Please click here if you do not see a Nav Frame at left

"Am I Wasting My Time?"

May, 2005

NOTE: these lessons are primarily aimed at aspiring game designers, but many of the concepts described herein also apply to those who aspire to other types of jobs in the game industry. This lesson is subject to changes and improvements; reader comments are welcome.

This month's article is prompted by a particular sort of Frequently Asked Question that usually goes like this:

Sometimes the question is worded differently:

Those are both the same question:

But when I dig further, there's usually more behind it than that...

Which always throws me for a loop.

I shall now explain. (And hopefully, I won't bore you too much.)

When somebody asks me the "waste of time" question he's saying he dreads the prospect of working hard at learning something - and is looking for an excuse to skip it. Or even worse, he might be telling me he doesn't have passions of his own (or he doesn't respect his own passions).

Someone who's really passionate about making games wouldn't worry that he was wasting his time to learn how to use the mod tools that come with Half-Life 2. He'd be doing it because he's curious, he's driven, and he wants to learn how those tools work. Those particular mod tools won't be used in his eventual job in the industry (even if he goes to work for Valve, by the time he's graduated college and gotten experience and joined Valve, their tools would have changed) - but he would learn the principles of the tools, and the principles of game creation, and that learning would prepare him well for a job as a programmer or level designer.

Someone who's really passionate about writing stories wouldn't worry if it was a waste of time to write a vampire murder mystery story. He'd write it anyway, because he loves writing and nobody can stop him. Someone like that has the kind of work ethic and creative spirit game employers look for.

Are you getting the idea?

There isn't one magical yellow brick road to the emerald city of the game industry. You gotta be you. You gotta be passionate about creating whatever type of creative stuff you enjoy creating... and you can't be constantly thinking, "am I wasting my time doing the stuff I love, instead of whatever magical yellow brick road stuff I oughta be doing instead?"

Dreams that go without action are not very useful.

Patrick Awuah (NPR, Dec. 30, 2005)

Let's take a look at some typical "waste of time" questions.

It's not a waste of time to engage yourself in a creative endeavor that you enjoy, because you learn, you gain experience, and you improve your creative skills in the process.
It's not a waste of time to study subjects you're required to study in order to obtain a degree that'll look good on your resume. The investment of your time, at your young age, is worthwhile in building character, responsibility, and a strong work ethic.
You must follow your passions, but you must also get your work done. You have to get the degree, then you have to get a job so you can earn money so you can support yourself. Sometimes you have to take a "regular" job so you can save money to move to a game industry hotbed. It's not a waste of your time, if you just use your time wisely.

So. Wanna know what's really a waste of time? For me to try to help guys who worry about wasting their time rather than just doing it because they love it. Most of the time, guys who worry about wasting their time are already wasting it, deluding themselves that they have a hope of finding an easy path to their dream job. They should be just following their passions - because, well, they're passionate about them. Besides, as I've said before, "I don't validate." I prefer showing you new ideas rather than confirming yours. That's a waste of MY time.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say, "it's as though all my hobbies and interests led me into my current profession - it's as though I was training myself to achieve my own dream career." You don't do that by tailoring your interests to be in line with your chosen career - you do that by following your true interests, by being true to yourself. And one of the things you do in college is try different subjects on for size, so you can discover what your interests and abilities are. That's far from being a waste of time.

You think your dream career is game design - but maybe you'll discover that something else is even better... for YOU.

Guess what.

Your passions - your interests, your hobbies - are the true magical yellow brick road. They lead to an emerald city that was custom built for YOU.

Got a question or comment about this article? Click here to go to the bulletin board. You'll get a response!

Click here to go to the previous article.

Click here to go to the next lesson.

Click here to return to the School-A-Rama main page.

Updates to these articles are logged at log.html.

© 2005,2011 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.