Break things, learn and repeat

When I was growing up in Ecuador, my mom gave me a soccer ball as a gift. Being Latino, a soccer ball was the best gift ever. Along with the soccer ball, she also gave me a box of old, dirty, used Legos. I realized I wasn't going to make it as a soccer player. So I decided to spend my days building cars, boats, and airplanes out of legos. Legos kept me entertained. They allowed me to be creative and somehow sparked my love for making things.

When we moved to the US, I asked my mom to buy me a Nintendo. She refused and instead bought me an electronic kit that she found at Radio Shack back in the 1990s. I think you may remember them.

Electronic kits of the 1990s

Electronic kits of the 1990s

I distinctly remember her tossing the kit onto my bed and saying: "Instead of playing games, learn to make one." The kit came with a manual and instructions for several projects. Some of the projects were how to make a simple radio, timer, etc. Just like Legos, they kept me entertained and my desire to make things grew more and more.

Unfortunately, when I went to college, the burning desire to make things flame out. I don't know what happened, but the engineering lectures and labs somehow killed my love to create. College burnt me out to the point that I didn't care anymore. I just wanted it to be over.

A couple of years passed by until my desires to create came back. I ended up buying a game development book. The curiosity to know how games are developed kept me reading and coding till late at night. Interestingly, I had barely played video games during my youth, but I have always been fascinated with computer graphics effects.

I became so interested in game development that my desires to learn more, led me to experiment more, which led me to break things, which led me to learn even more. The constant experimentation fueled my love for engineering all over again. And I realized that college didn't kill my passion for engineering. What killed it was the lack of time required to learn through experimentation. College was too rushed; midterms today, twenty-page paper due tomorrow, etc.

It was then when I realized that the beauty of engineering lies within the "Aha" moments that are born during discovery and experimentation. It is from that particular toy you got, the one you took apart and glued back together; that lit your desire to create, to make.

If you have lost the desire to create, I hope you find it soon. If you are a new developer, experiment and challenge the status-quo. Ask yourself "What would happen if ....?" and don't be afraid to break things. Because you don't become an engineer, a developer, a maker, by just solving equations or following a tutorial. To become one, you need to break things, learn and repeat.

Harold Serrano

Computer Graphics Enthusiast. Currently developing a 3D Game Engine.