Wait, what am I doing??

This is a simple eight-frame walking animation I made while learning some basic animation techniques.
This is a simple eight-frame animation I made while learning some basic animation techniques.


tl;dr: I'm quitting my job at Google to spend a year exploring video game development, and I'll be posting weekly updates in this blog!


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Sabbatical?

"An extended absence in the career of an individual to fulfill some goal." [Wikipedia]

I've been at Google for almost six years. I was at Idean for a year before that, and Anvato for a half a year before that. I've been doing frontend web development the whole time.

I like frontend work. The visual and interactive nature is appealing to me. I like making UIs that work as expected, perform well, and make people happy ("Life's too short for crappy UX!").

But as I’ve progressed further in my career as a frontend developer, I’ve tended to move farther from the layout and visual surface of the UI, and deeper into the infrastructure, setup, sequencing, and business logic of the application—what I like to call the "backend of the frontend". And I’ve tended to become more and more responsible for interfacing between teams, tracking down dependencies, unblocking your teammates, and doing design reviews—working more with people rather than with code.

Which is all great. I've consistently liked my teammates and the other teams I've worked with at Google. And I've enjoyed "creating" at a higher level the last few years through design reviews and guiding other folks' work.

But it might be time for a change.

Reason 1: Recently I’ve been interested in tinkering with video games in my side-projects, rather than stuff that really belongs on a website.

Regardless of what's going on at work, I’ve always continued wanting to fiddle with that visual surface and interactive layer—usually with much more "innovative" interaction than really ought to exist in a "useful" frontend experience (just look at my portfolio...). So I've consistently found time to do side-projects outside of work—and it's not easy to convince your brain to write more code after you get home from a day of working on some other code! More and more I’ve been drawn to working on true video game experiences with these projects.

Reason 2: I’m not proficient enough yet with game development.

In particular, my game-dev interests aren't yet focused or well defined, and my proficiency with the tools I'm using isn't polished enough to work efficiently. Ideally, when I have precious free time, I'd know exactly what I wanted to work on the most, and I'd be competent enough to implement a decent chunk of it!

Reason 3: This year I became a father!!

Which is wonderful!! But also means that I have no free time whatsoever for side projects anymore!

Reason 4: I've been thinking that it might be about time for me to try something new with my career.

I tend to think change is good and that it's good for folks to try new things!

So I'm deciding to take a break from (quit) my "real job" to give myself some time to explore my interests in game development. I'm planning for this sabbatical to last a year. I'm planning on going back to a real job doing frontend development again afterward.

Isn't this a terrible financial and career decision?

I'm not worried about being able to get a job after my sabbatical, and I think I'll be able to come back to Google. I have solid frontend development skills, and frontend software engineers are generally in high demand. I’ve saved enough to be comfortable (don’t worry, family!) and have planned a budget for the coming year.

My partner is super supportive, but despite having long-term financial stability and confidence of future job security, a dramatic career event during our sleepless first year of my daughter’s life isn't exactly what she would have chosen (sorry Love)! So I'm going to have to make sure that I keep careful track of my goals and don't waste time with scope creep.

It will definitely be hard to step away from all of my great teammates and to start seeing my savings shrink instead of grow! But I also have a unique freedom of opportunity, and a unique passion to pursue, so it would be a waste to not take this chance!

What about afterward?

Game development isn't generally a particularly stable or lucrative career path. If I knew what I wanted to create—and thought I could make enough money doing it—I would probably try making a living with game development after finishing my sabbatical. But I doubt that will happen.

So, after my sabbatical is over, I am expecting to go back to work in frontend development and continue pursuing game development with my free time.

But what exactly will I be doing?

I'm mostly planning to independently create and publish a handful of small games and finish a couple projects I'm working on now—a simple 2D-platformer endless climber game, and a complex 2D-platformer procedural pathfinding framework. I will probably work exclusively on 2D platformer games during my sabbatical. And I'll probably stick to using the Godot game engine. I'm not the best artist or composer, but I'll also be creating all my own art and music. I'll probably be sticking to pixel art, since I like that style and it's simple enough for me to work with; so far I've been using Aseprite and Krita.

The blog

Why? (is blogging even a thing anymore??)

I have three goals with this blog:

  1. To help give structure and clarity to my thoughts, goals, and interests as I explore game development and practice creating some simple games. I'd like to have more confidence in what exactly I'm planning to do in the future, and why I want to do it; and there's no better way to work through those thoughts than to explain as though I’m writing for an audience!
  2. To document my process, so that future Levi can remember how the heck he got to wherever it is he's going to be, and why he made the decisions he made along the way. Future Levi is unfortunately a very forgetful person. :/
  3. To create a spot where friends and family can follow along with my journey, since some folks might be curious why I'm doing this nutty sabbatical thing and what I'm filling my time with!
...and various blogs on the Internet assure me that blogs are still relevant in 2021, so that's comforting.

What?

I’m sure that my blog format will evolve as I get started, but  my plan at the moment is to give a weekly update on what I’ve been doing and what I’m planning to do next. Sort of like a sprint-planning meeting at work. Maybe this will help to keep me on track? I need to not get side-tracked on something I didn't plan and that turns out to be totally not useful! Similarly, I'm going to try to not spend all my time writing long, uninteresting, verbose, rambling, redundant blog posts instead of doing the fun part: code, pixels, games!


🎉 Cheers! (and happy new year!)


This is a simple icon representing my sabbatical.
I like to have images to represent my various projects, so this is just a simple icon I made to represent my sabbatical.

Comments

  1. Let me know if you need a job

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  2. Good luck, Levi! Your animation reminds me of Flashback, or even Another World :)

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    2. :) Thanks! Those both have some pretty great pixel animation!

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  3. Awesome idea! 34 weeks later I'm finally getting around to see what you've been up to! (Chris)

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