An Open Reply To Young Game Developers

Young Game Developers,

I love hearing from you, because it gives me a chance that I never had. I knew that I wanted to make video games when I was six years old. Most kids put on all sorts of "future costumes," (fireman one day, policeman the next) but I never really thought about what I wanted to do when I grew up. On the Christmas I received an NES, my father set it up, I played it for a bit, and it struck me like a bolt: "I want to make this when I grow up."

This is why you're incredibly lucky. Back then, "when I grow up" was the only option. The internet was in its infancy, and computer classes were a total joke. As a young adult, I had virtually no way of learning anything about software development. Jump twenty years into the future and here you are, neck-deep in high school (or whatever you call it down there) and already making video games.

Let that sink in. That shit is awesome.

Make sure to learn what you can from school, but also realize that you'll learn way more on your own that you ever will listening to a teacher ramble. Dive into things. If you don't know something, try to figure it out yourself first. Most importantly, learn how to learn. Knowing how to figure out what you need to know is critical, and takes serious practice.

Additionally, if you're looking to start your own business, I'd make sure to take business classes alongside your programming classes. They'll come in handy.

As to "how I remember everything…." Man, that statement makes me grin. The only thing you really need to concern yourself with learning right now is how to think logically. Focus on your program flow and figuring out what needs to happen when and why things happen how. This skill translates across all programming languages — even ones you haven't learned yet! If you can think critically, figuring out the proper functions to call is a cakewalk. Just do a quick Google search on what you're trying to do and about a billion answers will pop up.

If you work with the same set of things often enough, you retain more and more information about them. Think about it like this: You probably know the directions to hundreds of places around where you live, because you've lived there for awhile and are familiar with the area. If I asked you how to get to a couple different places, you could probably tell me how to get there the majority of the time. I'm absolutely amazed.

"Young Game Developers! How do you remember directions so well? I have no idea where I'm going around here half the time!" How would you respond? I'll leave that answer as an exercise for the student.

Best regards,

Zachary Lewis