A Birthday Letter

Published on Sept 14, 2022.

Content Warning: contains mention of suicide, metaphors of flesh and carving.

Happy birthday.

Remember last year when I said I’d have a cool birthday present for you?

Well, here it is. It’s finished.

When I started writing Terranova, it was to preserve a memory of you I dearly cherished. You passed away in 2014. I started writing in 2018, and from that small seed, Mabbees and I made a prototype. The full game was released on April 28th, 2022.

The day after the game went live, I woke up in a cold sweat and began to sob uncontrollably. At first, I was confused—shouldn’t I be happy that we released a game? Long and silent minutes passed before I realized why I was crying.

I was scared.

I was terrified because I was no longer in control of how people saw our story. I had hoped that through this game, you would live on. But, in reality most people who will play this game have never met you. Parts of the story were cringey. We were cringey back then. It was only a matter of time until someone would find my work; would find these letters and would tear into me. I know it sounds dramatic, but the first few weeks after release, I felt like I was holding my insides out to a storm and yelling, “Go ahead. Take them from me. Rip me to shreds.”

Eventually the storm calmed.

I read the comments on our and Steam. Players told me about their own friendships, their roleplay friends whom they missed and loved. They told me about people they had only the briefest of interactions with but whom meant so much. The outpouring of kindness and tears from players was overwhelming and powerful. They were putting time and energy and love into playing this game and at the end sobbing, just as I had the night of the release.

Through the game, I reconnected with a friend from a roleplay you and I used to be a part of. I discovered someone had met me at a con, when you and I were doing a group cosplay and dating. And that a friend of mine in Japan was one of your former IRL friends.

What is this strange world we live in?

I wrote in 2020 that the pandemic has been a systemic carving of our flesh. Exposing the bone and nerves underneath. On the surface, everything felt disconnected. But now, after carving and carving and carving—I come to a place of connection that I never realized before.

It’s overwhelming to think that parts of you are coming back into my life in a way I never expected before. Last year, I said I would cry if I thought about you; and back then, I meant I would cry from sadness.

But no.

I’ve been crying tears of gratitude. Of connection.

Our anime cringe connected people.

Can you imagine that?

I’m deeply grateful to the people who have played the game—and to the people who have told me their stories of their friends or how they were crying at 2AM.

Me too, friend. Me too.

In closing, I would like to share some prose from Marina Deller. Reading her words made me tear up because—

“I will write and write and hope that in these little black letters, on little white pages, that I’ll find you. That I’ll be able to say hello, and that I miss you. And that I’m thinking of you.”

She’s right, you know.

Through writing, I was able to say hello to you.

And that I miss you.

And other people read my words, and they said hello, too.

I think that’s more than enough.

2021's Birthday Letter is here.

2020's Birthday Letter is here.

You can find more of Marina Deller's work here.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline in the U.S. is 1–800–273–8255.

TELL Japan provides a helpline support in Japan in English at 03–5774–0992.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of depression or suicide, call. I promise, it is not stupid or weak. It is strong. Some of the people on the other end of the phone are friends of mine, and the reason they volunteer is because they care about folks like you.

Love you, and stay safe.