As I look at the “drafts” indicator on the backend of this site it taunts me. It is not like I haven’t gotten some really great ideas and started writing things down. I just never managed to get any of those articles to the point where I was satisfied with them. I’m still leaving them there to go back to in the future and flush out further. That however highlighted a much more pressing point of “why are there 8, why can’t I just finish one”. The answer to that problem is much more interesting and what I thought I would write a little about. How do people matter?
A glimmer of hope
Back in the summer of 2016, I was introduced to some people that effectively changed the course of my life. At that point, I had pretty much reached “adulthood”. I had the wife, the child, the dog, and the job all pretty much on lockdown. Sure there were hiccups, as there always is, but overall things were good. The only burning problem, buried deep down inside was something that most people who work remotely struggle with; that ability to go out to the bar after work and talk “shop”.
I had tried talking about some of the stuff that I did with friends. It’s not like they didn’t attentively listen, but much like when they talked about their professions my understanding goes only so deep. This lack of ability to talk things at a technical level with like-minded people was starting to play a toll on my resolve to interacting with the public. I naturally am not a very social person. Without any sort of drive to go out and talk to people I was becoming more and more of a recluse.
I had met a gentleman by the name of Rick sometime in 2015, he had contacted me professionally to pitch an idea, and to also connect with me as he was a tech-centric person that had recently relocated to Peterborough. I remember that first time we talked it was fun, and I had held up going drinking with friends on St. Patties day (that point forward in the day I don’t remember).
Either way, fast forward almost 6-8 months and Rick messages me and says hey check out this “HackersNest” thing on Meetup. I popped it open, and with a specific set of skills acquired in another lifetime, I looked through the organizers. One of them stuck out as a sore spot for me. Everything about him gave me red flags. I had commented to Rick that it seems like a good idea, but that one guy made me think it wasn’t worth my time. Rick went alone and reported back that it was an excellent event and that I really should go out to the next one. He promised that there were people there worth engaging with. I’m paraphrasing a bit there, but the intent is there.
Leaving the protective cave
The next event was scheduled and Rick again pushed on me to go, this time I really had no excuse to go, I was hot off the official announcement of dotBunny’s involvement in Torment and we had just finished some government R&D work so I was riding a high. I arrived there and Rick wasn’t there yet, but I went in any way. I and my Chive shirt were going to rock this place. There was almost no one there; shit I was early.
I spoke briefly with the organizers and I got talking with the one person I had profiled out as being someone I should avoid. The conversation was light, but I was constantly reminded of why I wasn’t engaging in with these communities in town. This person was single-handedly destroying me wanting to stay any longer with every word out of his mouth. Slowly but surely people started arriving and I met a few more interesting people; eventually Rick arrived and I excused myself to chat with him a bit. As I travelled around with him for a bit I overheard some people tucked away at the back of the room talking about some machine learning/robotics type things which perked my curiosity and they mentioned a tech I had never heard of before “Elixer”.
The course-changing event
Eventually, I interjected myself into their conversation. I began talking more direct with Phil, one of the guys talking in that group. I don’t know what it was but I could tell that there was something different about Phil. He was there for very similar reasons to mine. We talked for a while, and he had mentioned that I should come out to their programmers’ pub night to meet some other programmers. The months went on and as a group, we slowly formed. It found more and more talented individuals that we could have great conversations with. It evolved to a point where we actually hung out outside of the monthly meetups.
The first “HackersNest After Dark” happened after one of the events. We gathered on a patio in a backyard and drank beer and chatted. Very reminiscent of high school, where you’d be sitting out on your parent’s patio drinking with friends trying not to be too loud and wake anyone up. In this case, we were trying not to talk too loud and wake up the wife and kids. At one point I had mentioned how my son had asked me about why none of the people I worked with lived in town; we all laughed but were quick to realize that in itself that was one of the fundamental problems with the town we lived in.
A very real problem
The “tech drain” away from Peterborough was a very real problem. I’ll leave that for another post, I could write endlessly on that topic. However, the discussion didn’t stop there. I find that in the world, people fall really easily into two simple categories. Those that do something, and those that talk about doing something. The people that were there that night were people who had the capacity to do something. It was pretty clear right then that, if I wanted my son to have better opportunities than I had (no fault of my parents here, game development just wasn’t as prevalent back then, my parents did a fantastic job raising me), I would need to build some sort of game development community right here in Peterborough.
Within a few days, I had gone on the good old internet and bought up as many domains related to Peterborough and Game Jam as I could. and I started contacting all of my friends in the industry and explained my crazy plan. Some laughed and said I was crazy, but they knew me so they knew it was going to happen (remember I’m someone who gets shit done — except blog posts apparently). Others actually thought it was a really cool idea and immediately offered whatever support they could.
PTBO Game Jam
That first event came together in weeks, and when we had more then 10 people register I was so damn happy. When it got to 15, I swear you could see the sparkle in my eye from space. We nabbed a few more above that for that first event and it was something else. I met so many awesome people along the way and even forced myself to go out into the public eye. I still struggle with that part, it’s not something I like, but now I’ve got a team that works with me, so I can delegate to them. We are well on our way to our second event next month, has grown substantially since that first event.
We already have people asking about helping out with “03”. It’s great to see the community develop and build. Couple weeks back we were asked to keynote another game jam at the local university. That’s right! they had their own, it made me so damn happy to see them do that. It also means that 01 had kickstarted something there for them, which was its exact intent! I guess all of this article is summed up with, I’m busy organizing these events, running dotBunny (Torment ships end of Feb 2017, and we’re doing some wicked stuff backed by the CMF which is going to be a game changer in the game/animation space), and being there for my family most importantly.
All in all, if I hadn’t met Rick, I wouldn’t have met Phil, and I wouldn’t have met the rest of the other hidden tech talent in our community, and the PTBO Game Jam wouldn’t exist.
How does one life matter?
The big question posed by Torment. It clearly does.
The elephant in the room – No I left my plight with local support out of this, I’ll address that someday. I also no longer go to HackersNest because of a certain “community sponsor” which I disagree with on a moral and ethical level. It seems that the naturalness of the event is no longer.