How I Became a Programmer

My unlikely origin story.

It all started when I was 12 years old. 👶

Back in those days, my friends and I all played Runescape, a popular browser-based MMORPG. Those who’ve played Runescape will remember that it requires lots of grinding - the “best” players were the ones who spent the most time killing monsters and leveling up. Unfortunately, my parents didn’t let me play much - all of my friends had passed level 50 by the time I reached level 30. This level gap was all I worried about day and night because nobody wants to play with someone 20 levels below them somewhat frustrating.

The obvious solution was to

  1. Make a better version of Runescape that required less grinding, and then
  2. Convince millions of players to play my version instead.

With this foolproof 2-step plan in place, I set out to complete Step 1. I remember googling ”How was Runescape made,” reading that it was built in Java, and then googling ”How to code in Java.” Over the next 20 minutes, I would come to realize that learning Java on your own as a 12-year-old is not that easy. Thus, I made the brilliant decision to pivot: I would now make a better version of Runescape without writing any code. I’ll just skip the parts that require coding, I thought. This way, I’ll finish it faster, too. See? Brilliant.

I ended up actually finding a way to make games without writing code: GameMaker. I downloaded it and began making simple, codeless games. One of my favorite memories from middle school was bringing a USB loaded with a Space Invaders-style game I’d made to the computer lab and passing it around between my friends. That proud feeling of seeing people use something I built has been driving me ever since.

Despite my ambitions, I eventually realized that you can’t actually do much without writing code. Luckily, GameMaker supported a proprietary programming language called the GameMaker Language (GML) that had lots of examples and tutorials for it online. I reluctantly decided to learn a bit of GML so I could make more advanced games (read: Runescape). Those were my first if statements and for loops! That’s right. My first programming language was GML. 😲

Ever since those first few lines of GML, I’ve been hooked. In 9th grade, I began making iOS apps and competing in programming competitions. Out of high school, I landed my first software engineering internship and started more seriously pursuing a career in tech. In college, I got into web development and sold my first website.

To summarize: I’ve spent a decade learning and building and still haven’t taken down Runescape 😡. I guess everyone has their white whale…

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