Tag Archives: Hobbies

The World Doesn’t Need More Video Games

According to research by Jacob of Gaming Shift, roughly 1,181,019 games have been made for modern platforms (so excluding the many thousands of games from the 1970s to the early 2000s). Chances are that anything you can think of has already been done, but if you feel like making a game, go ahead and make it anyway. Just do it because you want to rather than out of some sense of duty towards humanity or whatever.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have the feeling that many others also suffer from the oppressive feeling that the things we do with our time must have some greater purpose or function than simply our enjoyment of the experience. And I think that pressure can be the catalyst for twisting something we enjoy into something we actively try to avoid. Personally, my best example of this is RocketTux, a game that I wanted to finish two years ago, which I honestly no longer work on, yet I regularly chastise myself for neither completing nor following up on.

So what went wrong?

Well, the initial purpose of RocketTux was pretty simple. I had just gotten a Chromebook and I thought it would be fun to use said Chromebook to make games that can run really well on it. The idea of “couch dev-ing” seemed pretty great after all those hours at my desk working on Legend of Hondo. So I did some research on Chrome Apps for ChromeOS and the various tools I could use for graphics and sound creation, which lead me to Phaser CE for Javascript game development and various online tools.

It only took a few months for me realize that working with Google’s Chrome App platform sucked. There were so many needless complications and constant changes that even with my crappy little app, I had to keep changing code I had already completed. If ever you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I really fucking hate revisiting completed code due to, “like, changes man”. Meanwhile, I had written all of my game design on the premise that Chromebook hardware kinda sucks and the overhead/limitations of using the Chrome browser puts a lot of stress on the crappy hardware. As a result, the game I envisioned, the game I designed, and the game I ended up building were very different. Disappointingly different.

Eventually I threw up my hands and said, “screw it, I’ll make it a generic web app rather than a ChromeOS app!”. I had already moved the development over to my Desktop PC anyway and it was very easy to use NW.js to wrap a Chrome browser around the game…

So there I was, back sitting at my desk working on an open source game that I will probably never play so that I could learn… what? What exactly was the point of the exercise again???

Creating RocketTux was supposed to be a stepping stone, a way for me to learn how to use PhaserJS so that I could go forth and make other games with my Chromebook that struck my fancy (I already knew how to make games in C/C++/Lua/etc on a normal PC). But, somewhere along the way my mind twisted it into also being other crazy things, like “a gift to students and the open source community at large” or worse, “proof that I don’t suck and that I can finish what I started”. Over time the project morphed from a fun hobby into a tangible portion of my very self worth, yet it was also trapped in a crummy system with a design full of compromises, all of which was locked behind the “sunk cost” of having completed so much already…

I had lost my way. I felt bad about myself. I gave up.

But you know what?

The world doesn’t need me to make computer games.

It’s OK for our hobbies to be nothing more than stuff we do simply because we enjoy doing it, even if we’re not “good at it” or we never “make anything out of it”. I hereby give all of us permission to start knitting a blanket and turn it into a scarf three months later, because, wow, blankets are big! Yup, if you want to make crappy paintings on bits of cardboard with paints you bought at the dollar store, like I do, go for it. I even painted a yard gnome one day – he was looking shabby and you know what, it was fun! Truly, enjoying the process is what hobbies are all about.

I need me to make computer games, because I enjoy the creative process and the puzzle solving. However, I don’t need to make them in a way that isn’t fun for me; The world doesn’t need more video games.

Hobbies: Creating vs. Playing and Being Entertained

I’ve been told many times that I am “too hard on myself” and that may be true, but either way, I can’t help feeling lazy and useless when I am playing a game or watching a show rather than using that time to create something. Be that creation a program, a blog post, or even a silly dollar-store-paint panting, there is something about doing those sorts of things that makes them feel inherently useful, even if the end product is totally useless.

That said though, sometimes I don’t even have the mental flux to soldier through a game of Bejeweled, let alone reach the focused head-space required to program or otherwise create anything useful. Yet when I take an objective view of on life, ya know what, it’s alright to loaf on the couch for an evening to catch up on The Orville and Murdoch Mysteries!

Life’s short, paint some happy little trees. Or don’t, cause that’s fine too! 🙂

A scene that was swimming around in my head…

$3 of paint on a piece of cardboard box primed with paint and drywall compound!

STEM Hobbies Are Great, In Moderation

STEM: “Science, Technology, Engineering, Math”, the first entry in Google for the word “stem”, making trees the world over cry in despair. This acronym is used to describe the modern educational movement that encourages students to learn stuff that makes their brains hurt. It’s pretty cool and junk. However, even as a person who does programming, system design, and reading of text books as his primary hobby, I have to say that much like any other aspect of life, one can definitely have too much of a good thing when it comes to STEM related hobbies.

Personally, I find the problem with my STEM related hobbies is simply that they require me to think, a lot. And for me to think, I need to concentrate. And for me to concentrate, I need a distraction free environment. And have I mentioned that I have three kids? Distractions aside though, there are plenty of times where my mind just does not feel like thinking about anything at all, as though there is a mental and emotional drag chute attached to its back as it tries to run against the desert wind. And you know what? That’s OK.

It’s OK to set aside your hobby projects and kick back doing whatever, for however long it takes for you feel inspired about your projects again. It’s a hobby, not something you’re obligated to do, so… don’t feel obligated to do it.

That doesn’t mean one should quit when things get hard or that one should flit from one project to the next, never finishing anything they start. I’m just saying that there’s a balance in life that is probably beneficial for most people to achieve. It’s like treading water for several hours waiting to be rescued, sure it seems kind of passive and ineffective, but it sure beats drowning because you gave up or drowning because you swam too hard and wore yourself out.

When it comes to our limited personal time, our “hobby time”, we need to be open to allowing ourselves to benefit from a variety of experiences, including taking a mental break and using that time to do stuff that does not need to reflect your personal potential. Play a game, read a novel, take a nap. Whatever floats your boat – float a boat! It’s OK, relaxing and unwinding doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you a person.

When I look at myself, for years I just played games made by other people, I installed and tweaked operating systems made by other people, and I occasionally made some music on the computer using software made by other people. That kept me happy for decades and I still do those things for fun today. However, about ten years ago I realized that “making stuff” was a large part of what I enjoyed when I played games and that realization caused my focus to turn from playing games to making games and game mods. Absolutely, I very much enjoy “making stuff” and the research and education that comes along with it, but there are plenty of times when I just don’t feel like doing it. Plenty of times where I just roam the world of Guild Wars 2 “Hulk SMASHING” everything in my path and picking flowers, because it’s cathartic and we all need that in our lives. Definitely, building stuff with electronics and hardware and programming on the computer and other STEM type activities are also cathartic, but… too much of a good thing is… a bad thing.

One could say, “Well, you just haven’t found your passion then, Rob!” and I suppose that can be true in some contexts, but I’m inclined to reply, “You can’t eat pizza every day for every meal. For one, it’s not healthy, but I think the bigger picture is, think of all the other great food and experiences you’re missing out on by only eating pizza”. Passion and determination are great, I one hundred percent agree, but when it comes to one’s “hobby time”, the results one should be focused upon achieving are personal growth and happiness, not some arbitrary deadline or level of perfection. We need to save that kind of stress for “the real world”, because there is plenty of it to go around and it’s probably never going to go away.

“Do or do not. Pick one, it’s your free time!” – Yo Duh