For the next two weeks or so, it’s totally socially acceptable to be incredibly introspective and morose, so let’s do that for a bit!
I don’t think many people will look back on 2016 as one of the truly great years of recent history, but how did go for me on a personal level? Well, compared to 2015, it was a far more bumpy ride – a year of peaks and troughs as opposed to the comparative smoothness of 2015. Fortunately, the peaks were some of the best times of my life.
2016 – the good:
Top of the list is easy – I asked my best friend to marry me, and she said yes!
Way below that on the list, but still incredible – I finished and released my first ‘proper’ game! This has been a goal of mine since I’ve been about ten years old (Resident Bad, a terrible game I made in BASIC when I was fourteen, doesn’t count), and to have finally achieved it is amazing. It took a lot longer than I expected – almost a year and a half – but that’s the danger of trying to finish something as a personal, unpaid project – you get sidetracked, you get disheartened, you lose interest. I’m also notoriously bad at finishing anything – I often tend to get intensely into something for about two or three months, then just completely lose interest. I honestly thought that was going to happen with game development a few times, but here I am over two years since having taken it up as a hobby (my teenage dabbling with BASIC not withstanding) and I’m even more excited about it now than I’ve ever been. Arcus hasn’t changed my life drastically, or made me rich, or had Valve knocking on my door to hire me, but it has taught me a ton, not just about programming, but about actually releasing a game – marketing, communication, putting oneself out into the public eye – all that stuff you don’t really think about when you make a square move around on your screen for the first time.
Another high was taking part in my first game jam – Ludum Dare 35 – way back in April. I had cleared my whole weekend and stocked up on coffee, not really knowing what to expect, or if it was even feasible for me to make anything remotely playable in 48 hours. It ended up being a ton of fun, and my entry – Shifty Ninja – while far from perfect, was well received and I was quite proud of it.
2016 – the not-so-good:
This one’s a double-edged sword. I moved from Ireland to the UK three and a half years ago with my fiance. Towards the end of last year, she got an amazing job offer back in Ireland, in the area we one day hoped to move back to and buy a house in. That, of course, is incredible. However, it meant me giving up my job in the UK and looking for something in Ireland. So I’m now spending a large chunk of every day job hunting, which isn’t fun. Still, I had long since figured it was time for a job change so maybe this is the kick up the backside I need. However, buying a house is difficult without us both earning, and even once I do get a job, we’ll likely need six months’ job history before we can get a mortgage. In order to save as much as possible, we decided that rather than rent, we’d move in with my fiance’s parents. The living situation isn’t too bad – they’ve been pretty amazing and given us the entire upper story of the house – we’ve converted one room into a living room, the other is a bedroom, and we have our own bathroom. The only room we share is the kitchen. But as anyone that’s lived on their own for any amount of time will testify, living with others (especially parents, or your partner’s parents) can be… frustrating. It is hopefully only short term though – six months, max. And if it all gets too much, we can just look for somewhere to rent, and spend a little longer saving. Still, it’s not how I envisioned my living situation for the start of 2017 (or any year ever again).
In it, I listed some new year ‘suggestions’. So, how did I get on with them?
The first one was: ‘Listen to at least one new TED talk every day.’
Er… this fell by the wayside sometime around mid-January. I just sort of forgot. Still, I think overall in 2016, I listened to, and watched, a lot more interesting and diverse podcasts and videos than in previous years.
The second one was: ‘For every three fiction books I read, read one non-fiction.’
I actually stuck to this all year. A quick skim through my Kindle history shows I read about 35 books in 2016, so about nine non-fiction. It probably doesn’t sound like a lot to some people, but it’s twice, or even three times as many as I’d read otherwise.
The third was: ‘Run a 10k.’
This didn’t happen. I did, however, stick to my fitness and diet routines for most of the year. I enjoy the gym, but have found that I much prefer weight lifting to cardio, so have focused much more on that. I started taking fitness fairly seriously at the beginning of 2015, so that’s two years now that I’ve stuck with it, so I’m happy with my progress there. I have some goals for 2017 that are mostly strength-related, and should be entirely obtainable as long as I stay disciplined with my workouts and nutrition.
And finally, the fourth was: ‘Spend more time learning other programming languages, and doing things outside of game development.’
I didn’t do this nearly as much as I hoped. I dabbled a bit more with web development and Java, but that was very minimal.
I may as well lay out some ‘suggestions’ for 2017 – I did find that writing them down at the beginning of last year did help. So, here they are!
- Get a job. That one’s pretty obvious – but here’s the extra bit – get a job I enjoy, and once in it, give it 100% and strive towards moving down a career path I want as quickly as possible. That means constantly staying alert for any opportunities, taking additional courses, etc.
- A new reading challenge – this time, my fiance and I are going to read one book that’s the same every month, and then at the end of the month, go out for coffee/lunch/dinner and talk about it. Sort of like a two-person book club. We’re going to aim for a different genre each month. January’s book is Brave New World, a dystopian sci-fi novel written in 1931.
- Buy a house. This is a big one. But I need to write it down as a clear goal and work towards it starting from right now. So there it is. Hopefully I’ll be posting the 2018 version of this post from my awesome home office set up.
- Complete the Unity course I paid for on Udemy. The course was hugely recommended by a bunch of people on Twitter, so it’s just a matter of putting aside some time every day and working through it. As with any engine, once I get used to the basics, it’s going to open up a ton of new possibilities for me.
- Take part in at least two game jams. Last year, I took part in one, and it was brilliant, so doubling that for 2017 seems reasonable!
Not a bad bunch of goals, I think. All of them are obtainable, as long as I stay focused and work towards them a bit every day.
Happy new year everybody – may it be a good one.