2017 in Review

If you're finding yourself reading this, welcome! Thank you for taking the time to share these words with me. What I'm about to do is somewhat of an analysis of my 2017 experience. Those that know me well, know that I do a bit of thinking about self-improvement and generally like to chat about life and our shared experience of it. Though I appreciate that some people find this kind of talk tedious or uncomfortable, I find it beneficial to try my best to be aware of how what I do impacts myself and others, as well as how my expectations match up to my reality.

The purpose of reflecting on this year is mostly to discover what it is like to commit my thoughts to paper (screen?), but also to hopefully afford myself and anyone else that might find it interesting some sort of perspective as to what I've done this past year, what I've learned and what my 2018 might look like. I feel it is especially important to recognise one's own achievements in a society that often encourages us to self-deprecate, and in doing so I also hope to at least somewhat convince myself I've knocked over a few items on my bucket list!

This is a first for me, but I'm hoping that by sharing my thoughts publically on the past year and goals for the next, I am setting myself up for some greater self-accountability and positive habit forming. Thanks again for sharing this experience with me!

Some Things I did this Year

Like many people, a big part of my identity is the work that I do. Though I have battled with striking a balance between burnout and healthy productivity, I continue to find that I draw a great deal of my motivation and energy from creating things that can exist external from myself. During 2017 most of the things I've created have been done in collaboration with professional colleagues (whom I also consider as great friends), but as the year went on, more and more of those things have begun to be shared with friends outside of that environment.

I did my first solo talk at Play by Play Festival in New Zealand

While I don't consider public speaking to be especially terrifying, I certainly don't consider it to be a strength of mine. This year I challenged myself to push beyond feelings of impostor syndrome and identify some thoughts and experiences that I felt I could share with some level of confidence (authority?) in a conference style environment. While I could pick 1000 things about this talk I'd like to improve upon and change, I'm overall really happy with the experience and would like to make public speaking a more regular endeavour. You can find the talk recorded here for those interested.

Undoubtedly the best part of this experience was getting to meet a whole bunch of wonderful people and share time with folks that continue to inspire me daily. In no particular order here are a few of those awesome people to keep track of; Andrew Trevillian, Navi Brouwer, James Everett, Victoria Smith, Emre Deniz, Mitch Cramer, Blake WoodClaire Barilla, Tom O'Brien and Jennifer Hazel.

Led the development of 3 technologically and conceptually boundary-pushing games

Over the last 2 and a bit years I have been lucky enough to build and head up the development team at Wymac Gaming Solutions. Though I have now departed from the team to focus on my own projects, the relationships and works forged there have been some of the most challenging and rewarding of my life and certainly my career.

The titles we worked on will be published in early-mid 2018 and I couldn't be more proud of what we achieved within the constraints of the projects. You will undoubtedly hear more about them as they release, but for now, details will have to remain slim. A big shout out to the people that made it a total pleasure: Justin Kirkwood, Matt Judge, Ashleigh Abrigo, Will (Kittens) Place and last but very much not least Benjamin Ee.

Launched 2Ginge, an independent tool and game development company in partnership with Perren Spence-Pearse

Perren and I technically launched 2Ginge in late 2016, but we really got to work starting early 2017 developing tools and assets for the Unity Asset Store. If you're interested you can check out our Unity work here. Realistically we're just getting started and the asset and tools for Unity is only part of the equation helping us fund the development of our own games and applications alongside contract work. We did A BUNCH of hard work this year with what time we had around full-time jobs and shipped 5 products. We've learned a great deal and are looking forward to continuing this work and releasing some bigger projects in 2018.

Quit my full-time job, moved to the UK and started contracting

If we've spoken at all in the last 4 years you'll have no doubt heard me mention how I'll be "moving to the UK soon". Since 2013 my partner Mel and I had been planning to move to the UK, however, our initial plans were set back a few times due to work commitments. Finally,
after winding things up at Wymac, we left Australia in August and have been travelling the UK and Europe since then.

Living under the looming shadow of this move for so long was difficult, especially with uncertainty as to when exactly it would be happening. That said, it did allow us to shed most of our belongings and live really lean for the last 3 years in preparation. Part of the motivation for the move was to allow ourselves to experience what life is like on the move, experience vulnerability away from everyone and everything we know and to spend more time together.

So far we've covered a fair chunk of the UK, lived in London for a month and a bit, lived in rural Wales for a month and a half on a 500-year-old farm, hiked through Cornwall and more recently spent some time in Germany. We're letting opportunities dictate where we go next and going with the flow rather than planning things too far in advance.  It has been and continues to be a great opportunity to find some clarity on what we would like to do with our lives in the long term, give some perspective on what living isolated from friends and family feels like and focus our efforts on our own projects.

In October I began contracting remote work, providing production and game design services to allow me to keep funds coming in outside of 2Ginge. Recently a big focus of my energy has been into the planning and diversification of my income, this work is really still kicking off and I am under no illusions that it is something that will happen quickly. 2018 is going to be a year full of change and I intend to be more transparent about my efforts in this department. That will likely come in the form of semi-regular content aimed at helping others make more informed decisions about how they might be able to undertake a similar process (assuming everything works out).

Since leaving Australia, myself and Adrian Tosello have begun development on a game project together. We will likely start releasing details and media surrounding the project towards the end of January, but suffice to say that it is really great to be collaborating with such a genuine, passionate and positive person and that I'm excited to share this experience with people soon.

Some Lessons Learned 

To say I've learned a lot personally and professionally this year would be a huge understatement. That said, I'm confident each year forward is only going to continue to ramp up the pace exponentially in the lesson learning department. To avoid rambling on, I've listed some of the biggest lessons in dot point fashion below.

  • Instead of trying to do everything, defer to others where you identify a weakness
  • Your personal well-being is more important than ANYTHING else, no matter how much you've neglected it up until this point
  • The mind and the body aren't as isolated from one another as we tend to convince ourselves they are, treat them both with equal measures of care and respect
  • Selflessness and kindness are the MOST valuable qualities a human being can have
  • Committing to only speaking positively of others drastically improves your day to day life and the lives of those you encounter (this isn't to say criticism has no place, but if criticism isn't constructive or doesn't aim to provide alternative options, it is largely a waste of energy/ time)
  • PAY others to do what you're not good at, or at the very least trade your time and services in equal measure for those that others provide
  • What others think of you is FAR less important than what you think of yourself (unless you're kidding yourself into thinking you're top shit but are actually a log of poop)

Listing everything I've learned would take another year. The above points are just some of the more valuable and impactful lessons I've experienced and noticed the greatest change from paying attention to. I hope at least one of them rings true for your experience, and if not maybe it might challenge your experience in some positive way.

What will 2018 bring?

I have SO MANY plans for 2018. Right now I'm going through the process of identifying what is realistic, what matters most to me and what is going to be best for my mental and physical health. If nothing else, 2018 is going to be the year that my self-care improves 1000% and I respect my own time more than ever. Below in bullet point form again -- really, bullet points are the only thing that stops me from turning everything into an essay -- I've outlined some of the things I would like to achieve. I intend to check back here every month and see how I do in relation to this list, I'll probably use it as a reference point in future entries on this blog too.

  • Publication of at least x1 short story a fortnight (at least 21 in 2018) - I will try and compile these in a Medium publication, or at the very least here on my website
  • One personal 3D art piece or very small game a month (12 for the year) - professional projects are important, but personal projects give me the motivation and drive to keep pushing myself
  • I aim to make 2Ginge the dominant percentage of my income stream by July 2018
  • Submit at least one game to an awards festival for consideration
  • Speak at least once at a game development festival either on a topic that I feel is valuable
  • Continue to surround myself with inspiring, progressive and positive people

Well, I think that is more than enough to kick things off here. If you made it this far, I'm super grateful for your time spent among my thoughts. While it might not be glorious or informative for others, this post is an important step towards kicking off the next chapter of my life. I promise they won't all be this long and dry!  Thanks again for sticking around and I look forward to sharing 2018 with you all <3