On the eve of my thirty-second

On the eve of my birthdays, I spend a bit of time doing reflecting on the year and doing a post-mortem with myself. All my thoughts get recorded down in a personal journal then get tucked away to be read a year later. This year is a tad different since I will post them online due in part for my urge to write more publicly and another to provide some thoughts around work, life and the universe. If I were to give a rating to 2018 on a personal level, the score would be a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars. There were many positive moments as mentioned below, but some areas could have been better. The best way to sum up those moments is with the powers of lists. So with further ado…

The following are the positive aspects of 2018:

  • Faced my fear of public speaking by doing three talks – I think most people have a fear of getting up in front of people to discuss a subject which they have passion or knowledge (or any subject really), and I am one of those people. During the year, I decided whenever a speaking opportunity presented itself, I would volunteer to do them. This mental shift forced me to deal with my fears head on which lead me to speak at GDC, TwitchCon Dev Day, Shawnee Game Conference, Twitch Developers’ end of the year stream and one internal event. My fear is still there, but it is becoming manageable with each passing event. Some of the goals I plan to set for myself next year will continue to tackle this fear. For anyone who wants to get into public speaking, Ethan Evans gave me a great tip…stream, stream, stream. The ability to keep talking for multiple hours and keeping content fresh in your head is difficult. By streaming for a couple months on the weekends before GDC and practicing, I found myself more at ease than when I did my first couple talks in 2017.

  • Grew in my career at Twitch – This year at Twitch has been an interesting one. I spoke at multiple events, shipped some big things, put together strategies for my products while assisting with other team’s mission/vision, and started to work together with different teams in Twitch. Through all these initiatives, I was promoted which is always a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. One of my big reasons for success is I have one badass team with me. If you ever ask me to talk about them, you may want to get comfy since you are in for a long story. One of the biggest shifts for me this year was learning to delegate a bit more to other people and take a step toward the balance of product, engineering and business management. I’m still green in some of those areas, but I continue to have some great mentors and teachers as I make this journey.  For 2019, my focus will be on growing my knowledge in those weak areas while maintaining a healthy mix of work and life.

  • Got back into modding – Modding was how I got started with programming; I made SC1 maps and worked on a couple Neverwinter Night mods. I continued to dabble off and on with different games, but I started to fall off after starting to work at Curse. Luckily by working at Curse, I continued to be exposed to the world with CurseForge. Once I started to head up CurseForge prior to acquisition and then other game ugc pieces at Twitch, my mind raced around with new ideas for mods especially with integrating them with Twitch. I released my first Purple Mod, Twitch in Stardew Valley, (see what we did there…) in November. It was a simple concept of posting who is following your channel while you stream Stardew Valley. After releasing it out to the public, the same thrill and rush hit me as the old days. Unlike the old days, I was able to see immediate feedback by watching Darkosto use it on stream (he even found a bug in it). From this elated feeling, my goal for next year is to release a couple mods for games I enjoy playing such as the one I’m working on for Civ VI. I plan to knock it out before the expansion releases in February.  

  • Worked on new board games and assisted with development of another – 2018 is the year I got back into game design despite my mind kicking/screaming along the way. I started working on two projects one codenamed Fae Dreams and another Witching Meadow with Broken Mask Games. Fae Dreams started off as a simple tug of war game (oh look, SC1 maps coming back to me) then it began to transform into battle of Fae Queens teaming up to capture children lost in Arcadia.  I assisted in testing and development of two other titles, Crumbling Temple and Sugar High. Fae Dreams, Crumbling Temple, and Sugar High all made it to GenCon were they were played in the First Exposure Playtest Hall. It was surreal seeing the games being tested out in front of me. Unlike when I develop software, sometimes you don’t interact with your customers directly nor see their eureka moments unless it is through user research. Whenever someone got frustrated or had an epic turn, I was able to feel it. As we head into 2019, I’m going to hone the games more and more with my business partner, Isau, so we can get them ready to be published later in 2019 or 2020.

The following are the not so great aspects of 2018:

  • Work/life balance got out of whack again – Work has a funny way of increasing the time spent on it and this year was no different from me. Until September, I would spend more time on Slack, checking e-mail and responding to non-emergency. I took a stand after I sat up one evening thinking about how long I was focusing on work and not myself. I determined my days would be 7am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Before 7am, I would hit the gym from 5am-6am and after 5pm would be Veigar and me time. I was able to follow this schedule for a couple months before letting the gym days slide sometimes, opening Slack at night, etc. I found by not giving time to myself to learn and explore new things, I lose the opportunity to discover new perspectives and the ability work on myself. When I was working on Gamepedia, I held a strict schedule of 8am-5pm in order for me to be curious on the off hours through working on iOS apps or dabbling with open source initiatives and having time for myself such as going to the movies or playing board games with friends. What does that mean for next year? I plan to hold my stricter schedule (unless it is an emergency or work requires my attention) for most of the year. If I start to notice a shift toward unhealthy balance, it will be time to talk with my superiors.

  • Anxiety levels increased to a not so great point – Back in 2015, I wrote a blog post about my battle with depression and anxiety to help people understand what it means to go through life with it. I started seeing a new doctor last year after have a fun string of panic attacks. Dr. Patrick at Inner Fokus took a different approach to my diagnosis than other doctors. Dr. Patrick used positive psychology and narrative therapy to help guide me back to healthy center of being. It helped for a long time, but during 2018, I fell off the horse thus reverting to some of my older habits such as isolation and non-productivity outside work. There were times where I would cancel plans with friends due to being a ball of anxiety, not show up to Legend of the Five Rings tournaments or just sit around the house binging TV shows. Next year will be getting fresh copy of my old workbooks to work through them and setting up checks to know when I’ve hit all time highs in order to re-center myself such as grabbing a coffee with friends or going to see a movie.

  • Gave up on my reading goals – Each year I set up a reading goal on Goodreads, and this year was a lofty goal of 36 books. My plan consisted of reading one non-fiction and one fiction book each month. It seemed to be a doable goal especially with long walks with Veigar in the evening, traveling to SF each week and enjoying a book with a glass of scotch on the weekends. Like any well thought plan, the plan was disrupted along the way with the twist and turns of reality. Around July, I started to slow down to one book every other month which means I missed the goal by roughly 6 books (I still have time to finish one by tomorrow!). My plan for next year is to drop the count to 30 books but keep the non-fiction and fiction rotation. If you have any suggestions, please let me know so I can get them loaded onto my kindle or iPad in the case of comics.

There are a couple items which did not make the list because either they are a blog post by itself or not even words outside “Yep, that was a thing” from me. The next step in the process for me is to set S.M.A.R.T goals (if you want to learn more, read my blog post from 2014) for 2019. I have not decided if I plan to post those yet as I want to start turning the blog towards my passions around the hobby game industry and personal projects. However, I may post it up on a different part of the site because of my plans to create new sections for things I’m currently reading and games I recommend for people. We shall see, but I know one fact about 2019, it is in a couple days. What? Were you expecting some profound statement or “I’m ready for the new me!”?