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A review of 2019 and a plan for 2020

January 30, 2020

15 min read

I did my first personal retrospective last year looking back on 2018. I found it useful to spend some time thinking about what I got out of 2018 and how I could make the most of 2019.

Looking back on last year's retrospective, I think I was overly focused on being "successful". The trouble was that I didn't (and still really don't) know what it means to be "successful".

This year, I'm planning to focus more on enjoying my own self improvement process, and trying to be less overly concerned about mapping out my path to future "success".

#Preoccupation with productivity

As I think about the past few years, I was always thinking about being efficient and making the correct next step. I believe this obsession started part way through my first job after undergrad. It was the first time I found myself reckoning with the fact that it was all on me to make my life mean something.

This led to me reading a lot of self improvement type books and focusing on being productive. At the time, this stuff was great for me. I went from being unsatisfied with my lack of direction to gaining a statistic to measure against in "productivity". As long as I was getting more things done than before, I would one day become "successful"!

There are worse things I could've been obsessed with. I found a job that I couldn't have imagined when I graduated. I've created a lot of projects I'm proud of over the past few years. However, it's also led me to things like creative burn out and a lack of close relationships. I no longer think that my imagined "success" is worth the sacrifice. I'm not really convinced it's even out there any more.

#Looking back at 2019

This doesn't mean 2019 was a loss. I spent the majority of the first part of my year working hard to finish Wildfire Swap in time to show it at the Seattle Indies Expo during PAX West. After the event, I realized I had been working at an unsustainable rate for an after work project.

Since the event I've been taking a lot more time to do other things besides focusing solely on Wildfire Swap. Having other projects and activities mixed in has been really healthy for me.

#Created lots of little projects and prototypes

I love to make things. When obsessing over a single project I try to push other ideas out of my mind. It helps me focus, but I find it therapeutic and rewarding to give in and make little projects. Here's some of the projects I made over the year.

#Became a game developer officially

I met a major longer term goal of mine to work full time in games with my new role helping to make TwilioQuest. It's been very exciting to get to spend way more time making games than ever before. It's come with a lot of new challenges, but I'm enjoying it a lot.

Reaching this goal has left me with a little bit of a void. Working in games full time used to be something I was striving toward. Now that I've reached it, I'm not sure what to focus on next!

#Wrote at least a blog post a month

I intended to write a post every month, but I missed December. I underestimated the amount of time I'd spend in vacation mode that month. I picked a much too challenging and technical topic to write about.

I ended up with 13 total blog posts written last year though. In both February and September I published two posts. I'm going to count that as a win on the monthly post front!

Here are a couple of my favorite posts from the year:

Interestingly, all of my favorite posts are the non-technical ones! I'm looking forward to writing more non-technical posts this year.

#Sent a monthly newsletter update

I started a newsletter in an attempt to start building a community of folks interested in my work and later more specifically, Wildfire Swap. This was set out in monthly installments and broke down the latest news in my life and with Wildfire Swap's development progress. I learned a lot about marketing and concise writing doing this.

#Read some books, mainly centered on indie software development

I read fewer books than I have in past years. I think I need to be more comfortable with letting a book go unfinished and moving on to something grabbing my attention in the moment. Additionally, I think I would benefit from learning to skim ahead more often when losing interest in a specific section of a book.

#Played a lot of different kinds video games

In previous years, I fell out of playing video games a lot. I was spending more and more of my time making them! When I did play them, a lot of them were "research" games. Games similar to the ones I was making.

This year, I did a much better job of spending some of my time relaxing and playing games that I enjoy.

#Attended my first games conferences

These were some of the first times I interacted with the games community outside of my local crew in Portland. It was a ton of fun and very enlightening to meet a lot of new faces.

#Talked about social media marketing

I shared a talk at a PIGSquad Talent Talk event. It was about my experiences in this year and the past year with social media and how I've been trying to use it to build a community around myself and Wildfire Swap.

#Travelled more than I've done before

Since starting my new role at Twilio I'm fully remote. This means that even though I don't have to commute, I'm flying to San Francisco every three or four months to meet with my teammates. This year, I did all of that traveling on top of what I normally did to visit family and friends back on the east coast. It took a lot out of me!

#Looking forward to 2020

This year I'm done with chasing success and productivity. I don't have a goal I want to chase into the future. Instead, I'm just going to aim for being a better version of myself than I was in 2019 and see where that takes me.

#Focus on learning & experimentation in public

I want to experiment more, and publicly, In 2020. I don't know what things will hold my attention, but I want to explore new topics and share them with my community.

Here are some of the things I've been feeling curious about lately that I want to explore this year:

  • Networked gaming. I've avoided networking and back end in web for a long while. I want to experiment with it.
  • Web techs focused on getting things done. I love making things on the web, I want to find a good toolchain that allows me to get on making things.
  • Writing. I want to become a stronger writer. Especially when it comes to narrative and educational pieces.
  • Sharing and communication. I want to try to better internalize "learning in public". In general, I think I will always need to improve a lot when communicating with others.
  • Community building. I want to learn how to manage a community and create a value for the folks in it.
  • Prototyping & polishing. The indie games that I look up to all have a degree of polish that I think it takes me way to long to replicate. I want to get better at delivering quality more quickly and consistently.
  • Time & energy management. I think I waste a lot of time and energy procrastinating when I'd be better off taking a break. Or working on a different task. Or getting some exercise, or whatever else.

#Ship & support Wildfire Swap

I've been working on Wildfire Swap for a year this month! I started out with a little prototype spawned back in Ludum Dare 38. I ended up working on a year long project with a couple friends, Drew Gingerich and Wes Mueller. I'm really looking forward to shipping it in the next few months and then learning all about the challenges and adventures that happen after you've launched a game.

#Try to find my creative voice

A lot of the other game creators I admire have strong artistic vision. Or at least the finished products they create do. They have strong mechanical focus or they have a message they're trying to convey or a concept they want to investigate.

I'm not sure what I want to make games about, but I'd like to spend time this year investigating what that might be.

#Continue to grow my community

Community is super important to me in many regards. I want to do a better job of nourishing the relationships and friendships I currently have in my personal life this year. They've often fell by the wayside as I sought to achieve success. I'd like to be more considerate of the people around me.

Additionally, I want to help build a community of like-minded people who are into making games and supporting each other while doing it. I've started doing this over the past year by trying to build an audience for my own games via blogging and a creating a discord for Wildfire Swap. Towards the end of the year, I started doing more community oriented things that I've enjoyed a lot like running Feedback Nights and Mentorship Saturdays.

In the new year, I want to continue earning the trust of these communities and helping empower us to create more far reaching games than we've been able to in the past.

#What do you want to focus on in 2020?

I'd love to hear about the things you're thinking about focusing on this year. Are you planning to read more? Create something ambitious? Relax and recover from 2019? Experience more nature?

As I think about where to spend my time, it'd be nice to hear others' plans for the future! Let me know via Twitter!