On Thursday, June 22nd, my employer, mentor, and close friend Stewart Wieck passed.
A great many folks said very nice things about Stewart, such as HERE on rpg.net, HERE at Chaosium’s website, and HERE on Onyx Path’s website. (There’s many more, but those are a few).
Stewart touched a lot of lives, and much will be said about his career in the game industry, the boundaries he pushed, and all of those things are essential. World of Darkness formed an indelible part of my formative gaming. I talked to Stewart every day for the last 8 months (as we worked together, we had lots to discuss), and those conversations were full of his enthusiasm for gaming, life, philosophy, esoteric topics, and reading. We shared previews of projects he knew I was excited for (both mine and others), and eagerly asked and followed up on my personal life.
One of my earliest interactions with Stewart as an employee was around the failure of IVF for my wife and I. We were on our fourth cycle, had undergone a majorly invasive surgery to set this one up for success, and had spent two years and almost immeasurable dollars on IVF (I say almost, I am acutely aware of how much we’ve spent).
Stewart had known I’d be unavailable the day of the results, and when I didn’t respond with good news, he reached out and asked how we were. We chatted briefly, and he gave us his good wishes.
A week or two later, he asked what our plans were, and I informed him we were going to stop trying IVF and take some time to sort out the future. He commented that he understood, and asked if it was financial (I’d made a comment about the excessive cost to success rate we were experiencing at this juncture), and offered me an advance against royalties to do another round.
IVF is not cheap. And here, my boss who’d I’d worked for about a month, was offering me a significant advance because 1.) he cared about our family, and wanted to help, and 2.) he believed in my quality enough to have the confidence he’d make his money back.
We didn’t take the advance (we’re trying private adoption), but I kept that number in mind as a bench mark, quietly tracking when I’d have earned out that advance and could justify his faith in me.
If you discount Kickstarters (which I do), I would have earned that advance out right around this week.
More than anything, Stewart left a mark on me in the way a publisher, game designer, and individual could behave. There was no malice in him. He welcomed designers new and old to the Nocturnal fold, helping to put their games out there, wanting to teach everyone about the joy in gaming. He was quite literally, a paladin and champion for the virtues and transcendental abilities of gaming.
I have three moments in my life that I consider defining. The first was my marriage. The second was the Planet Mercenary project and running that game for Steve Jackson.
The third was a conversation I had with Stewart after I’d joined the team, where I asked him quite bluntly why he felt my company and time were worth an acquisition and salaried position.
He told me that he felt I understood the potential of gaming to change lives as he did, and that after we’d spoken, he’d felt I’d be a partner who would focus on uplifting the industry. I left that conversation feeling as though I’d just won the lottery.
That was Stewart in a nutshell. That response is exemplary of the sort of person Stewart was. Not just a brilliant, boundary pushing game designer. Not just a giant in the gaming industry, who molded and challenged us all. But at the most essential and fundamental level, he was a good, kind person.
That’s the legacy I’ll remember most of all. That’s what I will try to emulate and carry forth, more than all the other pieces of his legacy.
No matter what the future holds, Stewart helped me set a course that I can be proud of. He showed me how to be a good person, a good businessman, and a good friend.
His loss is a hole I won’t ever fill.
Thank you Stewart. For everything.