In the beginning, hometown was merely a word you learned as a student, a high-frequency word in a textbook, a word that you were required to be able to read and write and make sentences, just a word, in the beginning.
You never truly understood the word, even though your personality developed an ability called empathy, and you thought you could feel the homesickness of those literary writers by just sitting on your desk? No, you can't.
Until one day you also took that step and experienced making a living somewhere else - Life is growing up with all those words you once learned in a book having a piece of your personal experience as an annotation.
Hometown is such a relative concept, only when you are in a foreign land can the word become tasteful. The concentration of this taste depends on the distance between you and your hometown.
The distance in the geographical sense is certainly the most direct, but the difference in the social sense is the essence. The two-way migration between the bustling city and the barren mountain village is a shocking education, but neither can compare to the cultural barrier - the unfamiliar language and customs around you is like a vast ocean, isolating you on the lone island of communication where the smell of the sea is impossible to ignore.
In the early 1990s, my hometown was still a poor county. It was hidden in a stretch of mountains in south China, with a bay of river flowing along the mountain. My family lived in a building on the north bank, and from the balcony I could see both sides of the river.
In the clear night, the moon was shining brightly, silver waves shone on the surface of the river, and the mountains were also covered with a blue hue, only a few farmhouses were dotted with dim lights.
It didn't take a long time, there were always fishing boats returning home at night to cut through this tranquility. The shuttle-shaped silhouette was like a black knife, tearing a mouth on the white river surface, splashing the water and fainting the waves. The diesel motor on the boat rumbling, da da da da da, echoing in the valleys. The quiet and the noise, with just the right mix, incomplete without anyone.
These images were finally frozen in those sunny nights in the 90's and became the imagery of my childhood memories.
Like many Chinese people, the first time I began to distance myself from my hometown was when I went to college, when there were still long summer and winter vacations to go back home, after work, the memory of my hometown was almost only the crowded station during the Spring Festival and the Lunar New Year's Eve, everything was no longer as continuous and complete as in my childhood.
The big southern city 1,000 kilometers away from home was my first stop after graduation. I was convinced that I was just a passerby here, but in the end, I never left this stop again. I stayed there for ten years.
I am the so-called small town youth, out of the poor county to the big city, the density of the city is suffocating: whether it is the densely packed skyscrapers or the rushing commuters. An uneasy dark cloud hovered over my head, and I dauntingly sent out every resume, only to unexpectedly get my first job half a month later.
That's the gaming industry I dreamed of most, and I lost sleep that night. Games had grown up with our generation, games had led my aesthetics and values, and I lost count of the number of days and nights I spent playing games like crazy. From an a enthusiastic gamer to a game developer, I think there is no better destination than this, no matter which parallel universe I am.
I saw the dark clouds above my head dissipate and a beam of light came down. That was my highlight moment.
I had looked up to the city's tall buildings many times, looking up at the unreachable, but at this moment, the land under my feet also had a foothold for me, and I felt the warmth of a mega-city through my feet for the first time.
But the most enduring warmth of this city is probably its tolerance as a city of immigrants. People come from all corners, different backgrounds, and diverse cultures, but you can always find the most familiar taste of hometown.
At the same time, the hometown also began to develop rapidly, and every time I went back, I could see a different new scene: the bridge across the river was built one after another, traversing the north and the south, and the upstream hydropower stations had also risen, blocking the east and the west. The river became a reservoir area, no longer flowing naturally, fishing boats were also prohibited from passing, the mountain was flattened, and a new commercial center and high-end residential buildings were built. Everything is changing, only the moon still rises.
In the past ten years, I've been going back and forth between hometown and the big city, spending more and more time in the big city, and getting more and more familiar with it, but hometown is getting stranger and stranger.
In the past ten years, I've made a lot of games, but they all ended in failure. I still remember the high-spirited faces, the lofty speeches at the dinner table, watching them raise a tall building, banquet guests and then it collapsed.
I just want to make a good game, a game that can represent myself, while there is still light in my eyes and fire in my heart.
The opportunity came on the day two years ago. HAAK was born on that day. That day was not accidental. I knew that I had been preparing for that day for ten years.
I projected my feelings and insights over the years into HAAK's creations: it is a wasteland after the end. and no matter what the cause, human civilization has finally come to this point, and it's no longer far from total extinction. HAAK's hometown is crumbling in the wind and rain. He must travel south, looking for hope, with the expectations of his people behind him and a dark forest in front of him.
The silhouette of HAAK is lonely and tough, just like every person who travels far away and struggles outside.
In the past two years, my time was completely occupied by HAAK. I had to rack my brains for game design every day, I woke up in anxiety and fell asleep in anxiety every day, I felt so tired.
But at that time whenever I came back to my hometown again, it could really take some of the burden off me, perhaps it was the food in my hometown, or the familiar nagging. I always wanted to stay for a few more days, but another voice reminded me that I no longer belong here, because everything here is changing.
Grandma left in May of this year. She also paid attention to the development of HAAK during her lifetime. and every time I called her she would ask me about the progress of the development. I was sorry that I couldn't show her the birth of HAAK.
The ties with my hometown are weakening, and I feel like it's fading away.
For everyone, hometown represents different meanings; for me, it's the sparkling river and roaring motor that I can't go back to, For HAAK, it is the reason for departure.
But no matter how far away from home, I think we should remember where we came from.
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