I’ve wanted to work in tech before I knew what that meant. I enjoyed logical puzzles, and word on the street was that tech revolved around logic. Throughout my childhood I developed interests that, looking back, were key to igniting my passion for the industry. As for some concrete examples of my interests: I fell in love with chess by six, strategy video games by eleven, and web animation by thirteen.
When I was in middle school, I was absorbed by choreographed action scenes from popular animated series such as Xiao Xiao, Castle, Madness Combat (NSFW), and Animator vs Animation. I quickly got my hands on a copy of Macromedia Flash Player 8 and began making short clips. This was my first oppurtunity to create something with tech, and who knows, maybe I’d be a great animator?
My animations looked choppy no matter how carefully I drew them. The default FPS was 12. I realized there was a skill to making a smooth animation but drawing 24 frames takes twice as long as 12, painfully long. So I learned tweens and pans next which allow you to draw only 2 frames and automagically animate any number of frames in between. Despite my best efforts, I felt overshadowed by a friend of mine who was constantly creating animations twice as good in half the time. I lost my inspiration for animation not long after it began but continued to watch and appreciate the creations of others.
At thirteen I stumbled across a technical web discussion online. The exposure inspired me to try my hands at building a website of my own. I built it. Programming began to appeal to the logical part of my brain, the part that constantly craved bigger and harder challenges. Everything had a reason, nothing was random.
In highschool my friends and I would stay up through the night doing online puzzles such as NotPron, Ouverture facile, and the Tim Tang Test. They are arbitrary real world puzzles that increase in difficulty as you progress. If you haven’t heard of them, they are awesome, you should try them. I recall one horribly frustrating puzzle that took us days to complete. We first discovered the longitude and latitude of a art museum in China via the source code. We then had to use a combination of ASCII, Morse, and binary to decipher a list of encrypted directions which we then used to traverse the museum via an online portal. The solution was the painter’s name that created the art piece we were looking at. It was exhilarating for us to pool our knowledge together and solve these difficult challenges.
Completing problems was intrinsically rewarding unlike anything else in my life. The problems were mentally stimulating in a positive way. After a year or so these static puzzles began to lose their appeal. Outwitting an opponent was new and sexy so I began to play StarCraft II. At school I talked about StarCraft, at home I read about StarCraft, on weekends I would watch StarCraft, and at night I would dream about StarCraft. I became that StarCraft guy. I memorized every strategy, practiced each opening, developed my own signature play style, and understood how the first five minutes of any game could play out. It felt good to have developed such strong domain knowledge that I could adapt to changing circumstances on demand with near-optimal solutions. Suffice to say I became very good at the game.
StarCraft II battle (bug looking things are definitely gonna win)
I dedicated thousands of hours to improve through trial-and-error, reflection, communication, and research. StarCraft was my first true passion. The experience made conciously aware that you often get what you put in. I also realized people often fail to recognize this. When I started I was horrible. Like everyone else, I was clueless. But after two to three years of constant effort, reflection and thousands of games played I was able to become one of the best players in the world.
How does this all relate to tech? Well, my stint with animation allowed me to produce something with technology. The feeling of seeing someone use and enjoy something I built was amazing. Furthermore, battling with riddles prepared me for the day to day challenges a developer faces. Finally, my passion for strategy video games taught me to value grit, see how the little things influence the big picture, and the beauty of achieving expertise.
I’m still not sure where exactly I’m going to land in technology however I do know that I’m passionate for it and eager to excel. I suspect it’ll be some architectural big picture-esque role since that’s where I’ve been happiest historically. I just graduated university. Being a software developer has been fun, building web apps has been fun, being a tech lead has been interesting, co-founding a company has been interesting, animating was not fun. I’m curious what the second chapter of my story will look like a few years from now.
Shout out to the following games for influencing my ability to think in a big way:
StarCraft Series by Blizzard
Dawn of War Series by Relic Entertainment
Age of Empires Series by Ensemble Studios
Warcraft III by Blizzard
Vandal Hearts by Konami
Rise of Nations by Microsoft Game Studios
Command and Conquer Series by Westwood Studios
Cossacks Series by GSC Game World