Follow your dreams.
I often wondered why people said that. It sounds like a reasonable bit of advice, but many times following our dreams can lead us to a life of near poverty since most of us probably dream of doing whatever we want, when we want. That kind of life is reserved for a short of list of people in this world, so what do the rest of us do? Does it still make sense to follow our dreams?
My early dream was to make video games. From the moment I played Donkey Kong and Missile Command and even Buck Rodgers I knew there was something special about video games. It wasn't until my first PC, when I was introduced to games like Doom and Myst and Dune II, that I realized this would be my dream.
Before then, I imagined that games were made through the fusion of mana and spiritual energy or something equally as cryptic. It wasn't until someone much older than myself explained that video games are made by people who programmed computers and drew pixel art. Suddenly, the compass was set, my map was marked, and I had a path to follow.
A couple decades later, things have changed a bit to say the least. I still enjoy games and making them, but I am also a family man with responsibilities. My dreams now involve more than the simple life of making games, it now involves spending time with my family. The games industry takes a lot out of you and the lack of stability kept me awake some nights.
I later made the choice a few years ago to step to the sidelines. Still making Indie games on my own time, I've put aside the my young dreams of being a pillar inside of an id Software or a Blizzard. Instead, I made the responsible decision to transition to a slightly higher paying industry that still afforded me the time I wanted, at the cost of giving up on my dream. My dreams have now been replaced with realities; pay your bills on time, do what you can to keep your job, find time for your loved ones, find a hobby that does not involve computers.
It's not as doom and gloom as it may sound. There is no harm in wanting to spend more time with loved ones and I never met anyone who says, "I wish I could have worked more." In a strange way however, I do kind of miss the comradery that is forged from the industry standard of working. Either it be for the love of the game or love of the craft, everyone in the industry finds something to share and be passionate about. That is something I find very rare outside of what I would consider to be a "passion" industry like video games or film. That alone is enough for me to still hold a small flame for that young dream of mine.
If nothing else, I enjoy a good challenge. It seems that my dreams have changed with age, but they still hold their original spirit. As an Indie developer, I don't expect to be rich. I don't expect to be noticed or thanked for dedicating my life to what may only amount to a few minutes of pleasure for a handful of people. My dream is changing from day to day, and at this moment my dream is telling me to just have fun with it and learn something new with each passing year.
If I can walk away a little smarter than when I started and make a couple dollars, it was not a loss. I've done a lot in my professional years and I have no idea what tomorrow may hold. I may not have the day job that I've always dreamed of, but in a strange way, I know that I am doing what I want to do, when I want to. And isn't that the dream we all want anyways?