The Joy of Drowning

Published July 8, 2022

I know I said once a week, but yesterday I inspired myself. Sue me.

Let’s talk about learning new things. How often do you start on something which, for all intents and purposes, you have abolutely no prior knowledge? At least in my experience it isn’t very often, with most of the things that I learn building on past experience.

I’ve had a recent experience where I pushed myself to try something that I am an absolute beginner in, and I loved it.

This experience I had has to do with a recent hobby I’ve picked up: building video games. At the start of this year I, hoping to build a game with my two younger brothers, built a small game engine based on a couple concepts I thought were interesting (maybe an article on that another day). In the time between then I have started 3 games, finishing one pretty recently.

For the first two games (both of which are still in progress) I outsourced the “creative” work to others more talented than myself. This made sense to me; I’m good at programming, so I’ll do what I’m good at and I’ll find people who are good at art to do the art.

Until one day I realized that I wanted to build an entire game by myself. Even the art.

This is where the drowning started. I had 0 experience in anything artistic, and consider myself far from artistically inclined. All of a sudden I wanted to draw pixel sprites and animations, backgrounds and dialog boxes. I couldn’t even draw a rock.

I was overwhelmed. I had absolutely no idea what to do or where to start. So I started.

I threw my entire weight into the abyss, obsessing over tiny pixels on a screen for an entire weekend. I thrashed against the waves, fighting to find the surface where it would make sense.

And then it did.

And it was amazing.

After many, many hours I had a character with a few animations and a simple, tilable background. They weren’t even particularly impressive. If you had shown me them a few days prior I would have told you there was no way that I could create it. The amazing thing is that this exercise was one of the most rewarding things that I had done in a while. I was immensely happy with the work that I had done.

I’m unsure why that is, but my guess is that it boils down to this: the freedom to struggle without consequences and be allowed to find success that matters to you. IDK, I thought it was cool.