Welcome 2021! In lieu of a New Year’s Resolution I want to reflect on the course my life has taken and how I could’ve handled situations better. Over the next few weeks I’ll go over one mistake I made each of the past five years that hurt my career or other aspects of life. I’ll go over what led me to the incident, how it affected me in the short term, and how it impacted me in the long run.
Posts in this series:
- 2016: I Kept My Return to Game Development a Secret
- 2017: I Almost Started a Sports Bar (and Put My Friend in Financial Trouble)
- 2018: I Let Personal Finance YouTube Channels Take Over My Life
- 2019: I Overcommitted
- 2020: I Failed to Be an Ally in a Pivotal Moment
The Struggle to Create
My goal in life is to make games, online videos, and other forms of entertainment. A decade ago I was on track to make that a career after I interned at a multinational game company. However my life went in a different direction, landing my first job at a mobile software agency that turned into a venture-backed startup and later became part of a major office supply retailer. The next six or so years were all business and offered little room for self-expression.
While that was going on I tried to make something work on the side. I spent my evenings posting memes on the Internet to build an audience. I was able to get some eyeballs to look at my content, but it wasn’t enough to snowball into anything bigger. Then, when my startup went through a rough patch - arguably the darkest phase of my career - I had nothing to post at all.
I thought my schedule was the thing limiting me. Living on the outskirts of the city, it took nearly four hours per day commuting to work. By moving closer to the office I thought I would unlock an abundance of free time. However, I failed to consider that by living alone I would have to spend time doing housework that others had done for me previously. While I had the benefit of controlling my own schedule, this freedom wasn’t the radical changemaker I hoped it would be. I had to find other ways of being resourceful with my time, and I had to start now.
Going Back to an Old Hobby
Chris DeLeon was a game developer and counselor I followed on social media for years. He recently published his “Code Your First Game” course and offered his subscribers one-on-one counseling via email. So one afternoon I completed the course and talked to him about doing weekly check-ins. I blocked out Sunday afternoons to code games, and I was able to maintain that habit for two straight years.
The problem was that aside from my conversations with Chris, I did all of my work in a vacuum. Since I was programming games for the first time in years, I could’ve tapped into the community to get help whenever I ran into a roadblock. I could’ve found someone to bounce ideas off of, to make sure I didn’t commit myself to something unreasonable. I could’ve shared my works in progress, and built clout as these projects moved closer to completion. But didn’t take advantage of any of these opportunities.
I spent the next year trying to make a Super Mario Bros. clone and I got overwhelmed by the number of game mechanics and other features I had to make. Each week couldn’t decide whether to fix a camera bug, implement enemy AI, or add powerups. I watched the end of the project move further and further away. Mario wasn’t even the end goal; it was only supposed to be a stepping stone toward a different game I wanted to create. I abandoned the project without completing World 1-1.
A Quick Falling Out
I stuck with this hobby for a bit longer. I joined Chris’ game development community, HomeTeam GameDev (which was called Gamkedo at the time), and I had an amazing time there. I contributed to a handful of games, got recognized for the work, and made many social media connections.
I burnt myself out when I decided to go solo again. Inspired by Christer Kaitila’s One Game a Month challenge, I made one game demo for each of the next few months which yielded mixed results. The first three entries were a far cry from what I wanted to churn out, but they were at least playable. The next entry I worked on was an RPG and I panicked when I realized the menu system alone could be a multi-month project, meaning I couldn’t keep up with the monthly format anymore.
I tried jumping back into HomeTeam GameDev to work on smaller-scale games, but for reasons I’ll describe later this month I fell out of the game development world completely. Had I embedded myself deeper into the community early on my momentum wouldn’t have died that easily.
Nowadays I contribute to this blog weekly, partially as a tool to help me network and partially to fulfill a promise I made to myself to make one public-facing piece of content every week. Perhaps I can return to game development if I can churn out blog posts more quickly or if I start writing posts related to programming games, but currently this is how I’m prioritizing my time.