hope will help inspire and motivate people, like clean exercise supplements that have a little extra something in them, like Vitamin D3 for my cavebros who don’t see a lot of sunlight. And my personal favorite, things that can help you stay calm when you’re playing games so you don’t rage all over everyone (I’m guilty, I’m guilty, I’m 10,000x guilty and I should be more sorry than I am).
Just like that, I was onto this next chapter and I’ve never felt so good, so positively GOOD about what I was doing before this moment. My personal mission in life, I think, is to break down the barriers of entry to health and fitness for the gaming and nerd communities. To prove that being healthy and being a fuckin’ weirdo nerd aren’t mutually exclusive and you can do both and feel good about it. You don’t have to give up lounging hobbies and you don’t have to go to the gym 6 days a week so you can look like a model. You can get healthy in a way that makes sense and appeals to you, and you don’t have to give up the things you love to do them.
That’s my story. That’s really what lead me here, and that’s the message I’m sending with D20. I hope what we’re trying to do is something you can feel just as proud to support as I do.
Thanks for reading my light novel, expect the anime adaptation next year.