Back in the days when I was younger and wilder, I had many dreams to fill my thoughts with.
I dreamt of programming a perfect replica of human intelligence. I dreamt of single-handedly creating hit science fiction movies. I dreamt of crafting educational software to put the school system to shame. I dreamt of writing "quests" the likes of which the world had never seen. I dreamt of gaining the respect and admiration of those who looked down at me.
of these fantasies possessed my imagination like the dream of my future self coming back to get me. So strong and constant was this wish that I didn't think of it as a fiction, so much as a destiny. I would never speak of this with anyone, but deep down I knew that at any one of those banal, pointless days, he would come for me.
Over and over I imagined how it would play out. He'd show up, a handsome adult, and declare simply: "I'm you from the future." Then I would ask him for the secret password, never written down and spoken to no one, which he would speak at once. (This was little more than a formality, as I would know
as soon as I saw him.) And then he'd take me away to his studio and show me the tools and techniques he'd developed, so that I could join him for the rest of the journey. And in this way each of us would find the missing part of ourselves.
The days were empty and hated. Each one was exactly the same as the last. And through it all I waited, but my future self never came to the past.
The years have passed. What was once a near-certainty is now just another unfulfilled promise, like all those I've made to myself. And as the childhood schedules have faded away as well, I don't need to dream as often as I used to. But still I have not forgotten.
And so it will be that when I am thirty-seven, a man of little ambition and less achievement, I will go back in time to meet myself.
I came to myself when he was eleven years old. He asked for the password, but I didn't remember it. So he asked me questions for three days (to give him ample time to consider what they should be), and I answered to the best of my ability. (This satisfied him.)
The relationship began with gifts. I first gave him a Nintendo 64 with Ocarina of Time
, to point him in the right direction. Then Super Mario 64
to inspire, Banjo-Tooie
to build his worldview up further, and Rayman 2
to break it down. Also Conquests of the Longbow
to inspire, The Secret of Monkey Island
to build his worldview up further, and Myst
(and its sequel) to provide an alternative. Also Metroid II
, and also Super Mario Bros. 3
, and also Babylon 5
, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
, and Bone
, and Uncle Scrooge
, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and many others over a period of twelve months.
He enjoyed the gifts and found his life enriched for them. But he was the sort of person who would always disagree with those around him, so he was disappointed in me from the start. He was expecting a hero, and I was only a man. But he loved me unconditionally.
And it was partly because of this that I learned discipline! He taught me to get my work done, because it is much easier to teach than to do for oneself. Every time he saw me, the first thing he asked was: "What progress have you made?". And I usually had a good answer for him, because I loved him and hated to disappoint him.
Meanwhile, I taught him to be a better person. Whenever he acted shamefully (which was sadly often), I'd criticize him for it. And he
hated to disappoint me
, so he'd always change.
But this was too good to be true, because his parents started to worry. Surely their boy should not be spending so much time with an old hermit! So I was forced to divulge my true identity to them. Unfortunately they didn't believe me, and nothing I said could convince them. So they forbade us from seeing each other.
One night, he ran away and found me. Against his objections, I brought him right back home where his parents were panicking. Getting him back was not enough for them, and they brought the matter to court. I couldn't let myself be found invading a foreign timeline, so I ran away.
The trip seemed to have been a failure, but not entirely. I had learned a new dedication which I applied to creating all the games I'd imagined when I was younger. Now I live in loneliness and disappointment, but this is a small price to pay for fulfilling a destiny.
This is not the end of the story. My younger self found new motivation from the disappointing future he witnessed. It gave him a fresh determination to do what I did not, and apply in practice the lessons he learned in principle from training me, thereby becoming a prodigy in game design. He and I have shared a long writing correspondence in secret, in which I point him in the right direction for smooth programming and we both share ideas.
And so both of us will eventually become very successful gamists in our own rights, and with fairly different styles. Soon he will have the opportunity to join me again, and together we will live and grow and create and be happy.
But I will die before my time, a result of a lifetime of ignoring my health. He will be heartbroken and go back in time to meet himself once more.
He showed up when he was fifteen years old. The young self didn't ask for a password, having forgotten it himself. Nonetheless, the password was given. And that password sounded so familiar it raised many childhood memories, thus verifying the man's identity.
The boy was ecstatic- he'd waited so long, he'd just about given up hope! But here he was, the answer to his dreams, the one who would bring him to his destiny!
The relationship began with a long demonstration of the games we had made. The boy wondered at the absence of Squeak
(an RTS he'd planned with Tuvia), of which the man had no memory at all. But he listened to the idea of it and concluded that it focused too much on theme and not enough on rules. The boy listened to these words and learned.
Myself taught my grandself more. He taught him every aspect of gamism- design, programming, music, writing tips. The two of them bounced ideas off of each other. And they were never lonely again.
The parents were told only that an old gamist was training their son. They were worried at first, but when they saw what their boy was producing they were proud.
And what games they were! We had made games that fulfilled our wildest dreams, but our imaginations had limits. But this version of us, introduced to games with the very promise that everything is achievable, had those borders removed right from the start! From then on, he objected to everything his older self suggested, because he was sure he knew better. And he did. He reached heights I can barely comprehend.
Through it all, they were the closest friends anyone could possibly hope for.
But it can't last. Myself will die long
before his time, a result of years of obsessing too much over his health. And my grandself will go back in time to meet himself once more.
In just a few months now, he's going to appear.
He'll show me his life's work and make me his peer.
He'll tell me the password, and together we'll go
Away to his newly formed games studio.
There, he'll assemble two competent teams
Giving both of us free rein to follow our dreams.
All of these games (plus the old ones) we'll sell
At just enough to pay our programmers well.
We'll watch as the world builds on what we've presented,
Thus proving that our legacy is cemented!
That makes for four timelines, which seems like enough,
So we'll fire our workers and pack up our stuff
And with just one look backwards we'll head out the door
Of the present, to travel through time just once more.
This time it's forward, to the future Earth
To meet all the games which our ideas helped birth!
We'll think and explore and be driven to laughter.
Through it all, we will live happily ever after.