It was pretty early in my life that I decided I wanted to make games. I didn’t really know anything about making games, but I loved the way they layered story, puzzles, and exploration into a single package that also gave you the feeling of adventure and progress. Now that I know more about game making, I realize what I wanted to be at the time was a Game Designer and Writer. At Elementary School recess I would gather my friends together to tell them the story of the day, explain the dungeon they were in, and we would play in a world made of words. Someone should have introduced that kid to Dungeons and Dragons.
My first real video-game-making experience was with a program called Game Maker. I had a tutorial book, given to me by a friend, which showed me step-by-step how to make nine games while also attempting to teach my middle-school mind the basics of game design and fun. It fascinated me. I made all nine of those games, and I convinced my reluctant mother to buy me the $20 Pro edition of Game Maker so I could try out it’s advanced tools. I discovered then that I had a knack for programming and set my course on technology.
At the end of the day, though, I didn’t pursue this dream nearly as much as I should have. I took advanced courses, had a vibrant social life, pursued other projects, and never had enough time or creativity to make many games. At the end of the day these are mostly excuses, though. If I had been clearer in my goal and my drive, I would have actually finished that book on C# Programming that I picked up. I would have developed my games more and not let my lack of artistic talent get in my way. I would have bugged my parents more and more about what my dreams were and ask for their help in pursuing them.
And at the end of the day, I still wasn’t clear in my goal back then, and I still spent all of my time living dreams, even if they weren’t focused. In Middle School I took classes on technology, where we learned the basics of programming, graphic editing, engineering, even CAD and manufacturing. I made videos and wrote songs with my friends. I took lessons in guitar and got into choir. Choir led me to seek positions of leadership, and I became an organizer and team leader. I took my love of music and technology into college where I joined K-UTE Radio while studying Computer Science, and fell in love with both. All of these things combined to create the Producer position I cherish today, where I get to create videos, design experiences, organize people, and make video games.
This weekend I’m finally participating in my first hackathon, the Global Game Jam. In the last 40 hours I’ve worked on a team of 12 creating a video game from scratch. I chose to do this now because I finally feel comfortable in my abilities as a game developer to lead a team in creating something, and I’m down to the wire where I need to have more games on my portfolio if I want to get into the industry. But there are sophomores and juniors on my team, doing this for the fun and the experience, and I know now that I should have been doing this years ago. I’ve been able to watch them join my team of mostly seniors, and find their place on the team. The leads give them tasks and they set to work, learning the things they don’t already know through research, asking questions, and getting things done. They’re here actually making games to learn instead of dreaming of they day when they’ll have learned enough to do it. They’re living their dreams right now.
I’m a huge advocate of this kind of mindset, and even if I think I haven’t done it enough in my life, I still feel like I was lucky enough to accidentally do it a lot. Don’t wait for your dreams, live them right now. If you want to make games, make games. If you want to make music, make music. When you start, you’ll be bad. You won’t get the fame and the money that comes along with your wildest dreams, and maybe you never will. But if you keep doing what you love, you’ll be able to do it better and better. Step outside your comfort zone to realize that you can build your own comfort zone. Stop worrying about what the best route to your goal is and just make your goal clear and start driving towards it.
This goes beyond just building your talents or career. Yesterday, millions of people joined together to declare they’re views on our current society. They carried messages about strength in unity and equality, about making their voices heard. Many people were concerned about this protest on Friday when videos showed up of vandalism and violence. And while I’m sure some of that happened yesterday, for the most part those protests were full of ordinary people who felt like they had something to say – and, not really knowing how to say it, they left their homes hoping to join others who had the same message. And the result was powerful.
So whatever it is that you want to do, whatever dream you have, live it. Stop letting self-doubt and indecision hold you back. Because whatever you want to be is attainable, but you gotta start now and not stop.
Our Global Game Jam Game will be available at http://globalgamejam.org/2017/games/frackn-gnomes when it’s done later today!