My Journey to Becoming a Game Developer
As far back as I can remember in my childhood I can fondly remember video games being a part of it.
I have 2 older brothers, my oldest brother is 7 years older than me and would always know what the latest and greatest was. He had every issue of Nintendo Power magazine. We’d make trips to Toys R Us and an electronics store called Good Guys with our parents to check out all the new games and play some of them on the display systems. When we were a little older in 1994 (I was still only 7) we’d take public bus trips to the local arcade at the mall to play games like Street Fighter 2, Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat.
I’d watch my brothers play the original Nintendo (NES) for hours and they would let me play sometimes but I’d mostly be watching them play games at home until I was a little older. Probably about a year after the Super Nintendo came out they gave me the NES for Christmas which I still have with the original box and Duck Hunt light gun.
I’d stay glued to the tv for hours playing games like Zelda 1 and 2, Mario Bros 1–3, the Mega Man series, Jaws, Bionic Commando, TMNT, Kung Fu, Pac-Man and RC Pro Am. I also remember at my cousins’ house playing random games like Yo! Noid a 2d action platformer published by Capcom that promoted the Noid, Domino’s Pizza mascot from the late 80s.
I could go on and on about all the fun we all had playing games but I’ll just list several of my favorites that stand out while thinking back over the years. Not in any special order.
- Super Mario Bros 1–3 (NES)
- Zelda 1 and 2 (NES)
- Little Nemo (NES)
- Captain Skyhawk (NES)
- Battletoads (NES)
- Sonic the Hedgehog (Sega Genesis)
- Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (SNES)
- Super Mario World (SNES)
- F-Zero (SNES)
- Super Mario Kart (SNES)
- Mortal Kombat 2 (SNES)
- Earthworm Jim (SNES)
- Donkey Kong Country series (SNES)
- Doom (PC)
- Duke Nukem (PC)
- Command and Conquer — Red Alert (PC)
- Road Rash (PC)
- Soldier of Fortune 1 and 2 (PC) Played these online more than any other online games with all sorts of mods and custom levels
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64) My absolute favorite game of all time
- Goldeneye (N64) Spent countless hours playing this with friends
- Perfect Dark (N64)
- Donkey Kong 64 (N64)
- San Francisco Rush (N64)
- Extreme-G (N64)
- Turok (N64)
- Twisted Edge Snowboarding (N64)
- Twisted Metal (PSX)
- Dave Mirra Freestyle Bmx 1 and 2 ,Maximum Remix (PSX and PS2/XBOX) Played the whole series a ton as I rode bmx for many years(raced a little in the beginning but mostly rode dirt jumps/trails and skateparks)
- Tony Hawk Series (PSX/PS2)
- Dino Crisis (PSX)
- Resident Evil 1 and 2 (PSX) I used to watch a friend play these games, I remember one scene scaring the crap out of me when a monster jumps through a window. I own some of the new remakes that I plan to play myself eventually.
- Grant Theft Auto — Vice City and San Andreas (PS2)
- Halo (Xbox)
- Metroid Prime (Nintendo Gamecube)
- Binary Domain (Xbox 360)
- SSX (Xbox 360)
- Resistance: Retribution (PSP)
- God of War 3 (PS3)
- Zelda: Breath of The Wild (Nintendo Switch)
- Star Wars Vader Immortal (Oculus Quest)
- Half Life Alyx (Oculus Quest using Virtual Desktop to play wirelessly)
I could make the list longer but I’ll leave it at that, that should give you a pretty good idea of the games I like to play. I have a huge backlog of sealed games for newer consoles that I’ve been picking up in sales. The latest game I’ve been playing is Ghost of Tsushima on PS4, pretty amazing so far.
Repairs and more repairs…
In 2009 I began repairing friends’ game consoles for stuff like disc drives not reading games and overheating issues. Word spread and I started advertising on Craigslist and turned it into a fulltime business for myself. I’d have clients drop off their stuff for repair at my house or I’d even do mobile repairs sometimes. I also eventually started repairing all types of cell phones. At one point I was running 2 different shop locations by myself and also did mobile repairs in surrounding cities and sometimes further for big corporations.
One of my shop locations had a drunk driver hit a fire hydrant in the middle of the night and flooded the whole shop with a geyser that must have been shooting 50ft+ high. Everything had to be moved out and I was forced to find a new location, I rented a spot in a bigger city 30 miles away.
Competition had grown heavily over the years and technology would change with each release of a game console or iPhone, it was a lot to keep up with and I had to stock a huge inventory of different parts. I had to constantly re-invent myself and advertising techniques. I eventually got into micro-soldering for repairs like small component and hdmi port replacements on newer game consoles.
Over time it has become not as profitable due to too much competition and a race to the bottom with prices. Customers would say they are coming at a specific appointment time and then not show up at all, not return calls or texts or say they found somewhere cheaper. The majority of my business has been from referrals and repeat customers bringing all of their different devices, I still have contact with some customers that I met in the beginning almost 12 years ago now.
Many times after driving an hour in horrible Southern California traffic to my shop for an appointment I’d be waiting for late or no-shows, so I would play a mobile game like one from the Pumped BMX series.
I knew there had to be something better out there to do for a living that I would enjoy more instead of wasting most of my days waiting around for people or spending my days posting fruitless ads.
One day after playing the game I decided to see when a new one was coming out and found the developer’s instagram, on there I discovered it was 1 guy using the Unity Game Engine who hired 2 freelance artists to do all of the art while he did the rest. I had never even heard of Unity at that point so I did more research and found that there were tutorials on Udemy. I had previously used Treehouse to try to learn Java and android development but I became extremely bored and somehow didn’t think to try to learn programming to build a game, games always seemed like some magic thing that I just simply didn’t think of doing.
On Udemy I found Jonathan Weinberger founder of GameDevHQ’s course The Ultimate Guide to Game Development with Unity.
I started that and programming was no longer boring, it was so satisfying to actually see and be able to understand what it was I was doing and through repetition actually be able to remember different code syntax and how to do stuff.
I knew game development was what I wanted to pursue after starting that course.
On my commutes to my shop I would consume every video game history related audiobook and game dev related podcast I could find. I listened to every episode of Tony Chan’s Game Dev Loadout podcast, I especially enjoyed that one as he interviewed a different person in the game industry each episode.
I’d bring my laptop and work my way through different Unity courses while waiting instead of playing mobile games.
I closed my shop that was 30 miles away in August 2019 and started doing repairs by appointment only so I could stay home and use my desktop with dual 2k 32" monitor setup for development while playing music as loud as I want.
October 2019 I also closed my location that was 15mins from home and started meeting people 5mins from my house off the freeway for game console drop-offs or mobile iPhone repairs.
In January of 2020 I decided to get very serious with learning Unity and game development and started on an action plan given by Jonathan Weinberger after he gave me the opportunity of a 1 on 1 call with him.
Later in the year after completing the 2D Space Shooter course with extra objectives to complete the cert track, I decided to enroll in GameDevHQ’s 8-Week Intensive Training program/mentorship/boot camp where I built a 3d Mech Tower Defense game, I had weekly features to implement, learned to write performant code with modular event driven systems, optimization and much more. I had bi-daily code reviews with Jonathan and weekly group coaching meetings.
I stopped doing all repairs with my business in March 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as I didn’t want to take any risks with my wife being pregnant with our first child. Our son was born in August 2020 and I’ve been focusing on game development and caring for him the days that she works.
I’ve been learning to develop for my Oculus Quest with Unity’s XR Interaction Toolkit building a sci-fi space themed VR first person shooter experience.
February-March 2021 I also completed GameDevHQ’s VR Intensive Training Program using Oculus’s Oculus Integration Package aka OVR, I built a VR Space Cadet interactable experience which I will soon share a full playthrough video of on my website as soon as I finish up a few details to my liking.
After completing that VR ITP I have decided to enroll in GameDevHQ’s Career Ready Developer Program where I will reinforce my knowledge and document my journey through all of the courses by writing articles demonstrating my knowledge for each section of different programming methods etc.
Thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far, most of my further Medium articles will be more tutorial like and not so long, this one was to give a little bit of my background and marks the first article on this new segment of my journey to become a professional game developer!
You can check out my portfolio in progress website at https://www.andrewcrippen.com/