How my life moved forward across a rich and eventful 2023

Being honored for covering video games was one of the many high points

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by Sherry Toh |

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Secretly, I usually dread this time of year.

To borrow from singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, December is, to me, a “problem child.” It’s not easy to exist inside of this contradictory month, a time of both celebration and solemnity, of looking backward and forward. My birthday and Christmas are in December, but so is New Year’s Eve, which sparks reflection on what I’ve done during the year, the friends I’ve made, and the people and things I’ve lost.

Usually, I don’t feel I’ve done much except survive with SMA. Usually, I look at my friends and feel lonely, since they tend to live in other countries, not with me in Singapore. Usually, loss leaves me in states of hopelessness. It’s like being at a party where golden Champagne is flowing, but I’m drinking wine in a dull corner, watching everyone who’s dressed to the nines with the jewels of their achievements glittering on their necks, while my best piece of clothing is a black hoodie.

This year, however, has been different.

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I started it off by attending the book launch for Singapore’s first printed disability studies anthology, “Not Without Us: Perspectives on Disabilities and Inclusion in Singapore,” to which I contributed a chapter. I got to try Evrysdi (risdiplam), a disease-modifying therapy for SMA, and know it’ll improve my health.

In summer, I got to interview one of the video game writers I most admire, David Gaider, the former lead writer of the “Dragon Age” games. And somehow, I managed to purchase tickets to a Taylor Swift concert.

In fall, I gained a new perspective on life and the ties that bind us when my Great-Uncle Richard passed. I also earned my first disability-representation consultation credit in video games with the release of “Ghost Detective.”

The beginnings of winter whisked me to the date I’d speak on accessibility in video games as part of a panel for the Singapore Writers Festival. Later, I was blessed with the news that I was one of 50 writers nominated to join The Game Awards’ Future Class program — by far one of the highlights of my year and my life. According to The Game Awards, I now represent “the bright, bold and inclusive future of video games.”

And that’s just a taste of the memorable moments I had this year and of how much I’ve grown. Giving you the entire highlight reel would make me exceed my word limit for this column, but suffice to say, it’s been eventful.

Looking to the future

I keep returning to The Game Awards website to stare in disbelief at my face on the Future Class page. That’s me! That’s my name being honored for the work I produced while covering the video game industry!

The honor is much more special because this year, Neil Newbon‘s work in “Baldur’s Gate 3” was named best performance. Newbon became one of my favorite actors this year with that release (which also won Game of The Year, along with five other accolades). Newbon played Astarion, an elven vampire with an arc that explores trauma and abuse.

I fell in love with Astarion’s story and Newbon’s performance right away. In my difficult times this year, Astarion helped keep me afloat. But Newbon himself and his acting journey also drew me. In comments to PC Gamer, he relates that he came “very close to quitting acting, full stop.”

“I wasn’t earning much, so I was doing a lot of part-time work to make ends meet,” he says. “I was also becoming a bit disillusioned with myself as an actor …  I got to the point where I was just feeling very, very downtrodden. I was in the pain of rejection, the pain of struggling and trying to go after your dream, and just not getting any closer.”

Then he got into voice acting and motion-capture performance, and everything changed. “So yeah, I got saved by games,” he declares.

Newbon’s journey mirrors mine in a way. Like him, I was broke when I began covering the video game industry. I didn’t know if I’d amount to much. But games gave me recognition, community, and work I’m passionate about.

So looking at The Game Awards’ website and all of 2023, I’m humbled by the lesson that we have to keep going — because we never know what’s waiting for us.

I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in 2024.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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