Original question from Quora:

Are video game programmers looked down upon by other kinds of programmers?

My Answer:

This is sort of a funny question because of a bizarre secret I’ve observed about programmers. It’s so common that I think it’s responsible for literally billions of dollars worth of commerce.

But first, let me explain how it came to be…

I grew up playing video games. I was born in the 80’s so my first video games were on the original Nintendo and it was a lot of simple stuff like Mario, Dragon Warrior, Pac-Man, Tetris, and so on.

I loved those games and I still love those games.

In fact, at some point I said to myself “I want to make video games for a living!” because that sounded like fun.

I was in middle school at the time so I decided I wanted to be a computer programmer and create my own video games. What I didn’t know at the time was just how hard that is.

That was the mid 90’s and we had AOL for internet access. I was a full on computer geek and read a lot of Maximum PC.

I taught myself C using the aptly titled “Teach Yourself C in 21 Days” and ended up spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to make my own games.

Eventually, I found the Allegro game library and the djgpp compiler. That was exciting stuff and eventually I managed to make my own version of Pong and a tilemap editor because I wanted to make RPG games.

Years later I taught myself Java and used it to create a simple Final Fantasy style RPG and in college some friends and I made a side scrolling shooter.

Along the way I picked up C, C++, Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, Scala, Lua, some Assembly, and found myself neck deep in web development.

I’m a full time software engineer now doing back end system development in Rails because that pays the bills. It’s pretty great.

Here is the funny thing though, I still love making games from time to time. I still love the ideas of creating interactive, fun stuff.

So for me, game development is a fun hobby when I have time for a fun hobby. It will never be my full time world and that’s totally fine.

Along the way, here’s what I learned that is really bizarre…

If it wasn’t for wanting to be a game programmer, I wouldn’t be a programmer at all. Reading the above story, that much is obvious right?

Here’s something else though…

I’ve met a lot of other programmers who have pretty much the SAME STORY! Thousands, if not millions of programmers learned to program because they wanted to make video games.

Remember when I said this bizarre secret is worth billions of dollars?

Imagine in your mind how many of the software and technology companies of modern times were founded or built on the backs of coders who got their start because they wanted to make video games. Literally billions of dollars worth of non-video game software and technology is built by programmers who wanted to make video games for a living.

So, do non video game programmers respect game developers? Absolutely 100% they do.

Making video games is quite difficult. Not everyone is cut out for it. Yet, it’s also maybe the type of software that inspired more developers to write code than any other thing I’ve heard of.

To all the video game devs out there… I give you mad props and tons of respect. You are inspiring.


P.S. I unpack more ideas in Creative Genius.