This past Friday I had the best day of game dev, by anyone, ever. Well, that may be a bit of hyperbole, but the experience was so important I wanted to share it with the Gama community, because in my years of reading articles here I have reaped so much wisdom from you all, and have never had anything to contribute - until now.
Some quick background - In 2011 I realized that I hated being a lawyer. My love of programming and making games is an integral part of who I am, dating back to when I was seven on my Apple IIe (these games consisted of something like a prompt for a user name followed by an endless loop letting the person know they had stinky farts). So with my wife’s apprehensive blessing, I started the process of winding down my firm and getting up to speed on the current state of tech. Coming from the days when my game dev resources consisted of nothing more than a BASIC manual and Compute! Magazine, I was blown away at what was now available. Between the tutorials and sites like Gamasutra, I was up and running very quickly.
My good friend Thomas (who’s making this awesome game) is constantly telling me that if I don’t tell people about my game then no one else will. But in my mind, my project is like my kids and my fantasy football team – I’m incredibly excited about them, but no one wants to hear about them. So I'm not writing this to talk about my game (there you go, Thomas) but to share insight into my struggle balancing family responsibilities and game dev. I hope my experience can help folks in the same way I’ve benefitted from those people who have shared their wisdom here.
My wife and I have three kids. If that wasn't enough, we’re currently taking care of my two nephews. So in my house I have kids aged 9, 8, 6, 5, and 4. It is chaos. It is beautiful.
Since I work from home it means interruptions are the norm. I always feel like I struggle to get just a small block of uninterrupted programming time. But this past week, I had the perfect plan: five straight days of having the house to myself while all the kids are in school. With other responsibilities caught up, I was headed into a beautiful, glorious full week of game making heaven. Each day, life laughed at my plan like Crom at the four winds.
Every day was a new ambush from out of nowhere, a new fire to put out. As each one passed with no game dev, I got more and more frustrated with no progress. Each time I passed my computer, the screen saver mocked me by reminding me of its inactivity. Finally, Thursday night, having lost four days, I saw Friday with a clean slate. My frustration melted into excitement and determination: I will have a productive day of coding!
As I settled into bed that night with a big smile on my face, almost asleep, my wife gently reminded me that my youngest daughter had no school on Friday and I had to watch her. I went to sleep pouting and stressed.
I woke up the next day bitter. Hiding my resentment I got the herd off to school. And then there was one.
I took my daughter out for breakfast. And while I sat across from her as she ate massive amounts of sugary donuts that mama would never allow, I saw a smile that was worth more than a 90 on Metacritic. In that moment I was reminded that, while video games are awesome, and making video games is doubly awesome, they are not ultimate things.
Rather than remain stressed, bitter, and frustrated about a self-imposed deadline, I enjoyed a relaxing, beautiful day with my daughter – the little girl who will be grown and gone before I know it. She won’t care that it took a little longer to get my game finished, or whether it was finished at all.
We finished breakfast.
We went to the children’s museum.
We enjoyed just being together.
Ten years from now she may not even remember this day, but I know I will never forget it.
The lesson I learned did not optimize my code or enhance my shaders, but it reminded me that I will never enjoy game dev unless it rests in the proper place on my list of priorities.
This was my best day as a game developer, ever. I hope that with this nugget of wisdom you all have many days just as fulfilling in your game dev careers.