I've just turned 25 yrs old. In between feeling really old and at the same time thinking that I still have a lot of years ahead of me, I've been reflecting on the choices that I've made for my career and on the choices that I will probably be making over the years.
I started as a web developer back in 2006. I had almost zero knowledge on PHP and MySQL when I started, relying heavily on the manuals and analyzing existing scripts to get by. I had a knack for understanding code and was eventually able to do my own scripts from scratch.
I then started designing systems based on what I've seen and read. At first, the systems had many flaws. For every project that I undertook, I ended up having a lot of flaws in it. It was a constant refining process. After two years, I was finally able to come to a state wherein I was satisfied with the architecture that I followed, seeing that it is clean and easy to manage.
After two years in my first real company, I was invited to become a Flash Developer for a Game Development Firm. I was torn since I really wanted my old company to soar but I've been playing video games since a child and one of my reasons for undertaking Computer Science is to create games. I've already worked on some Flash Games beforehand and I was looking forward to making some games that I've badly been wanting to develop but didn't have time amidst all the web development work. I was basically confused on whether to follow my own dreams or gamble my career for my old company.
I went for a tour in the Game Dev firm. I was really impressed with the stuff that they were making and was able to tech talk with some of their employees. I was already leaning towards accepting the opportunity but I was still worried with what would happen to my then current employment. I talked with my employer then and I became even more confused when he proposed that we venture also to game development. I spent days thinking about it. Finally, I decided to take the offer of the game development firm, weighing that it was better since I was still a novice in game development and was in no position to become a pioneer developer in my old employment.
And so, I became a Flash Game Developer. My core programming skills are a bit established already and it helped a lot even if I was already in a different field. I was already feeling stagnant in my previous company but the change in environment and work proved that I still had a lot to learn. I struggled with my first few projects and was heavily tested in my first group project. Good thing I had great teammates. We stretched our deadline and were struggling to finish for months. We bled and encountered a lot of technical problems but for each major problem that we strove to overcome, we were rewarded with knowledge that later helped us become better developers. We were able to finish the project after months of being overdue.
In my next project, I took time to refine my architecture and try out some new techniques that I've picked up from books and fellow programmers. I think it went pretty well and I was rewarded with a robust game engine.
After that project, I was assigned to a group project again. This time however, the team was relying on me and the core back-end developers to tie in the front end portion (Flash) of the project to the back end portion (PHP). The scope of the project was big and the back-end developers were undermanned, and add that the stuff we were doing were fairly new to us as well. We spent months of arduous development and looking like complete noobs. It came to a point that we were staying in the office for days and weekends to finish the project. We almost gave up but we were able to finish it. It was far from perfect but it would do for the moment. It was our first facebook game and although there were still a lot of room for improvement, we were proud of it.
A few months forward and we are at the time of this piece's writing. I am already considered an advanced Flash developer and my back-end knowledge comes in handy from time to time. I am constantly learning new things technical everyday.
However, as with growing older, I've come to a point where I should consider whether my career is on the right track or not. There have always been temptations to move to more established companies to secure myself as early as possible. I've observed that in my field, it is skill that is more recognized as opposed to educational attainment, I am yet to graduate. Throughout the years, I've seen officemates come and go for better opportunities. I've always reasoned with myself that I'm still young and has no rush with things. Even if I am not able to establish myself in a few years time, I could always seek out better pastures myself once needed. But there has always been the side of me that wants to see my company fly. I have the mind of a child and would like to see myself a hero, creating something that could place myself and my company in the map. Not only my company, but the country itself. It would be great if a Philippine company would finally be included amongst the game development map. I doubt that the country is short of talent to accomplish this.
As farfetched as it may seem, we lose nothing by trying. I still have a few years before I truly come to the crossroads of my life. Until then, I'll try my best to create a game that others would love. There will be a lot of failures in the way, but as long as we can pick ourselves up again and keep believing in ourselves and hopefully one day, we'll say to a child, “What would you like to be when you grow up?”. And instead of a doctor, nurse or other common answers they'll say, “I want to be a game developer!”.