I believe there are three keys to achieving anything you want. Why three? Because it’s pithy. I used these to become a game developer based on my definition of that term. Unfortunately, there’s no become a game dev quick scheme but here’s some general tips that I learnt along the way and that can be applied to anything you want to learn.
The first is Time. It takes only this resource to become competent in something. Given enough time you can become the master of anything you put your mind to. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog day. He managed to learn the piano to concert standard in just one day, albeit that day played over and over again but you get the point. Be Bill. However, when your working on improving something, physical exercise is a good example, there’s always that bit where you want to stop, but if you push forward a little bit beyond your defensive-brain-imposed limit you can improve faster. It’s quite obvious in physical improvements because it actually hurts when you want to stop, but with mental improvements, I’ve found it can manifest as fatigue or boredom. So to me it’s obvious that the same kind of mental determination inherent in improving at physical exercises is true in learning a new skill like game development.
However determination becomes easier when you can rationalise it as a function of time spent. In other words: If I just spend a non-zero amount of time on doing this thing, I will get better at it. Non-zero progress. Of course this point is a simplification so it comes with annoying caveats, for example, one might need to make sure the time between learning sessions isn’t too large as you might just forget all the cool new techniques you learnt. It’s also true that different people have different affinities for things that will give them certain advantages in that aspect of learning. However I think these affinities are more largely governed by passions. The more a person’s passion aligns with what they are learning or doing, the quicker they will improve at that task because they are having fun with it. Though this shouldn’t put you off learning something you’re not passionately in phase with, it’s simply an optima. Determination doesn’t matter much without a credible chunk of spare time and this can be very difficult to come by after taking on full-time work. This is why it’s really important to measure your level of success in a healthy way.
When I started developing my one goal was to make a game and publish it on either Steam, the App Store or Google Play Store. Something that others could play from a common game distributor. The games made on these stores are developed by teams with all manner of sizes, experience levels and financial backings. Only a little good logic shows it’d be very difficult to compete at that level, especially in considering return on my time or financial investment in making my first game. So this just helped me relax and focus on learning new skills while having fun with it. I released The Cog Reaper on the Google Play store back in December of last year. This was the achievement of my first goal. While it isn’t anything ground-breaking either graphically or gameplay-wise, I did think I added to the runner genre a little by turning the escape mechanic into an enemy with AI inside a 2D arena. While not necessary, it was important to me to add something and not simply hard copy a design that already existed.
So, the only thing left to do now is move those goalposts a little further away and get back to it.