Student and Computer Enthusiast Pursues Passion in Game Development

By: Jason Ioffe

Peer for Career, Majoring in Computer Information Systems

As a child of the digital revolution, my household was dominated by personal computers, the internet, and of course video games. Even from a young age, I had to know what made these fascinating devices tick.

By middle school, I taught myself to write simple routines in BASIC and C using my parents’ programming books. In them I discovered the magical world of fractal sets–images of pure, awe-inspiring beauty. Under my command, zeros and ones rushed through a VGA cable to explode into a brilliant lightshow of 256 unique colors. Since then, I focused on delicately crafting code for computer graphics and, naturally, video games.

Game development quickly became one of my greatest passions and hobbies, but I had trouble pursuing it professionally. Local business would often contract me to write front-ends for online stores or databases, but I really wanted to expand into the games industry. Towards that goal, I regularly published samples of my work to gaming communities and later onto YouTube. Albeit few people noticed or commented, I remained persistent. After all, there was nothing to lose; at the very least I would expand my audience and further develop my skills.

In 2008, I received an email from an employer requesting an interview for a new game development blog. I agreed, and we soon spoke over the telephone regarding my work and preferences in video games, both past and present. He mentioned that our interview may be published online or in print, and I was simply overjoyed.

One week later, I discovered he wasn’t writing for a blog at all – he was actually scouting for major development studios! Producers from a prominent London, UK based studio reached out to me via email and asked if I had interest in working on what they called a “special project.”

At the time, it seemed a little too good to be true, but I played along. Good thing, too – the “special project” ended up being one of the most popular games released that decade. Over the next year, I designed gameplay and bonus content using the studio’s custom-built level design tools.

Suddenly, game design was no longer a hobby, but a job that demanded diligence and professionalism. I was under a strict schedule and had to reach milestones with my work every two weeks. Plus, I found myself communicating with the press on a regular basis – sometimes through email, other times on camera for millions of people to see.

Needless to say, it was a life changing experience. I discovered that my passions could lead to real career opportunities, and started building my network of professional game developers. To this day, and likely far into the future, I continue game development as both a hobby and a career. This valuable lesson was learned: if you are passionate about something, keep at it, and do everything you can to put yourself out there. Never give up, even if things do not work out right away. Serendipity plays a role, but that fish will never bite if you never put the line in the water.