Folks I Admire: Andrew Hackard & Wil Wheaton
For my last Folks I Admire in 2013, I’ll tell you about two more friends of mine who are awesome and noteworthy humans. These two are awesome in their own rights, and when paired together make palpable emotions and memories.
Andrew Hackard is the Munchkin Czar — the guy in charge of one of the hottest properties in gaming, Steve Jackson Game’s Munchkin. He’s also someone I e-met in summer of 2000 when I tapped me for my first gig in the gaming community, the volunteer web guy for the Knightmare Chess and Tile Chess games. (Check out the July 26th, 2000 entry of the Daily Illuminator.)
I trace the fact that I’m a pro game designer and editor today to knowing him, a fact that he constantly apologizes for whenever it’s brought up. That’s because Andrew has this interesting blend of seeing good in people and having little patience for them when they aren’t trying to live up to it. He’s never had a problem telling me when I’m screwing up, of which I’m pretty appreciative, but he’s also willing to talk with me about some issue I’m dealing with…if I’m really willing to deal with it.
Andrew’s storied past as an editor in gaming and in education impresses me, and as the Munchkin Czar he’s had to deal with licensing logistics on top of that — both for licensing tie-in properties (like Munchkin Axe Cop, Munchkin Pathfinder, Munchkin Conan, and the upcoming Munchkin Adventure Time) and the many foreign language licensors for Munchkin. He juggles a lot of stuff, with a job that goes far and beyond being even a managing editor (as he was with the GURPS line back in the day).
Andrew is good people. He’s someone I’m proud to call my friend. You can check him out on Twitter, @RedPenOfDoom.
(There’s one particular memory I enjoy recalling. When he came to the visit me in Sacramento…I want to say in 2008. I know it was March. We took a trip to San Francisco, and he wanted to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, so we did. It was foggy, and he complained about not being able to see much of the bridge. I turned to him and said “What are you complaining about? You’re getting the authentic San Francisco experience.” His reply was not exactly safe for work, but it was humorous.)
If you’re reading this, you probably know Wil Wheaton. I don’t need to tell you that his Twitter is @wilw and all that jazz. So I’ll skip the “this is the general thing you should know about this awesome person” and go right to something personal.
I know Wil because of Andrew — Andrew is one of Wil’s go-to editors, and Wil sometimes tells stories of what it was like to be first edited by Andrew. Wil’s doing a thing at a little Sacramento sci-fi show, and Andrew tells him ahead of time to look out for me. So when I go up to his table and — nervously as all hell — say “hey, I’m a friend of Andrew Hack…” he stopped me with “You’re Ryan! Cool, Andrew told me about you.” We got a picture together, but I was so totally freaked out by this moment that I look pissed off in it. I didn’t smile or anything. I recall my leg shaking (which is still does sometimes whenever I’m doing public speaking).
I talked with Wil about how I admired him for remaking himself, for his willingness to be open and honest about failings and issues, and his various struggles in life. We chatted for a few minutes, he did a podcast bump for that that is actually shitty because of the crap audio in the building (though I still occasionally use it), and at the end of that weekend I gave him a copy of Primetime Adventures.
(This would not be the only copy of PTA I would give him. I ended up giving him a second copy I think two years later.)
Over the years, I got to know Wil better. Turns out he was a fan of Paul Tevis‘ A Penny For My Thoughts, which was my first development & editing gig. We both enjoyed losing at Pandemic, playing Fiasco, bullshitting about alcohol, drinking from my ridiculous giant flask, and just plain talking about games. Over the years of getting to know him and watching him on the Internets, I came to admire something else about him: his sense of joy. I’ve had the privilege of GMing for Wil twice — once for Mythender (which he later wrote about) and once for Fate Core (which he’s since raved about) — and at the gaming table, he’s just excited and thrilled to be there.
Hell, for the Fate Core game, he was really tired. We all were, because it was the Saturday of Gen Con. But he still wanted to try it, so we gathered for a two-hour game. And Wil pumped the rest of us up. That’s what Wil does — he infects you with his excitement.
Now, there are a lot of people who do that, and we should treasure those people. But why I admire this about Wil is that he has a busy schedule that involves a lot of traveling and he has random people on the Internet who constantly try to make him feel like shit or dampen his mood. I certainly don’t have much joy to muster when people feel the need to randomly crap on me just because I made something they didn’t like, but when I feel like that, I try to remember that Wil has to deal with that constantly. And if he can keep some joy going around in those times, fuck, so should I.
That’s it for this month’s Folks I Admire series. I should keep doing it. Maybe I’ll do it once a month in 2014 (though I’m loathe to promise future blog posts because half of the time I forget.)
 Someone who deserves a Folks I Admire post. Most people reading this will think “Who is he?”, but those who know him are nodding in agreement.