2018

Undertale-after.png

Well, we made it. From my point of view, it seemed a little touch-and-go there a few times, but I never doubted I’d wind up in a better place at the end of this year than where I began.

It’s 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, and I’m writing this self-evaluation up because I’d very much like to put a bow on this year and kick it straight into the storm drain outside my home.

That’s not to say it was a bad year for me, personally; if anything, I think I’ve developed more skills, both human and technical, in this past year than most.

It’s just, like, look around. We’re in a bad place, and there’s no sign of us averting the myriad cataclysms our society’s been drumming up over the past few centuries. I haven’t given up hope, and I refuse to close my eyes to it, because I think to do either would be to abdicate moral duty. But you’ll forgive me, I hope, if I’ve felt a little hopeless a lot more frequently in 2018.

But I’m here. And I’m on a good path; I know it. So I’m gonna take inventory here for a moment, look back on what I did and didn’t do this year, and talk a bit about what I plan to do in 2019.

Resolutions

I don’t usually set new year’s resolutions, but I decided to go all-out at the beginning of the year. I set 15 of them, and I met 9 of them. That’s, what, 60%? I’ll take it.

Some of those resolutions had pretty visible results. For example:

  • Develop Two Games: With a little help from my friends, I succeeded at this. We showed one of them at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, which was a wild and deeply gratifying experience, and the other one just came out after a day-long impromptu game jam we threw together the other day. I’ll save my thoughts on how I feel about the time I spend making games for later in this post, but I’ll just say that I feel a massive amount of gratitude to have been involved with these teams.

  • Realign my Career Path: I left my old job after four years in order to pursue game development, or something adjacent to it, full-time. I landed in a great place, thankfully. I’m learning a lot, I’m deeply challenged by my work, and I can see a clear path from here to the next few steps of my career as I choose to define it. Finally making a move on this front is such a relief. I’m grateful for the wonderful people I met along the way and the skills I was able to develop, but I know it was time to move on, and I’m lucky I found that next step.

  • Prepare and Give a Technical Talk: I did this a few weeks ago at the Portland Indie Game Squad’s Talent Talks event. I focused my talk on the development process behind Escape from Juggalo Mountain and how our team was able to collaborate on development via git and some handy command-line utilities. That’s the technical part, but the broader message was: “don’t ever underestimate what you and your friends are capable of learning.” The talk was recorded and should be online soon; I’ll put up a new post with a link to the video and my slides once it’s available.

About half of my resolutions were quiet and personal. I didn’t share those broadly, and I won’t. But they largely focus on themes like living a more balanced life, being present in the moment, and saying what I mean. And while I know I’ll be working on those aspects of myself until I draw my last breath, I made some pretty significant strides in those areas that I believe make me a better, more well-rounded human.

Of course, there was a lot I didn’t succeed at in full. I didn’t keep up with my weekly exercise regimen, but I kept chipping away at it. I set a goal to read 20 books in 2018; I only made it through 16. (I might finish my 17th before bed tonight, though.) I didn’t exactly figure out how dating works once you’re in your 30s, but I tried. And I never took a proper vacation — meaning I’d disconnect from work, drop my side projects, and focus entirely on being present. Next year, then.

Highlights

Just in brief, a few things that made this year special:

  • Seeing Distant Worlds: Music from Final Fantasy live at the Schnitzer. (If you grew up on Final Fantasy, you can probably imagine how this felt.)

  • Visiting family in Tucson

  • Hiking through Joshua Tree National Park, the third National Park I’ve been to so far. (That means I’ve still got 57 left to see!)

  • Surreal moments as a game developer, like seeing my game Skeal declared one of PC Gamer’s top 50 free PC games, and exhibiting Escape from Juggalo Mountain to tens of thousands of people

  • Going to Cleveland to learn about Python and realizing just what a great team I was working with

  • Seeing the remnants of The Grateful Dead in Eugene, Oregon on a beautiful summer day with my family

  • My second-annual trip to Missoula, Montana to catch the Travelers’ Rest Music Festival once again, along with a day trip to the National Bison Range and the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas

  • Going to my second XOXO Festival, which felt an awful lot like coming home

  • Moving into my own place once again and actually making it feel like a home

  • An impromptu day trip to the Oregon Coast for the first time in nearly a decade

  • Discovering and playing Celeste, a perfect game that managed to get me into speedrunning, despite having Old Person Reflexes

2019

I think the one word that sums up 2018 for me is “realignment.” It was less about making a list of things I’d need in order to live a more ideal life or function as a better human — which I’d argue 2016 and 2017 were mostly about — and more focused on putting those elements I’d been working so hard on tracking down into the right places. If I was in maintenance mode previously, this year I was running pretty well — I just needed to polish a few things up and make sure I was ready for the challenges I hoped to face.

I think in 2019, the only thing I plan to do differently is this: to bet more on myself.

I’ve never really said this before, but I’m genuinely proud of what I’ve proven myself capable of. Four years ago, I was full of doubt and desperately searching for a job after what I saw as a failed attempt at entrepreneurship. I now see that I cultivated some invaluable skills and confidence over that “failed” year, and since then, I’ve invested deeper in challenging myself to grow and mature. And in 2018, I set some major tests for myself — as a developer, as a writer, as a friend, as a human — and I’m happy with the progress I made. But I know I’m capable of even more, and the more I follow those instincts — the more I go with my gut — the richer my experiences are, and the more content I become.

So. In 2019, I plan to go with my gut. And I plan to keep working hard to be a better person.

It might seem strange or out-of-place for me to write something so personal on my “professional blog,” but I don’t see it that way. I am a person who makes things to share with others, and to pretend like I’m not putting my real hopes, dreams, and fears out into the world would be disingenuous. That doesn’t mean you have to care about where I’m coming from; I just feel like it’s important to be honest, you know? And maybe if you’re taking stock of where you’re coming from and where you’re going, maybe some of this will make sense.

Thanks for being here. Good luck in 2019; I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.

Nick Cummings