My first question is obvious: what happened?
“Once you’ve done something for so long, at some point it’s just not that exciting anymore,” Zeschuk confesses. “I had trouble looking down the road at something that was just incredibly interesting and challenging and new and unique that stretched me personally. I think video games, for me…it was very clear what the future held. It was more of the same.” It’s a reply we’ve heard before, one that closely mirrors the message of the retirement letter he posted last September when he and partner Ray Muzyka stepped down. Naturally the gaming community was quick to offer other explanations — including the controversy surrounding Mass Effect 3’s unsatisfying ending and BioWare’s merger with mega-publisher EA — but when I question him, Zeschuk calmly maintains that his reasons were purely personal.
“The passion and level of engagement was so high that it makes it very hard to solve every scenario you wanted to solve at the end of it,” Zeschuk says of Mass Effect 3. “I always still sincerely think it’s because [the fans] really really care about what we make. It’s not random. It’s like, they may be disappointed when they can’t get the choice they want because they’re so intimate with their story or their character or their game. If it’s not just the way they want it, it’s not right. So it’s a very hard thing to reconcile, but the reality is, I can understand completely where it can come from.”
Anytime anyone writes about Greg Zeschuk, they’re always quick to point out one compelling piece of his personal history: before starting BioWare, Zeschuk was a licensed, practicing medical doctor. His choice to abandon years of training in order to make video games might seem brilliant now, but at the time, it surely felt like an insane risk. Speaking with him now, however, his decision somehow feels like the only one he possibly could have made. “It’s actually a personal philosophy of mine,” Zeschuk says. “For me at least, the secret to being happy, in a way, is just doing stuff. If I’m not doing stuff, I’m not happy. I think from a philosophical perspective, people kind of owe it to themselves to try to do things nowadays. There’s very little reason not to try to do stuff.”
Stuff like, say, quitting your job as an award-winning developer in order to pursue a new passion. While The Beer Diaries may not be the next Mass Effect or Dragon Age, it all makes perfect sense given Zeschuk’s mentality. “At the end of the day, at the very least, we did something,” he states. “Maybe we made some people angry, made some people happy… You can live your life without doing anything. The reality, though, is simply, having done something is really, really rewarding.” I think we can all drink to that.