Getting To The Aha Moment

How and why did you get started with coding?

Growing up in parallel with the video game industry, I was always interested in video games and working with computers. When I was young, my grandmother worked for Phillips and she gave us a Phillips G7000—the Magnavox Overseas. It was a cartridge game machine similar to the Atari 2600 and we played it to death. I discovered that one of the cartridges allowed you to do basic hexadecimal coding and I started to draw sprites and move them around the screen. I was hooked.

In my teens, my parents got us a Commodore 64 and I started to fool around writing simple text adventures in Basic. However, I never pursued coding and instead focused on art and design and it was later when I was working in a team building and deploying web projects that one of the developers showed me some simple things I could do with Javascript and HTML. I quickly realized that with HTML I could realize my dreams of making a game. I found Codecademy and started the Javascript course and it all started click, I had the ‘Aha!’ moment.

What were your goals when you started and how did you keep motivated?

As an iPhone user, my main objective was to be able to make a game and deploy it to the Apple App Store. I didn’t really need to be motivated because I’ve found that coding is something that I really enjoy doing. It’s so satisfying when you run your code and it just works or when you’ve got a bug in your code and then when you finally figure it out and everything works, wow! That’’s a buzz!

What was the most challenging part of learning to code, and how did you rise above those challenges?

After deciding on what language/framework to learn, the hardest aspects for me have been learning the syntax and understanding the various coding concepts and paradigms. Originally I thought that programming was a finite thing, but I’ve discovered over time that there are lots of ways of the doing the same thing. What is best in one situation might not work well in another.

How did you start creating your own projects?

I was interested in making games, so after I finished the Javascript course on Codecademy, I started to research a good HTML5 game engine. I ended up going with ImpactJS. It has a good API, is really well documented, and the community around that engine are really encouraging and helpful. The developer of ImpactJS also has another open source project called EjectaJS which binds Javascript to Objective C. This meant I could deploy onto iOS with minimal effort—perfect!

Then, I prototyped a few ideas and when I found something I thought would be fun, I committed to it and gave myself a 6 month deadline to build it. As I have a background in design, art, and animation, I was able to create all of my own assets and was able to focus most of my energy on building.

What advice would you give to folks just starting out or thinking about getting started?

Like they say, just do it. It seems hard at first but honestly it doesn’t take long before it all starts to make sense. Like Neo from the Matrix, the world opens up and you start to see everything in 1’s and 0’s. I’ve discovered that once you can understand and read one language, you soon discover that the concepts and structures are similar across all languages. Being able to read and understand code is such a valuable skill in this day and age. Learning to code is very empowering.

How did you get to where you are now?

I founded a game studio, Rungo Games, and have released my first game Devil’s Doom to the App Store. I’m now working on the Android version, and after showing the game at a local game conference recently (AVCON) I’ve had a lot of requests for a PC release of the game too. You can check it out here.

Moving forward, I want to continue to improve my skillset and release more games. Ultimately it would be great to work with one of the major game developers, so that’s certainly a goal. Hi Ubisoft :)

What steps would you recommend for folks who want to find jobs after Codecademy?

Build a web page, start a dev blog. Start building personal projects so you can show people what you can do. Talk to people you know who code and pick their brains. Keep on learning, don’t give up, and remember that after just one course at Codecademy you’re probably already ahead of 90% of people!