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Toying with Code

May 12th, 2016 10:00 am

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As a kid I was always curious about why things work the way they do and how I could use those tools to create. I played with blocks and clay, crayons and tools and whatever else I could get my hands on. Most in my family are much older or younger than I am. Many of the adults I would hang around as a child did manual labor, drove cars, built buildings or transmissions or tools, and so I picked up a lot of those ideas when I was sitting around bored at family parties.

When I went to school for the first time I didn’t know what to expect. What kinds of toys did they play with? How was I going to cooperate with them? Did they own all these toys or could I play with them? On my first day we played with big foam blocks, played dress up, snapped together legos and that sort of thing. I was bewildered by all of the options and variety! So was everyone else, and so I wondered how I could bring everyone together to have fun and play different games like tag or basketball or blocks. I guess when I think of it, that’s been my life ever since. Get up, play dress up, think and learn a lot, snap together some code and try and hang out with friends.

As I grew up, I grew into this idea of making things. In elementary a friend and I would each draw one half of a picture and stick it together and it would make a battle scene. As we got into middle school, my friend’s mom got him a book on the programming language QBASIC. Loved it. Could kids like us could make our own games to play? In a few weeks, we made story games and music and were on to the next big project, a game engine. This one could not only make sounds and text, it made it easy to make adventure games with custom graphics, items and stories! Then I got a graphic calculator for math, so I made games for that too, and even sold them for a quarter a copy.

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Through high school and into college, I just kept making games and drawing. Instead of my regular high school course list, I signed into over a year’s worth of college and independent studies into computer aided drafting and programming. Each new game would give me an idea on how to make another aspect of my projects better. I really liked the idea of selling a game, spreading it out there and getting feedback on how it could be better, how I could help others have more fun.

Those in my family who took the simplest resources and tools and conceptualized, created and maintained and made a grand impact on the world became my inspiration. My last year of high school I released an online strategy game similar the game Mafia Wars years later on Facebook and got over 50,000 page loads in the first month. Soon random people would come up to me in the halls and ask about the project and tell me they can’t wait to get so and so back for this or that.

It was an inspiring feeling, and for most of my college life I was unsure if I should learn more about gaming or computer science. So I decided on learning both and starting my own business developing flash games. I took an excess of computer science courses at the local community college, took up tutoring and worked the after hours learning the Adobe suite. I posted a few of my own flash games to Newgrounds, made some with friends and clients and often wondered if I’d ever get to be a programmer for a “real” software company. The next thing I knew a friend at college was offering me an interview at the multimedia company he worked at in Detroit.

Pulling up to the Fisher Building in my car and walking through the marble halls to my interview looking at the ornate metalwork I was sold. Had a solid interview and I spent the next few years developing flash and Web projects with them before moving over to Manhattan where I spent my days learning as much as I could about front-end web development and walking around the city at night.

A few years later, I now have learned and forgotten so much programming it’s ridiculous. Every month there’s a new project, every month a new API or application to learn. It’s a lot to take in, a lot of tedious effort. That’s what progress takes, a lot of tedious effort and growth, and it pays off, you do grow. Computer technology progresses so rapidly that before we know it, everyone will be living the lives of our childhood dreams. There may be a lot of annoying app updates along the way. You might need to learn something new. The security, longevity and creative potential of humanity may have never been better.

It may be everything I’m about: making the world a better place through constructing elegant hierarchies for maximum code reuse and extensibility.

 

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