build with purpose

I thought I was going to be a game developer

When I graduated from high school I figured I'd work to get all of the skills I'd need to be a videogame developer. After all, that's why I started school in the first place and I'd always been thrilled by virtual interactivity. I enjoyed a wide variety of games, but couldn't play just one repeatedly unless it was a game I really loved. I didn't know until later that I was simply trying to focus on what I knew rather than focus on what I was actually good at doing when choosing my future career.

It took four years, two degrees, and several terrible games to discover that even programming the simplest games wasn't easy for one person or even a small team. When I started as a Computer Science major I had expected excellent tooling paired with a bit of scripting that could have enabled me to create a masterpiece. Instead I found a lot of low level, data structure heavy, issues and solutions that I enjoyed thinking about. I liked working at that level, but working toward the goal of developing an entire game while trying to address problems in that space was just unpractical.

Unreal Engine

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel all of the time in the framework that I wanted to use, I tried out being a game designer and started using a lot of the tooling that existed for making games. I played around with 3DS Max, Blender, Mudbox, Unreal, and Unity and found that, while those tools allowed you to get a lot done quickly, they were all limited in the breath of application available to the user. Rather than feel like I was truly creating new functionality and doing things that no one had ever done before, I felt like I was simply piecing together a bunch of parts that were pre-built for me. I'm sure some people like this kind of challenge, I just don't happen to be one of those people.

It was at this realization that I dropped out of my design major to just focus on becoming an exceptional programmer and, even more importantly, I started reading a lot more. One of the books I read was titled Zero to One by Peter Theil. It described the philosophy of working toward unique solutions using technology and capitalizing on these solutions to develop a monopoly. He described how only companies in a market with very little competition can make significant profits because they don't have to drop their prices to compete with others.

Reading this book was an awesome experience and when I've tried to go back and read this book I haven't been able to. It affirmed a lot of nagging thoughts that I had about how the world probably worked and it taught me too see things from a different perspective. It also told me to get the heck out of the games industry because, as Unity and Unreal Engines released their tooling for free, anyone who thought they could be a game designer and their dog decided to give it a try. The market has been flooded with competition and now it is extremely hard to enter that market. It would be near impossible to have my voice heard among the screams and yells of the horde coming down the pipeline.

Rabbit horde

Fortunately for me, I was already working my summers away at a company that built web applications using RESTful Web Services and other technologies that I had no experience using. At this point, while I was pulling away from Game Development, I decided to really delve into the world of Web Development. I started learning Javascript and found that I really liked working in this space. The tooling was awesome and there are a bunch of programmers working on a lot of different and interesting things. It seems like there's always something new and interesting to look into.

I think that every professional needs a space to work in where they feel like they can actually make a bit of a difference. For me that's Javascript and the web development community. Once you know a little bit of the language, it is almost easy to pick up a piece of code that someone else wrote and understand what they are trying to do. The Open Source community complemented by great companies and tooling like Github and NPM really allow anyone to look at any library and see how that author was trying to do something. It also allows anyone to contribute in a major way to something that they are passionate about. This is why I've made Web Development my home and why I hope to stay.

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