Why I Didn’t Pursue Gamedev

One of the first series of video games that I followed was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Skating through locations based all over the world, throwing your character off of rooftops while doing trick after trick to build up a huge combo score, winning multiplayer competitions against computer-controlled skaters and even your own friends - all of these things made me want to be a skater. I convinced my parents that I needed a skateboard, skate shoes, and tee shirts from any and every skating brand that I could find. Since I grew up just up the street from the local elementary school, I’d start out practicing there on the flat asphalt and work my way up to bombing pools at the local skate park. After all, how hard could it be? If Tony Hawk and all of his pro-skater buddies can do all of this effortlessly, so could I!

The fact is that I wouldn’t be writing about this on a tech blog if it actually had happened. I’m fairly certain the first time I put my foot on a skateboard after building up all of that confidence I fell flat on my face and blubbered to myself as I trudged home. I did attempt to teach myself to skate a few more times in the years since, and every time has ended in similar fashion (maybe with less blubbering and more frustration).

So what’s the problem here? I’m now at least physically able to ride a skateboard by standing on it and pushing with my foot, shouldn’t I be able to do more?

It comes down to a lack of passion that pro skaters have. Tony Hawk didn’t let himself fall just once, he’s fallen more times than anyone can imagine. His sport is not effortless for him, he’s at the top of his game because he put immense amounts of effort into it. I do not have the level of passion required to let myself fall countless times, to skate until I get it right. There’s the possibility that I could do it if I just put in the work, but I’d be kidding myself; I don’t want to.

Enter game development. When I graduated high school after having accepted my admission to UC Irvine for their Computer Game Science major, I was convinced that gamedev was going to be my career. I had read all about what it was like to work in engineering in the gaming industry, about all of the rewarding problem solving that would ultimately turn into a video game right before my very eyes. However, that was all I did - read. I didn’t feel like exploring any of the multitude of free development resources and learning how to use them, or picking up an introductory programming book and getting a head start on my college curriculum. I was going to learn all of that in school, why should I be in such a rush?

News flash: in no way can the material in four years worth of college courses turn you into a master programmer of fun and exciting video games. I realized this after being introduced to the officers of the Video Game Development Club (VGDC) at my school and hearing them emphasize the fact that side projects are a must, both for the sake of a portfolio and my resume. However, that didn’t phase me too much; I told myself that I was prepared for this, that I would find the passion, that I wasn’t going to give up on this.

Long story short, four years went by and I never found the passion. I’ll give myself some credit in that I did participate in weekend game jams put on by the VGDC, attempted multiple personal game projects in various engines and frameworks, and put some level of decent effort into the development courses required by my major. I got my degree, walked at graduation, and started working through a couple of Udemy gamedev courses focused on Unreal Engine during my free time.

Really up until last week, I was holding onto what I thought was my dream of being a game developer. I attended a seminar at work called “Assessing My Skills and Abilities” where one particular piece of advice stuck out: focus your efforts on the skills that you care about and find fun in. Sure, sometimes your job might require you to learn about and do something that you aren’t super excited about, but it’s necessary for work so you just do it and do it right. In my case, gamedev is neither fun nor necessary. I really like playing video games; I really don’t like making them. What I truly am passionate about is sysadmin, scripting, and automation. I find myself losing track of time working with Powershell, domain controllers, SCCM, and everything in between. Those are the things that I’ve chosen to hold onto, and I’m at peace with that.

(I can say that present-day me is the proud owner of a longboard - with big soft wheels that glide over cracks and pebbles so that I don’t fall as easily, and a large enough board width that I can plant myself securely as I ride along the sidewalk.)