There and Back Again – A Year in Review

The year is drawing to a close so I thought I would look back on what I’ve done and what I’ve learnt.

It’s been a year of ups and downs. There’s been times when I’ve wanted to flip a table and throw my hands up in the air…

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻)

But then I remember why I do this and why I want to do this, and that keeps me grounded.

Pump up the jam!

At the start of the year I attended my first Global Game Jam. It was less than a success for me. I joined a team of random people and the group dynamics didn’t gel. The result was this curiosity entitled Orboros, but not much of a game.

Not the fall…

Then I was accepted into a prestigious game development college, but, that didn’t work out so well, and I quit.

And there I was wondering where I had gone wrong. Things hadn’t fallen into place the way I thought they would…

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS DON'T MAKE LEMONADE. MAKE LIFE TAKE THE LEMONS BACK!

Damn straight Cave!

Take a third option.

So I considered all the developers that I respected – how they’d made the games that they wanted to play and the stories that they wanted to tell. They made those games themselves and they collaborated with other like minds. I can do that too.

I thought about autodidactism and how whenever in the past I’ve been successful in achieving goals, it’s been because I’ve had the motivation and the determination to want to do it and not listen to pessimists who say say it’s too difficult. My educational philosophy is that if you want to learn how to do something, you can. It takes a lot of persistence, and it won’t be easy, but it is possible.

Therefore I needed a plan of action, and while I thought about that, I enrolled back in TAFE and did a diploma of screen (and as I was exempt from most of the modules in it I then took on an advanced diploma of screen as well at the same time). Screen is a field ~close~ to game development (after all, many modern games make heavy use of cinematics, so there’s definitely a crossover), and as it turned out I did really well in both courses. My confidence was being restored.

Dudebro

I wrote, produced, and acted in a mockumentary during the semester called Dudebro. It’s about the ugly parts of videogame culture – sexist dudebros who don’t appreciate how what they say and do can affect others. I’m really proud of the finished production and will be submitting it to the Tropfest film festival next week (as such, I can’t upload it online yet, but I’m really looking forward to being able to show it to the public next year).

The Comeback

Meanwhile, I worked on finishing off The Comeback, the game that was created during my gamedev course at TAFE last year. It was never completed properly. I know it’s a bit of a cliché that student games remain unfinished, but I was determined to not let that happen and instead get it done and release it into the ether. I started redoing all the assets and making it in Unity (instead of Game Salad in which it was originally made).

The Comeback screenshot WIP

Above is a work in progress screenshot of The Comeback running in Unity. At the moment I’m working on doing all the animations for the player character Nicolas Dagger. It’s time consuming but it will be done. I’ll update again soon here with more about progress on the game.

I’ve also started up a file this year with all the game ideas I have. I’m excited about the possibility of making them, but I won’t mention anything specific about them for the moment, because I think that sometimes being too loud about your ideas is a sure fire way of making them never happen. I’ll have more to say about them specifically when I’m ready instead. It’s better that way.

Freeplay inspiration

As we entered the last quarter of the year I traveled south to Melbourne to go to the annual Freeplay independent game developers festival. It was incredibly inspiring all the work of the indie gamedevs there – to see the fruits of their labours – labours of love. That’s not to say though that it’s been a walk in the park for everyone there. I learnt how other indie gamedevs also struggle with the insecurity of wondering if you’re good enough, of wondering if you’ve made the right decisions. I think such thoughts are universal. Through all those worries and doubts comes grace though as you find the way to dig yourself out of the pit and forge your own path.

Writing

Lastly, I had one article published online this year – a retrospective about Maniac Mansion on gameranx.com. One article is minuscule compared to some of my prolific writer friends, but I enjoyed writing the article and I’d like to resolve to having more work published next year.

To the future!

My immediate plans are to find some work – any work really – to make some money to live and meanwhile be teaching myself to improve my skills at home and finish off The Comeback. I’ll give myself about six months of saving money and doing that, and then I’ll go back to TAFE to do a short teacher and training course so that I can teach at TAFE and other adult education institutions. I enjoy being able to teach other people what I know. It’s rewarding to think that someone’s life may be improved from just the small step of increasing their skills and knowledge. I think this stems from my educational philosophy that you can learn whatever you want to learn. You’re not limited by your “smarts”. If you want to learn something – you can. I want to inspire other people to believe that too and see how it works in their lives.

I hope next year goes well, but you can never truly predict the future as much as you may try, and perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. The future can be full of frightening uncertainties, but as I’ve discovered this year, it can also contain pleasant surprises that keep you on target.

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