Saying Goodbye to Grad School

When I started making 3D models for fun as part of a game design class in 2006, I couldn’t have guessed that it was the first step in a strange, circuitous path to graduating from NYU with an MFA in game design nearly a decade later. Likewise, when I used those years of experience modelling to apply to the NYU Game Center, it didn’t cross my mind that two years later I would be entering into a paid incubator while working with a musical theater composer on a pixel art-ey indie game. I suppose there doesn’t need to be a clear throughline for each step to be worthwhile. In hindsight, each event precipitated the next, and led me here.

As I sat in the Tisch graduation this past week, listening to a litany of speakers bid a fond farewell to their students, I realized how quickly this particular chapter of my life had opened and closed. Likewise, I realized how positive this must be; although lately I constantly find myself tearful at the idea of grad school ending, the fact that this chapter, like a chapter in your favorite book, has read so quickly must indicate that things have gone well.

But it isn’t a chapter, really; that would be doing the past two years a disservice. There are so many arcs and characters from NYU and the events surrounding my time there that these years are really just the latest book in a series that’s finally found its footing. But, as well written as it is, there is too much in there; too many threads to count, too few pages to breathe. So before moving on to the next installment, I feel the need to write some kind of epilogue. A post-mortem on grad school.

Deciding To Go

I discovered the NYU Game Center in my Junior year of college while reading Game Informer. There was an article about the ten best game design programs in the country, and something about the approach NYU was taking - games as art, not a school meant to funnel students into a big studio - appealed to me. I had, after all, decided to dedicate my life to theater at the time, and it seemed far less treacherous to go from theater to games-as-art than to the cold world of coding and first-person shooters.

It was around this same time that my experiences in the world of theater had become truly meaningful - real-world teaching; consulting jobs; experience stage managing. The year before I had performed in Disney; the year after I would stage manage bigger and better shows. It seemed at that point that the weird, stupid risk I had taken on theater was going to pay off in a way that wouldn’t leave me forever destitute.

At the same time, though, something wasn’t clicking. I had great, fun jobs - jobs that really let me dig deep into the theatrical world. But it just wasn’t doing it for me. It would be inaccurate to say I wasn’t happy, or to complain about job satisfaction. I could have done what I was doing for my whole life and stayed happy, most likely. But there’s a hard-to-define vector of completeness that just… wasn’t. I can identify that now as “self-expression,” but at the time I simply sensed that something wasn’t right.

I decided I was going to apply to the NYU Game Center. I knew it was an unlikely bid. Disillusioned with Rutgers’ lackluster academic standards, I spent time elsewhere and occasionally failed to fulfill even the little the school asked of me. Regardless, I wasn’t going to half-ass this project. I set out to make the most ambitious 3D project I’d worked on and, over the course of six months, did so.

After submitting, there were about four months of excruciating waiting before I found out whether or not I had been admitted. At some point in this process I interviewed over Skype with Frank Lantz, the director of the Game Center and one of the most captivating people alive. During that interview, he told me about what I could expect if I were admitted, I told him why Journey exemplified what I want from games, and we both talked about our backgrounds in theater. It was the first of countless rewarding conversations I would have with Frank.

At the very beginning of April 2013, I received an email notifying me of my acceptance into the MFA program at the NYU Game Center, and I cried for the rest of the day.

My biggest fear in coming to the Game Center was that I would lose theater forever. It would, after all, be a complete and frightening turnaround in career choice. In a journal full of game ideas that I kept during my first semester at NYU, there are countless notes about theater games, theater RPGs, live-action games - any way I could think of to keep theater in my life, I wanted to pursue. Over the next semester, I would feel my deep knowledge of theater and entrenchment in it slipping away.

The People

At my most generous, I could describe the student body at Rutgers as “not my type.” Even amongst the other theater majors, many of whom I considered friends and a few of whom I still speak to, there was something about the atmosphere in New Brunswick that was antithetical to my personality. Of course some of this came from the reputation Rutgers had as a party school - even the comparatively tame parties thrown by Rutgers acting BFAs and honors students were debaucherous in ways that didn’t scare me so much as unsettle me. There was never, and will likely never, be a time when I want to be at a party where anyone is having sex on a porch swing or chugging straight from a keg.

NYU is, by all accounts, a far nerdier school. I’m sure there’s no lack of parties in some dorm in some part of NYU that wouldn’t be my cup of tea, and I’m sure that my experience was heavily colored by the fact that I was the youngest in a group of grown-ass adults. But my experience with my classmates and our faculty couldn’t have been more different than my experience at Rutgers. Whereas the majority of my faculty and professors at Rutgers were a very tight Venn diagram of unaffected, under-qualified, and bored, all of the equivalent people at NYU have been helpful, wildly intelligent, and engaging. Until I arrived in August 2013, I couldn’t have even conceived of a group of people being so dedicated to the well-being and betterment of their students.

As for my classmates, there was a bit of a culture shock. In terms of forward-thinkingness, I was relatively ahead of the curve at Rutgers, and at least equally so at my Catholic high school. Coming to NYU and New York City, though, there was a new level of compassion and acceptance that I had to understand. Not a “rah-rah gay rights” kind of compassion, or the conscious decision not to think something racist or sexist at any moment, which I had thought was enough at the time. Over the first year I spent at NYU, I learned all of the buzzwords, the definitions, the sexualities, the triggers, and the kind of thinking behind them. I gained an actual understanding of all manner of people. I wouldn’t say that I’ve become a saint by a longshot, but at the very least I’m “with it;” I’m cognizant of all the social issues one could be expected to be cognizant of, and I care deeply about many of them.

This was due, in large part, to my classmates at the Game Center, who were all worlds ahead of me in terms of cultural understanding. They were also, I would learn, an incredibly supportive group, as willing to offer a shoulder or ear as any friend I’d ever had. Even the least warm and fuzzy among them has grown to be someone who I not only respect tremendously for her talent, but who I feel deeply indebted to for her unwavering support and kindness to me.

It was only upon coming to NYU that I realized how much Rutgers lacked this feeling of community, and it is only upon leaving NYU now that I realize how much it contributed to my well-being. The NYU Game Center, for its occasional drama, is a beautiful family. There’s a level of comfort among the graduating class this year that I would observe, jealously, in smaller BFA programs when I was an undergrad. This camaraderie is borne of a few simple but powerful ingredients:

  • There are very few of us. If you’re going to choose not to like someone, it’s going to affect everyone. Even the person who arguably liked me least a year ago is someone whom I now consider a meaningful friend.

  • Proximity. At some point it becomes exhausting not to get to know someone when you spend so much time being physically and mentally close, sitting in the same classrooms and banging your heads against the same problems.

  • Stress. We all had problems, we all had assignments, we all had deadlines, we all had jobs, we all cried, and we all figured it out together.

  • Mutually assured destruction. If we didn’t extend a branch of kindness to each other, nobody would be kind in return. We mutually benefitted from congealing into a big love puddle.

Although I’m not leaving the Game Center as everyone’s best friend, there’s not a single person in my year that I wouldn’t advocate for on some or many levels. Hard working, talented, creative, likable - my class has these qualities in spades.

My First Game

It has surprised me lately, when talking to students in other design programs, that not every school has you making a dozen or so digital games over the course of your education. I guess this makes sense; I myself was pretty stunned when I discovered, upon reading Bennett Foddy’s syllabus for Game Studio I, that I would have completed my first game less than a month into the program. We started fast and never really stopped.

To be more specific, our first assignment was to use GameMaker to create a game in two weeks after only one week watching and following tutorials. My intention when coming to the Game Center was to make 3D models for other people’s games, not to make games of my own; so in searching for my first original game idea, I was also searching for my own creative process. I had just played through Papers, Please, so the prevailing idea was “anything could be turned into a game.” I looked around my apartment, decided I should probably clean it, and instead of doing so, made a game about it.

Super Apartment Cleaner DX++ Turbo: Reckoning HD was a relatively substantial game. In a weird movie-like bit of foreshadowing for my thesis, it’s a collection of weird little minigames, and for a two week project that marks my first time writing code, it was a wild success. The games all worked, there was some level of charm to the style, and the game had two dubstep tracks in it.

There were a couple of important lessons to be learned in this first project.

  • Scope perfectly and you will impress people. I would rediscover this twice more - with my second game, I Quit, and with my 2015 Global Game Jam winner, Backer Reward. In all three instances, the scope of the game I was making was exactly right for the amount of time and resources I had, including time for a first pass at polish. When this balance is achieved, it’s much easier to make an impression. In the case of Backer Reward, we utilized every moment we had up until judging, and as a result, the game was both beefy and technically sound.

  • Weird stuff is fun, and technical and stylistic ambition are separate. I was daunted by the technical side of my project and I chose to be fairly ambitious with the narrative/quirky style of the project, but these two things didn’t compound on one another. I found it was totally manageable to be slightly overwhelmed in both ways, and that they did not add up to being very overwhelmed in any one way. More specifically, the challenges I faced as I waded into code for the first time didn’t detract from my drawing or planning art and sound for the first time.

  • Playtest… or don’t. I’ve found countless times after this game that playtesting can give you a ton of useful ideas and fixes, but depending on the scope of your project, it’s not always a feasible goal. For open-ended or long-term projects, playtesting is a must. But in the case of this game, like with I Quit, there was some value to sitting in a room for a few weeks, throwing what I made out into the world, and noting feedback silently.

  • Use your words. This is advice I should have heeded as I began my thesis nearly eight months after the end of my first game’s production, but I didn’t. I think for people who consider themselves visual designers there’s a tendency to want to avoid overt explanation in favor of more subtle guidance, but the fact is, people are reticent to pay attention to subtlety. If you want players to squish some bugs by pressing the keyboard, tell them to squish bugs by pressing the keyboard.

The Industry

If I had to pinpoint the single most valuable thing I gained from my time at the NYU Game Center, it would likely be the access to industry professionals and, with that, the support of the Game Center faculty in meeting with those professionals. After less than two years making games, I already consider some of my favorite game developers and press to be my friends, and that’s something I couldn’t have predicted when I applied to the program.

Conferences were always huge steps in the right direction in terms of meeting game developers - either here in NYC at the Practice or IndieCade East conferences or in San Francisco at the Game Developer’s Conference. I realized this year, as I walked around the Humble Bundle Party at GDC and recognized a significant number of faces, that in only a year I’d met just a tremendous amount of people, and god are they nice.

There does seem to be two sides to the industry, although they aren’t partitioned particularly strictly. There’s the generation of game developers that has been around long enough to see the transition from games-as-toys to games-as-media - ranging from bigwigs who have a tenuous understanding of the potential of games to hordes of triple-A developers who are doing their best to make meaning in a structure that despises risk. Then there’s the group I’ve found myself situated in, the scrappy young mid- to sub-30s game developers who are doing crazy weird things with their games and,miraculously, outdoing huge teams with their ideas. The majority of my favorite games of the past five years have been made by teams in the single digits, and that’s an incredibly exciting place for the industry to be.

It seems, to me, that the vast majority of this latter group (and some of the first, if you think about institutions like Giant Bomb, founded by GameSpot Old Guard) falls in much the same camp as the people I’ve met at NYU - unapologetically progressive, excited about diversity, and ready to share new experiences. This is just one of any number of reasons I’ve grown to love the game industry.

For my part, I’ve yet to meet someone in the industry who isn’t remarkably kind and patient. Even relatively important people I’ve spoken to, who have way better things to be doing, are usually extremely generous with their time, and excited to help young developers. The game industry is fucking amazing. Coming from the theater industry, where the slightest bit of fame or success tends to go to a person’s head and your average BFA has an ego big enough to fill the Gershwin, it was an incredible relief to come to an industry where, for the most part, people are just happy to be doing what they like. Speaking to people who have been successfully making games for twenty years doesn’t give me the impression that they feel they’re owed anything - they just seem to feel lucky that they get to keep making cool shit.

Failing, Stalling, Fixing

The end of my first year at the Game Center turned out to be a pretty dark time. I had just suffered my first major failure - a super cute game called Die, Robot had failed to materialize and, to this day, sits in a half-finished state on my hard drive. Though my team mate and I had tried our best to get the game finished on time, it was the largest scoping mistake I had made (and have made) to date, and the game simply wasn’t fun or complete by the end of the term. Add on to this that both my team mate and I had larger ambitions elsewhere, and the decision to set Die, Robot to rest was a clear one, if painful.

In addition to this considerable disappointment, there were health issues in my family, and that stress loomed over my head for some time. (He is now in remission.) These two stressors, combined with my predisposition for depression, left me in a fairly bad place, and this was a constant aggravation for my friendly and romantic relationships.

The result of this, other than a litany of ever-more-depressing dates with people on OKCupid, was that I was hurting and losing friends left and right. It wasn’t just a matter of having a bad attitude - I had the baddest attitude, looking everywhere for reasons to fight and be angry. I took no time to be grateful for where I was and instead took the time to point out how wrongly people acted towards me. Forgot to show up for a movie? An egregious act of disrespect. Late to lunch? Maybe reconsider how much you value our friendship.

Like most behaviors I exhibit in times of deep depression, these are incredibly embarrassing. There’s nothing fun or rational about them; when I act this way, I am aware I’m acting this way and can’t bring myself to stop. It’s a gross cycle of anger, interaction, and anger based on that interaction.

Frank

It would be an understatement to say that my behaviour was noticeably different during this period of tumult. I was not a pleasant person to be around and, given the volume of my personality, I was difficult not to be around. Of the many people who noticed this change in behavior was our program director, Frank.

Frank Lantz is an incredibly talented game designer whose life story is told elsewhere. In the context of my life, though, he’s the director of the NYU Game Center, one of the driving forces behind my thesis, and a (possible unwitting) mentor.

It’s worth describing the way Frank speaks, because the way he speaks is emblematic of the way he thinks and designs as well. Over my two years at NYU, my classmates and I came up with a pithy sentence to explain Frank - he is more excited about everything than anyone else is about anything. If you have a halfway decent idea, and you feel good about it, go talk to Frank. He’ll be more excited than you, make you more excited, and talk you through your idea and make it better.

Frank called me to his office one day in the middle of the Summer to discuss what he, some staff, and some students had perceived as an air of negativity around me. He wasn’t wrong, but it was pretty unsettling to think that multiple people had noticed and discussed my behavior and come to the conclusion that it was enough of a problem to intervene.

Frank’s concern as the head of the game design department was that my attitude, my unwillingness to engage in positive interactions with people, would make the Game Center uncomfortable for others, like new students who would be arriving shortly. His concern as someone who had been around me for the year prior to that conversation, though, was that he had never thought of me as the type of person who would have this problem.

Frank approached this conversation with the same level of enthusiasm and good will as he approached any - he wanted me to be happy, he wanted to help, he wanted to make this situation right. I didn’t get the sense he was being disingenuous, and I genuinely appreciated the vote of confidence he gave me in telling me that he felt I was capable of more. But I was deeply troubled by the existence of the meeting between us at all; things weren’t going well, at that moment. I had really fucked up, I had tarnished my reputation. I wasn’t well.

It’s hard to overstate the impact that conversation with Frank had on me. He had better shit to do, but took the time to talk to me about why I had turned into the world’s biggest jerk, and forced me to confront the reasons. I was, honestly, fucked up. Being fucked up is okay, too, especially when you can’t control it; letting that part of you hurt other people isn’t okay. The things I could control, I wasn’t. Days after that meeting, I started counseling through NYU and began to get it together.

The most important thing Frank told me, though, was that I need to really consider crafting my own personality - building up the persona I want, not being beholden to the one that spilled out of my mouth. He didn’t mean that I should be disingenuous - I am who I am, and the best version of who I am is actually pretty good. But there are versions of myself that are ineffective, that don’t represent what I do or what I’m trying to achieve. I need to have this specific James, Smart Designer James, and I need him to be the only one who sees the light of day.

It wasn’t an easy thing to wrap my head around, but I’ve tried tirelessly over the past nine months to craft this better version of myself. Don’t respond if you don’t have something worthwhile to say. If you do, make sure it isn’t or couldn’t be seen as cruel. Reply intelligently; know what you want to get across. Make jokes, but not too many. Be respectful even when forceful. Be kind.

An addition to counseling, this exercise of creating a version of myself that I’m proud to put forward has made me stronger, and I largely owe that to Frank. The conversation I had with him him last year - uncomfortable and unwanted as it was at the time - has changed everything since then for the better, and his unwavering support of and pride in what I’ve produced at the Game Center has been more meaningful than he can know.

Peter Panic

The first idea I had as part of the thesis process at the Game Center was to make a series of randomly generated Binding Of Isaac-esque roguelike dungeons held together by a Zelda-esque overworld. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad idea, per se, but it does read like an idea that fell out of an Indie Hit Generating Machine created by Ubisoft. This idea, in addition to being rejected by the Game Center faculty for being wholly unoriginal, didn’t hold my attention long enough to make it into any kind of prototyping phase.

I spent a chunk of my Summer working at a company called PlayDots, the developer behind Dots and TwoDots for iOS, as a level designer. In the nights between days working at PlayDots, I wrote design doc after design doc for games I thought might be a good fit for the team, hoping to wow them and be the person responsible for whatever ThreeDots was. As part of this process, though, I stumbled into a game that was perfect for me.

The original title of the game I wrote a document for was Pixels, and you can read the entirety of the design doc here. The game was a WarioWare-like that took place on an island, with extremely abstracted visuals and a focus on pixel art minimalism. All the gross monetization strategies aside, what attracted me to Pixels was the minigames - something I felt hadn’t yet been done right on mobile or, for that matter, for many years on any platform.

When Pixels transformed into my thesis, I realized that the thing that least attracted me to it was the style. it was just… boring. There was nothing weird, nothing challenging, nothing interesting. I had been looking for a way to incorporate theater into a game since I started at NYU and - yea, why not? Minigames about theater. Translating my experience as a technical director or stage manager into bite sized games.The idea stuck, and I went to work mid-summer on a very basic prototype, focusing mainly on touch input and mini game progression.

At the time, the plan was for the game to just be one huge collection of games centered around working in a theater. I was working, at that point, with a sort-of intern. I had been tutoring the son of a friend of a professor in game design and, feeling that lessons were no longer enough, that friend offered to have his son come in for a couple hours once a week to help me ideate and develop this new game. Although this relationship died very quickly (since I really had no tasks to delegate), we spent a few days coming up with ideas for minigames when I realized that opening up the minigames to all types of locations would give me a tremendous number of options for fun interaction. The very first idea for a location was a packing peanut factory. I had been discussing with a friend the idea that no matter what object you look at, that’s an object someone, somewhere, has spent their entire life thinking about. What was the funniest thing I could imagine someone spending decades focusing on, thinking about, living amongst? Packing peanuts.

Over the nine months of development thus far, I benefitted greatly from my teaching jobs as they allowed me to access high school and middle school students as playtesters, and it’s hard to find more honest feedback. As someone whose previous games suffered from confusing interaction and opaque design, I was tasked with making a game that was imminently understandable. Over the course of the year, I learned:

  • Add buttons. Like with the first game I made, there’s no need for subtlety. People know that buttons are for pressing; they don’t know peanuts are for packing.

  • It’s okay to sacrifice design for the sake of clarity, especially if it’s temporary. if you need someone to understand something the first time they play it, don’t be afraid to cover up some of the nicer elements of your design. Have a big flashing arrow pointing at where the player needs to tap; it’s fine. Just make sure it’s not there once you know the player understands.

  • I can’t design without polish. Though the art and sound has improved continuously, there was never a time when Peter Panic looked like a rough prototype. It was always, and remains, very important to me that my game look presentable and somewhat finished. I do not think this is a healthy way to design, but I also don’t think I can choose otherwise.

  • Don’t make assumptions about your audience. I’ve been absolutely shocked at the types of kids and teenagers who like my game. Teaching at a school for underprivileged teens in the upper west side, I never would have guessed that they would love a musical theater game. But there it is.

It’s worth pointing out that Peter Panic wasn’t a musical until a number of months into development. The plan was for the music to be some fun chiptune-y melodies. In October of 2014, Austin Wintory, the composer of the Journey soundtrack, came to the Game Center to discuss his work creating music for games. He was explaining how he felt that music should be an integral, important of games - how the design should inform the music and vice versa. It hit me suddenly - how was this game about theater not a musical? I’d worked in musical theater my entire life, and I had a chance to make a musical of my own and my dream game.

After emailing a couple of people in Tisch, I was put in contact with Ben Bonnema, an incredibly talented musical theater composer. He was excited about the idea of composing for Peter Panic, and he’s made one catchy song after the next for the game, achieving an unbelievable 100% earworm hitrate.

Leaving

The second half of my time at the Game Center flew by faster than I could have imagined possible, and now it’s over. I’ve graduated. Sure, I have three months of incubation. But I’m done as a student at the Game Center, and it kills me. I’m going to miss my professors, my classmates, the faculty. It feels like leaving a big family reunion in Disney World to go back home in Georgia.

Contrast this with my experience leaving Rutgers: I didn’t attend my graduation because I figured I would make more money at my restaurant job on the day that families needed to go out to eat. I didn’t say goodbye to any of my professors other than sending a damning email to a dean regarding the behavior of the shady character teaching my Medieval Lit class. I practically sprinted out of New Brunswick, eager to move on and upwards.

At the end of my time at NYU I rejoiced at my acceptance into the Incubator, an excuse to stay around these people for three more months.

I’ve transformed in the past two years. I’m a good game designer now, and two years ago I didn’t even want to be one. I’m more accepting and open than I had cared to be. I know people that I once deified and consider them friends. I’ve made more art and more things that are uniquely my own in the past two years than in my entire life prior. And I’ve met the best people I’m ever likely to meet.

What Went Wrong

My Months Of Fuckery

I spent too long letting depression ruin everything, frankly. There are a lot of things depression is a totally acceptable excuse for - lethargy, unhappiness, malcontentedness. But damaging personal relationships, hurting anyone, spreading negativity - absolutely not. I should have gotten help earlier and kept my fuckery to myself. Happy to report that not only am I in a much better place now, I also confidently know how to maintain control when I’m not. Keep calm and chill out.

I Became Complacent

Early on in the thesis process I realized that my game was in good shape. From that point forward, my attitude towards my game was that it was “fine,” and so I added content in fits and starts as I felt inspired. I shouldn’t have judged my thesis in terms of what needs to get done for it to be a competent thesis, but instead in terms of what needs to get done for the game to release. If I had lit a fire under myself earlier and more regularly, it’s likely that I would have been able to complete more before the end of the year. Aim big. If you’re good on everything, aim bigger.

I Became Technologically Dependant

I am very good at picking up new technologies, but the only tool I currently use in any of my personal games is Unity. Although Unity is great, and I appreciate the ease with which I’m able to create, it likely would have benefitted me to experiment with more tools during my time at NYU, while I had access to people who would understand them. Until I do have time to research and experiment with more tools, I’ll need to learn each company or team’s software as I join projects. Embrace a diversity of skills.

I Forewent Happiness

There was a lot of work to be done in the past two years, especially at the beginning of my final semester. At that point I had signed up for what ended up effectively being a full time job, in addition to teaching, classes, and finishing my thesis. I eventually figured out that working myself to death, in addition to making me unhappy, made what I produced far worse. So be happy first, no matter what.

I Relied On Others’ Pride

It’s cliche, but I have an insatiable urge to make others proud of me. Even stronger, and even more cliche, is my desire to make my parents proud. The first time I saw my parents accept the idea that what I was doing was “real” was when I released an app onto the iOS App Store. This was, likewise, one of the most important moments I had as a developer. It shouldn’t have been, though; the most important thing should have been finishing my first professional game. What’s important for me and my career and my art should matter, not how other people receive it.

What Went Right

I Made A Lot

I made a lot of games over the last two years, due in large part to Prototype Studio. Prototype Studio is a class taught by Bennett Foddy where students are required to create one (theoretically) fully-functioning game every week based on a prompt. Prompts range from “make a million dollars” to “sex” to “Flappy Bird.” My first commercially released game came out of one of these prompts; more importantly, though, the class forced me to develop a prototyping kit and become very fast at the basics of coding.

I Scoped Well

As I said earlier, my first two projects and my thesis were all appropriately scoped. For the first two projects, I finished the core mechanical elements of the game with about 30% of the development time left for fun goodies, juice, and polish. For my thesis, I chose a game that’s infinitely expandable and content-based, but left a ton of room to add polish so that when it came to showing the game off, it demoed very well.

I Networked

The misstep I saw most often in others was the inability or unwillingness to network. I networked like crazy, to the point where it was probably irritating to those being networked at. However, in the end, it resulted in me getting to know and talk to people that have been idols of mine for years, and in me becoming friends with some amazingly talented developers.

I Tried Everything

The NYU Game Center has a board where they post available jobs. I applied for every single one of them, and got a good number of them. Jobs ranging from full-time offers, to teaching jobs, to consulting work - good things come to those who put themselves out there, and I tried to put myself everywhere I could. One of these jobs ended up being with PlayDots, which resulted in my making game content that was played by tens of millions of people. Additionally, nothing taught me more about the fundamentals of coding and game design than teaching the two to young people.

I Released Games

Although it wasn’t necessarily for the right reason (as stated above), the most affecting moment as a developer for me was getting my first game out in the wild. It really solidified the idea in my mind that I was a real developer. This may be the result of latent self-esteem issues or any number of other negative personality traits, but there were objective benefits: applying to jobs became worlds easier when I could simply direct a potential employer to a free game on the App Store that effectively showcased my sense of style and has been played by thousands of people.

I Chose NYU

All of this should make it fairly clear that I love my time at the NYU Game Center and will miss it dearly. The friends I made, the mentors I followed, the knowledge I gained - it’s very scary and sad to be leaving an environment so rich in wonderful things. But part of my love for NYU comes from my confidence that it has prepared me for what comes next. I’ll miss the Game Center, but I’m excited to carry its lessons forward.