Back in the day..
‘Back in the day’ being about 10 years ago. At the time I really wanted to get into game development. I didn’t yet know about the hardships of being in the game development environment and because I played a lot of games I was insanely impressed with what these people could do. I went to school, college and whatnot and then started at a university (Bachelor’s) that was specifically meant for game development. It had different subcategories and I, of course, wanted to end up in the programming class.
It was really hard to get into, they only accepted relatively few people every year so you either had to get some good grades from previous schools, or do well at the tests they had you do for being selected. Good grades meant automatic acceptance (8 and up I believe it was in all sections). If you submitted the best small game to the selection board of the university, you would be automatically accepted as well. In general, it meant about 30 people per class per year, with four sections. The four sections I think were Programming, Design, Management, and Art.
I was accepted immediately based on my grades (all 10s) but still made the small game that I submitted to the selection board. It was meant to show my dedication but didn’t quiet pan out that way.
My game was the first one I ever did try to create. It was a 2D top down exploration game, with simple puzzles that didn’t make any sense. There was nothing special about it, and to be honest it was really quite bad for a first game. I wrote it in C++, using the Winapi and Direct2D. It had no smooth movement. It had no story. It was bad.
At least, I felt the assessor seemed to think so.
I had to go to the uni before I got accepted to show my game to the head Programming guy, a British fellow. I was one of the last to go in, and he was visible agitated already. He thumbed through my ‘resume’ and wasn’t impressed and I didn’t expect him to. He started up my game on my laptop and was immediately visibly disappointed by the quality. ‘I would have liked it to have smooth movement’ he said, and closed it. He skipped 90% of my game.
He went into the code and wanted me to explain what an iterator was, presumably as a test to make sure I wrote it myself. He didn’t want me to explain anything about the structure of the code, or the technology behind it. He didn’t care. He closed the IDE. For me, that game was important. It was my first milestone, my first step into a career of game development and this guy didn’t even really acknowledge it.
He wanted to know how good my math was. It was, and admittedly still is, pretty bad. Queue more agitated sighs and mumbles and he was pretty scathing about how I should know all that stuff before applying. He said I was still accepted but I had to do some extra math courses in order to do well.
So I left disappointed. Even though I got accepted.
When the uni started, I never went.
Quite simply, I was extremely disappointed. Partly in my assessment, partly in myself. But there was more. I realized that game development was only a small part of software engineering. I realized that maybe, doing software engineering in general was more beneficial to a long term career than game development is.
I learned that job security in game development is horrendous. That it’s extremely stressful. That you’re usually under the boot of a big publisher, pushing you harder and harder. It’s not a life I wanted anymore.
I’ve gotta scratch that itch though. I’ve been relatively negative about the game development world but let’s be honest, it must be absolutely amazing to put your game after a time of extremely hard work. It’s a labour of love and passion. It’s not a 9 to 5 job, it’s your life. Something in that is scary but also beautiful.
So I’ve started fiddling with Unity, a great game development environment that has free options for small or hobby projects. I’ve tried a few things and it made me realize my math IS bad, it made me realize I may not be as good in programming as I thought I was. It’s just so different. It also made me realize game development is hard and maybe I’m just expecting too much of myself too soon.
It has given me an avenue of personal advancement though. If I wanted to learn something new and useful, I can try and create games. It’ll teach me more about math, it’ll teach me to think in a different way compared to a desktop application, for example.
Lot’s of learning ahead, as always. In the end, it’ll make me a better programmer.