Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Laying That First Brick...

I am writing this after watching a little inspirational video I found at YouTube:


I have a question for Will Smith, and others, that say skill comes from beating on your craft. What do you do, when you have beat on your craft, for over a decade, and have nothing left to show for it?

I know the easy answer is to say something like maybe that isn't what I am supposed to do, or maybe I don't have the talent for it, or something. Maybe there is some truth here. But what if this is something I used to be passionate about, something I enjoy doing?

When I started out sometime between 1999-2001 I was working with Deathmatch Maker. I can't remember the specifics, what brought me there, I think I saw the box and purchased it because it intrigued me. I was really into Quake at the time. The point is, I taught myself this editor. There were few tutorials, and no YouTube to go to.

Then I changed to Unreal, and Unreal Tournament, then UT 2003-2004. I taught myself UnrealED. Still no YouTube, but a few written tutorials here and there. Here's the thing... I understood what needed to be done, to make a map, to design a level. I knew what something, done right, should look like. I was able to help two mappers I know of get into the game industry. With my constrictive criticism their work in UnrealED improved exponentially. But my own work suffered...

I moved on again, to Morrowind and then I dabbled with Oblivion. I did make some very creative things at this time, Valenwood and Amaya Lodge. But you need to understand, I had been at this for a few years now, and I was still unable to do anything good in UnrealED. I taught myself Max around this time as well. Think I depended on written tutorials to begin with. 

I wanted to be involved in the game industry. I wanted to make games, or levels, or maps, or something. I tried many GCSs but lost whatever it was that allowed me to pick up the other programs I had been using. Tried to get into Blender, failed. Tried to get into programming - went to college, failed. Tried and failed and tried and failed again to get into programming.

Learned Photoshop - I relied heavily on others to learn 3DS Max and Photoshop. Time passed, my passion waned, and now I sit here, and the romance is dead. I no longer love video games. But I miss playing them. I no longer love to map and model. But I miss doing these things. I stopped trying to program. I may be ablout to take it up again. Because I saw something, the other day, someone who did it all, made their own game, its assets - everything. So many times I heard this couldn't be done. Bullshit! Improbable maybe even impractical, but not impossible. Here is the link to this person's work:

For years I believed that I could so something like this. I had a vision of a few games I wanted to make, and even a creating environment. I have always believed that with the right tools you can do anything. I have always believed that anyone can make a 3D video game, that it does not require years of experience, work, and hordes of people. Hell I read that book about John Carmack and how he started out! I have never believed in this thing called skill or talent. I just think some people pick stuff up faster then others. I am, unfortunately, one of the slower ones now. Maybe I didn't use to be.

I guess all that happened to me wore me down. I grew up online, without a properly supportive environment, and I suppose when I lost my website, that I had earned with my initial work with Unreal, it was the straw that broke the camel's back, so-to-speak.

Now I see the new games, even played a few, see the new tools out there, and it just seems too hard. Programming seems too hard. I know the basics, I understand things like loops. OOE, polymorphism. But where do I go from here? Mr. Smith says lay that first brick. Programmers say make a small program or game, that it will suck. But make it small, so you can make another, and another. Beating on your craft. But what do you do when you have enough knowledge to understand programming, but not enough to make a small game or application?

I think there is something wrong here. It should not be this hard. I think part of this is on me. I have changed so much these last few years, dropped that aspect of my identity, my personality, that was a gamer. I think maybe I have sabotaged myself somehow, programmed myself somehow to be unable to just sit down and work on that first brick.

But I think part of this, a large part, is on society. It's on everyone who supports the idea that making a game is hard. Making a level is hard. That it has to be hard. That it has to be work. The focus is on the difficulty. Nobody is focusing on the creative, fun aspects. Maybe because everyone else went to college, suffered through a shitty programming course, and emerged into the world, jaded.

No, I challenge the idea that you have to beat on your craft. Doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result is the accepted definition of insanity. Still I admire Will Smith for saying that, and there is some truth here to laying one brick at a time. I appreciate that. But you don't need to bleed, you don't need a degree, you don't need to kill yourself off making bricks. Making bricks, speaking figuratively, should be easy, or at least seam easy. The gamer playing the video game that everyone says is too hard, who is enjoying themselves, who is truly having fun, moment by moment as they play, never notices the difficulty.

The mindset has to change. There are no such thing as the blessed lucky or special ones, and then the rest. We all have equal access to all of this. We have to stop buying into what others tell us, what our friends say, what the forumers say, what our parents say, what our churches say, what our society says. We have to stop listening to the garbage and tune in to only that which supports us, encourages us, and helps us.

Until we do that people like me, waking up after 10 years beating on their craft, are going to think they wasted their time. that it was all for nothing. that all the negative crap they hear was right, and if one of us suffers in this way, we all suffer.

Pursue your dream, your passion, those things which speak to you. Listen to your heart, tune into that voice inside. Follow that guidance, ignore all else. Support one another in your individual supports. Even as you walk the path of your success, help those around you walk theirs. Work together for each other's highest good. Then watch society change for the better..