Cancer, Content Creators, and the Love of Craft

I want to tell you something important about myself, through talking about someone I’ve never met, and sadly never will.

So if you’re not someone who’s immersed in the Warcraft community, you might not have heard of a content creator named HayvenGames. The short version is that he was a young gentleman who had a big interest in illuminating the many mysteries that lay within the data files that made up the worlds that WoW took place in. Put another way, he was a very sophisticated creator of exploration videos, which is a particular brand of WoW machinima that centers on using various methods to show off places in the game that players weren’t normally supposed to see.

Unlike a lot of other exploration video makers, Hayven went out of his way to do this kind of exploration in the name of uncovering the architecture of the world’s design, and didn’t really waste a lot of breath slamming Blizzard. (Side note: many of the early exploration video makers capitalized on using exploits and bugs to access unintended areas. As Blizzard would plug these holes, many of these explorers took it as an affront, but Hayven never did.) Moreover, Hayven did a lot of work to show the evolution of locations in-game, including going back to the RTS games to show how they were presented in 2D.

The guy was an educator. He wanted to show people where the world came from as much as he wanted to show off places that players couldn’t access. And it never appeared to be so much about “five secret places Blizzard doesn’t want you to see” but instead more about “here are places that don’t exist in the game anymore, or were never implemented on player-accessible maps, let’s see how they look.

He struck me as honest, earnest, and heartfelt about showcasing the game, and not about touting his own skills or trying to rub Blizzard’s nose in the fact that the seams of the world could be revealed. He pointed out patterns, like how Farahlon (intended to be post-launch content for Warlords of Draenor, but never completed) ended up presaging how Thal’dranath (intended to be post-launch content for Legion) was eventually cut from the game. This was about helping people to understand that the world of the game didn’t magically come into being, but had to be BUILT, and that sometimes meant compromises or visual tricks or even just dropping areas completely. He never apologized for Blizzard, as he wasn’t an employee and it wouldn’t have been his place to do so, but he also didn’t roast them for those decisions either. They were just a fact of game development, and a fact that he helped bring to light with his work.

Hayven passed away last month, after struggling against epithelioid sarcoma. He was 26. Throughout treatment, he kept creating content, even if it wasn’t at the breakneck pace he’d become known for, and he did everything he could to keep his followers and patrons informed about how he was progressing. However, he went quiet in mid-March, and nothing happened until today, when a new video was posted announcing that he’d passed on.

I had precious few interactions with Hayven over Twitter, but what struck me most about him was that he was someone who had the same desire I had about all of this unused or phased-out content: why was it made? What was the inspiration? The intent? Could it ever see use elsewhere? What does seeing it teach us about the craft of the game world? These are things that are pretty close to the reasons why I’ve been so invested in Warcraft as a universe for so long, and part of why I’ve wanted to get inside Blizzard: I desperately want to show the craftsmanship that goes into this game (and all of their games, really), and showcase the people who made it, and try to teach the real world to understand that it is PEOPLE who makes these games for us, and even if we don’t like how a class got nerfed or how a character got written or how much trash there was or wasn’t in a raid dungeon, we’re all still players who want to play a game together.

Hayven was a kindred spirit in that respect.

There just aren’t enough people who want to speak lovingly of the craft, in order to drown out the people who yell out their hatred, or even their ambivalence. And that’s a sad echo of everything else in the world, is it not?

So raise a glass for this young man, and wish his spirit well.

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2 thoughts on “Cancer, Content Creators, and the Love of Craft

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