My biggest passion in life is gaming.

I love games. I love that they provide structure to whatever you do, like an engine for entertainment. A well-designed game will pull you in with its mechanics, wait until you’re just about to lose interest (because there’s no way this is fair, right?) and then at the last minute, remind you that there is a balance for everything we do (and no, you can’t make it to collect your $200 without some bankruptcy first).

Whether it’s video games (which I have definitely worked on and played the most), board games, social games, drinking games, pen and paper RPGs, trivia, parlor games, puzzles, riddles, sports, or just gamification of skills, I’m fascinated by how humans learn and develop rules and then, once they’ve learned how things work, can sit back and play. From peek-a-boo to World of Warcraft to a late night Werewolf session, I love games and how they’re put together, and what they do to our minds and our relationships.

The first video gaming I remember doing was at school — I played Oregon Trail and Prince of Persia on Apple IIs. When the original Game Boy launched, I had to have one, and I saved up $100 by washing cars and doing chores to buy one with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening in the box. Not long after that, I launched a very involved begging campaign to have my parents buy me an NES so I could play Super Mario Bros. 3 and Duck Hunt and Double Dragon and Crystalis. My campaign worked, but it cost me both my birthday present and my Easter basket for the year.

My dad brought home a Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer for the family with a co-axial connection for our ancient television and a cassette-tape drive, and I quickly claimed it to learn programming with Color Extended Basic. I made an address book program when the only address I knew was my own, and I made a babysitter laugh by having her type her name in and making the computer say a personal hello. I played through Dungeons of Daggorath (the sound was so amazing) and Popeye and Bagitman. My best friend and I would rent Genesis and PlayStation systems from Blockbuster for the weekend, and I played nights full of JetMoto and Twisted Metal, Virtua Fighter and Road Rash, and eventually Super Mario 64 and Goldeneye 007 on an N64.

In college, I had very little money, but I did have my own PC, and I found emulators in the many websites I explored online. That’s where I discovered the Final Fantasy series and the Phantasy Star games and Chrono Trigger and Yoshi’s Island. By the time I graduated, I had picked up a PlayStation at a thrift shop, and played Tony Hawk Pro Skater until my fingers hurtand Spyro and Ape Escape. Metal Gear SolidCastlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Amplitude and Frequency took up my nights and mornings and the hours in between when I could spare them.

The Internet pulled me back to the PC and LAN parties, and a bunch of friends and I would cart our giant computers around to each others’ houses and play Counter-Strike and Rise of Nations all night long. I finally started earning money to buy games, and I played through Half-LifeCivilization, Diablo II, and many more. I found Dark Age of Camelot from a message board online, and marveled at the idea of whole virtual worlds full of people.

Right around that time, I started working at Gamestop as an assistant manager (during a short stint back at home after college), and it was all over. I had turned my passion into my work. Retail didn’t appeal, but writing did, and all of the games knowledge I had built up made me the perfect interpreter for sharing with others what these games were and why they worked the way they did.

I started out as a freelance writer with an article on Chicago’s Wideload Games (former Halo developers who made Stubbs the Zombie and then were bought, and eaten whole, by Disney), and snowballed that into a job writing for a blog online called WoW Insider, all about World of Warcraft. I turned clips and connections from there into a career as a writer, and then a game developer, and an analyst for the games industry.

Games are my passion, and no matter what else happens in my life, I will always be interested in games and how they can transport us, test us, and then help us understand and celebrate who we are.