A very long time back – about 25 years ago, when I came across computer programming as a subject, the first thing that got me attracted to the field was that I could make my own computer games. More than all the fun of playing them, I was curious about how they were made. The more I found out, the more it made me curious.
But knowledge was very hard to come by. I mean really really hard. As a kid, for years I could not find anything about how they made games. I was able to convince my parents to send me to a teacher who taught BASIC programming for very little fees. Yet, all he was able to teach me was some ‘advanced’ basic. Like changing the screen mode, making the beep sound. But nothing about how to actually put a picture on the screen. This was 1995. All I could do was get the BASIC and C books from some grown ups and try to guess how those programs would work – just a pen and paper. I didn’t own a computer and I could get my hands on a computer for about a couple of hours in a year.
Fast forward to 2000, I got more frequent access to a computer thanks to one of my uncles who purchased a PC, and more importantly – an internet connection! The internet was brilliant – just so much information. And everything was free! I distinctly remember the first set of colourful graphics tutorials by David Brackeen (glad to see he is still keeping the tutorials online). Then I found the site called makegames.com (the site is closed now, but I found an archive here). And a big book called Action Arcade Adventure Set which it’s author Diana Gruber had released on the internet for free. But all this was still not enough. I was told to ‘stop playing with the computer’ and to study and get into a good college.
Fast forward to 2006, I finished college and it had been years since I tried my hand at programming anything related to video games. Surprisingly, the college teachers were completely disappointing when it came to this stuff. They knew the syntax of languages and were able to teach me enough to pass the subjects and attend job interviews at software companies. But absolutely no one from whom I could learn video game development. My dad bought me a computer, but still no internet. I could still have internet only when I went off to my uncles’ home for holidays. Until 2007. In 2007, I expressed to my dad that I was interested to become a video game developer.
He did not discourage me. He paid for an internet connection, he gave me money for a couple books, and surprisingly, he paid fees for a short video game programming course. It was the only video game related course that was available in the whole city at that time. Happy times! I made a lot of programs in this time – a fancy MP3 player, a simple C code editor, a couple DirectX-based games. But real life caught up.
It was almost 18 months after I finished college and I still couldn’t get a job. There were literally 3 video game companies I could interview at. Two of them quoted very low pay – where I wouldn’t even be able to feed myself. One promised a good salary, but couldn’t put together the team that they needed. So they shut shop and left the country. At this point, folks at my home lost patience. I was about to take up one of those game programming jobs, but they firmly forbade it at my home, because the pay was too low and in their view, I was wasting away my life.
So I took up job as an ERP developer at a reputed automotive company. It was quite easy compared to video game programming. I was able to grow quite fast and I didn’t end up wasting my life like my parents warned. It’s almost 13 years since. Right now I’m a lead Java developer for a very good company. The work is perfect and the pay is good. But still, the fact that I didn’t become a video game programmer keeps nagging me from inside. Whenever I play a video game, watch a trailer .. I can’t help but feel sad. If I had held on a bit longer .. If I had persevered .. I might have been on one of those teams, building those beautiful things.
Since it’s a feeling that keeps coming back, even after a decade, I’m thinking to do something about it. I’m not sure if I’m young enough to learn something completely new now and put effort in a large side project. And I’m quite sure that I don’t remember much from the old days. I have to start from scratch. But I’m not going to be able to put together a team at this point. I first have to learn a lot and become worthy of a team, make something small to prove myself. Then maybe … just maybe .. I would be able to become an actual video game developer. For now, all I have, is the decision that I’m going to give this a true, solid attempt.