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A hemophiliac who plays rugby!

by Peter Wilson

I am a severe hemophiliac, and I play sports for a living. Sports video games, that is.

As a child I had target joints in my ankles and elbows, so I ended up spending a lot of time playing at a computer. My family had a Commodore Vic-20. Back in those days, you didn’t just buy video games; you could also buy manuals with the code for games, and type them in yourself. So at the age of 6, I used to type in games from a manual letter by letter. I didn’t understand what the code meant, but I loved playing the games. It wasn’t until years later that I decided I wanted to make games for a living. I still remember the day: it was when I bought my first Nintendo game and saw the list of developers in the credits. I guess it hadn’t occurred to me until that point that people actually had jobs creating video games.

I continued to teach myself how to program up until high school, when I finally took a course in computer programming. It was then that my high school computer teacher suggested I study computer science in university. I was awarded a scholarship by the CHS to attend the University of New Brunswick. I studied hard and worked every summer as a programmer at various co-op job placements. I even did my undergraduate thesis on a topic relating to 3-D perspectives in video games. Several months before I graduated, I received an offer from a video game studio, and started my first game job just four days after graduation.

The funny part is that the game studio that hired me specialized in sports games. I had hardly played any sports as a child, and here I was creating sports video games. And not just any sport—the first game I worked on was a rugby game! I have since worked on a cricket game and another rugby game for PlayStation2, Xbox, and PC. The games are distributed all over the world and combined have sold over a million copies. Today, I am working on a freestyle soccer game for the PSP that will be released in early 2006.

Target joints are not my only health problem. Like many hemophiliacs, I was infected with hepatitis C. I contemplated treatment for years, but with school and work, there was just never time. Two and a half years into my game job, I decided to begin treatment. I knew that there was a risk I would miss a lot of time from work, but it was something I knew I had to do. I talked it over with my boss, and he said to go ahead and take as much time as I needed.

I finished my 48-week hepatitis C treatment in October 2005, and never missed a single day of work because of it. This was no small feat, as jobs in the video game industry are notorious for long hours. It is not unusual for us to work 12- to 16-hour days for weeks at a time! I won’t know for sure for a few more months if the treatment was successful, but so far, so good. It was not without side effects, but I do not regret the decision.

When I am not working, I love to camp. My family went on camping trips almost every summer when I was little. My Dad was a Boy Scout leader, so he used to come with me to Scout camps to help me with my infusions, and, well, just watch over me like the parent of a hemophiliac usually does. When I was 13, I started going to a summer camp on my own. There is a camp in Nova Scotia run by the Cancer Society that accepted children with hemophilia. When I became too old to be a camper, I volunteered as a counselor at the camp. The Hemophilia Society has since formed its own summer camp here in the Maritimes. My sister and I now spend our vacations volunteering every summer at both camps.

When I’m not working or camping, I can be found sailing the beautiful waters of Mahone Bay. One of the nice parts about my job is that it is located in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia—right on the Atlantic Ocean and some of the best sailing waters in North America. My other hobbies revolve around camp. I spend my spare time practicing guitar and magic tricks so that I can entertain the kids the next year. And of course I still play a lot of video games, but I now consider that research. I like to keep busy, and I don’t let hemophilia slow me down.

- Fall 2005