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How 20,000 Hours of Dungeons & Dragons Shaped the Creator of Baldur’s Gate and BioWare Legend

The guy who helped create Baldur’s Gate and worked at BioWare for a long time, James Ohlen, says he got really good at his job because he spent a ton of time playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Before he started working at BioWare, he played D&D for about 20,000 hours. In the 90s, when he was a manager at a comic book store, he ran games of D&D for three different groups of people. He didn’t have much of a life outside of D&D back then.

One of the people who played D&D with him was Cam Tofer, who worked at BioWare. James Ohlen was a great Dungeon Master (DM) in D&D, and this helped him get a job at BioWare. He had spent so much time playing and being a DM that he was really good at it. He even mentioned a famous idea called the ‘10,000 hour rule,’ which says that if you practice something for 10,000 hours, you become an expert. He thought he had practiced twice that much before joining BioWare.

But it wasn’t just the hours he spent playing D&D that made him valuable to BioWare. The co-founder of BioWare encouraged him to use the notebooks he had filled with notes about characters and worlds he created in D&D. At first, James didn’t want to do it because he thought it was self-centered, but it turned out to be a great idea. It made his job of writing for video games much faster because he already had detailed notes on the characters.

Some of the characters in the Baldur’s Gate games, like Minsc and Boo, came from his D&D campaigns. These characters were played by Cam Tofer and even appeared in Baldur’s Gate 3. Other characters like the mage companion Edwin and the antagonist Jon Irenicus from Baldur’s Gate 2 also came from James Ohlen’s D&D games.

Running three D&D campaigns at the same time is a huge deal, and it makes my own attempts at being a DM seem small in comparison. But that’s the kind of dedication you need to create one of the most important computer role-playing games (CRPGs) ever.

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