“There’s a sort of expectation that comes from saying you’re an artist. There’s this need to constantly be making something, constantly creating every waking moment. And in a sense maybe it’s self constructed, but the pressure to performatively write these pieces often gets harder and harder. And yet We keep making don’t we? We keep creating in the end not for others, but for ourselves. Finding any excuse you can just to type out more and more words onto a blank page for people to see. Constructing narratives and stories out of pieces of the past, pieces of those who have gone on without you on the climb of this dark and perilous mountain. We take the ones we have left, who have burned or stabbed just a little too much and reconstruct them into an entirely different being made from scraps and pieces of the world around you.”
“We figured out how to make art and so now it’s ours and we can make artists. Someone showed us how to use healing magic and now each and every one is filled to the brim with healers energy and now we can construct healers and put them in the story. People come and go into your life, coming from one type of world to the next, each existing in a sort of circle of friends that they like having around. It’s not often that you find a group to slow down with, take a breather and hold onto. We figured out how to make unbreakable hero’s standing tall in the face of adversity, that will be able to press onwards through almost anything. We made quiet ones of peaceful solitude, taking themselves to mountains to commune with their own heart.”
The clacking of keys echoed through the room, The conductor was in the zone. This was her happy place. This was her solitude. The top of the mountain that she wanted so desperately to climb. These days she wasn’t really climbing for anyone other than herself. Changing for others was an act that she always was cast under as a mortal, but as an eternal being, sitting above the gods themselves she didn’t really find the tools of war to be much use to her. Useful at some point, but not anymore. She took a moment and stared at the word processor in front of her and took a breath. Her reverie was broken by a knock at the door. Her open door policy once more biting her.
The door opened slowly and the familiar face of Casanova peaked in. With a warm smile she gestured towards one of the comfy chairs in front of her desk, “Why Hello Cass. It’s lovely to see you again. What brings you in today?”
Cass took a seat and fidgeted with their fingers.
“Take as much time as you need.”
The Conductor pulled out a scrap of paper and started scribbling. There wasn’t a reason for it. Just scribbling. The sound kept her calm. The room was quiet without sounds and that was enough to drive even a Celestial like herself mad. There always needed to be sound. And so the scribbling continued.
Cass took a deep breath and the conductor stopped.
“Um. Ahlee said I should talk to you.”
Ahlee. She was so good to her, “Yes? What about?”
Cass fidgeted with a little cube in his hands, “Card games.”
The Conductor racked her brain, “Fey Fighters, right?”
Cass nodded, “How’d you know?”
The Conductor shrugged, “I do my best to know all the things my employees care about. You do well at those tournaments. Amber gives me recaps.”
Cass looked away, “Is that so? Did they tell you what happened last week?”
The Conductor shook their head. It was a lie. She already knew.
Cass twiddled his thumbs, “A good portion of the games original rules was made from stolen labor. There’s a huge controversy about it online and everyone seems to be screaming about how the game is dead and this is the end.”
“You know as well as I do that it won’t be. It takes more than just one incident to cause people to leave. Passions run hot after all.”
Cass frowned, “I don’t know. This one was bad. They actively didn’t pay freelancers, artists, and play-testers and they’re running fat off of the hard work of a community that has so much goodwill and I just… don’t know if I want to play it anymore.”
“It sounds like you want someone to make the decision for you.”
Cass shook his head, “No, that’s not it. I’ve just invested so much of my hobbies in this you know. Like I compete in tournaments, I make content for it on the side. This has been a huge source of income for years. I don’t really know what it is to do without it.”
“Do I not pay you enough to live? We have more money in the budget if that’s what you need.”
Cass chuckled, “I mean If I’m joining Ahlee’s little project, I think we’ll be fine on money. Plus you pay plenty. That covers my bills and then some. No this has just been a hobby. It’s been a hobby I always hoped I’d just have but these days I’m not sure. Like I enjoyed doing that. What do I do without it? There’s a bunch of people saying ‘it gets worse’ but they’re not saying anything else you know. These are former employees and actual workers speaking out about terrible conditions.”
“You don’t want to give it up do you?”
Cass stayed silent.
“You have a choice in the matter you know? Like as you said. This is a hobby for you. What about the others, the one who shoved all their eggs into this basket. Do you think they have a choice?”
“I don’t think people online care.”
“Do people online matter to you?”
“Should they?” Cass balled his hand up in a fist.
“I think that’s up to you actually. I think there’s a lot of things to care about these days and we only have so much time in the day. I can’t make this decision for you, but I think it’s one you need to come to on your own actually. If it means that much to you then I don’t think you should follow a crowd. I think you should do it for yourself, otherwise you’ll never be satisfied. You will look back at this with a hint of regret, loss, and always wonder what would have happened if you didn’t keep going.”
Cass’s fist relaxed and he sighed deeply, “You’re right, I just don’t want to get backlash for it you know. It’s not a huge platform, but it’s big enough to have fun with. I don’t know if I’ll find something else like this again. This is just one of those ‘is this the last straw?’ it’s been so much. Like there’s the terrible mental illness rep, there’s the horrible mechanics that I’m just not finding fun anymore. There’s so much going on and the most recent expansion was the worst of the worst and it was a Retro classic from the original days. Everyone was hyped and then they added these bullshit plot lines that weren’t even in the original. They sucked. They made it worse.”
“I’m listening Cass.”
“I’ve just seen it first hand. Like it’s not like you don’t make connections when you start creating. You start making other friends, you collaborate, you help, and the friends that I’ve made, they don’t really have a choice. They’ve been branching out to other things but they never pull in the same numbers and they never pull in the same people who would be there for Big thing you know.”
“And you want to know how much you should support them even if you depart, don’t you?”
Cass buried his face in his hands, “Do I sacrifice my morals, or my friends who don’t get the chance to choose? And in turn, do I cut off the people who will be disappointed in me even if I stick around to support them since all they really want is control of a world that seems to be changing without them.”
“That’s just what growing up is Cass. Your heroes and your idols turn out to be insincere and human. Reality and morality will never be so black and white that there will be an objectively good decision to make with zero consequences. This is one of those. Whatever you do, it sounds like it’s in the shades of gray then. But you’re not interested in losing are you? Invest in that fire you have. That care you have. Caring about others is what makes you human Cass. It’s what makes you you. That’s how you win. Continue to care. Follow your heart and what makes you happy and keeps the people you care about safe.”
“God. Ahlee wasn’t kidding.”
The Conductor giggled softly, “Oh? What did she say?”
Cass looked back up and met the Conductor’s smile, “She said you’d know exactly what to say to help me make the right choice.”
“Just don’t tell me what the decision is you made, and we’re even Cass.”
“How are you so good?”
“I’m not good Cass. I’m just as bad as everyone else. I just know how to talk and use words and I use that gift to help people rather than hurt and also to write and to make things for my own entertainment.”
Cass raised an eyebrow and then lowered it. The weight on his shoulders had been lifted. A great relief washed over him and a smile slowly grew on his face, “Thank you. I don’t know if I could have done this without you.”
The Conductor shook her head, “No you could have. It just would have been harder. Would have hurt more. And would have taken you longer. Just remember, that choice is yours. You don’t always have to share your hobbies with the world. I sell my books here these days, but for every 100,000 word novel I put out, there’s 3 other 200,000 word novels sitting in a folder on my computer somewhere that will never see the light of day. Have you ever just tried making something for yourself instead of others?”
Cass rubbed the back of his neck and closed his eyes, “No.”
“Start with that then. Make something for you and don’t stop. It’s your hobby. You get to choose what you do with it. Content these days is so wild and varied. You’ll find a new audience, you’ll find new people just like you. If people leave, so be it. Everyone’s drawing their lines in the sand. Home is where your heart is and if your heart isn’t in it, then what are you doing with it. Find a new hobby. You have that choice. They don’t. Use it.”
“This sure is a lot of words just to say ‘Have confidence and make things for you.”
“Sometimes you have to say something over and over again just for someone to get the point.”
“Do you always talk like that?”
The Conductor blinked, “Like what?”
“Like a therapist. You’re very deliberate, but forceful when necessary.”
“Not really. People come to me with questions and I try to give them answers. I’m your Boss. That’s my job.”
“Bosses don’t help you figure out Content strategies and choices like this. This is a hobby. If I ask you to like order a new coffee machine, sure. But this? Why.”
The Conductor paused. How do you explain to one of your creations you made that you love them for exactly who they are, what they’re made of and what they mean to you. How do you look at the pieces they’re made of and say ‘I forgive each and every one of you,’
“Just call me a friend then. My door is always open to you Cass. You can always come back here.”