contemPLAYte: on code

Getting back into a normal work/school routine thwarted my desire to post weekly updates, but I will now use writing blog posts as a way to avoid thesis work, so I think you can expect them a little more regularly.  

Post topic of the day… Inspired by both being enrolled and actually attending a code class.

My first exposure to code was in a high school computer science class, when I was a junior (or sophomore, maybe).  The class was in BASIC (Just to clarify, I graduated high school in 2008, not the 1980s.), and I absolutely hated it. In fact, I didn’t even make it through the first semester, I was asked to leave at quarter because I refused to do the work. I will admit to being pretty immature and basically an asshole about it, but the whole experience turned me off to coding for years. 

My second attempt at coding was in college, my junior year, when I was realizing that though I was studying sociology, playing around with technology was really when I was the most inspired.  My undergrad school ran on the ‘block plan,’ which means we took one course at a time for a month. We had class from 9am-noon M-F and lab classes met again from 1-3 or 4… or 7. So rather than learning things over the course of 12-16 weeks, we were learning them in 18 days.  This time I was trying to learn Java and was failing miserably.  To avoid completely destroying my GPA I took the class pass/fail, and managed to pass, but hated every moment of it.  See image below for how things worked out…

When I got into the NYU Game Center MFA program I immediately regretted my lack of commitment to learning programming, but felt like I’d finally be in a place where I could learn and be excited about it. Except that didn’t happen. By the time second semester rolled around and I could enroll in a coding class, I was running away as quickly as possible. I had spent the past semester in my digital design class feeling wildly inferior, useless, and like I didn’t belong.  So I bailed. I took other classes that I knew I’d excel in and avoided coding for the third time in my academic career. 

Time passed.  I continued to make games, digital games even.  I didn’t even consider learning how to code again until last semester at a game jam organized by Code Liberation.  The jam started off just fine, they didn’t care if we coded our games or if we used other tools, they just wanted us all to walk out with a game.  The summer prior to this I had taught GameSalad (which is basically drag and drop programming for iOS devices), so thought I’d make a game quickly in that. 

After awhile I realized that GameSalad couldn’t properly handle the large amounts of text I was hoping to use.  Then I tried Twine. Twine could handle the text but couldn’t quite execute mechanics in the way I wanted.  Then I tried Construct 2 but that was taking too long to learn. Finally, Phoenix Perry from Code Liberation sat down with me and said I could stop fighting with game engines if I learned how to code.  I spent the rest of that weekend on pretending like I knew what I was doing and making a little progress.  Every step of the way Phoenix, Nina, and Jane were there to give me tips, suggest functions, and remind me that I was coding this game myself and that I was doing a great job.   

I coded my first game that weekend, “Therapy Sesh,” and though it wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be, it was functional. And better than being functional, people were reacting to it!  I spent the rest of the semester sort-of-trying to learn how to code, and playing around with Processing tutorials until I had a basic understanding of how sketches worked. Finally, for the third time in my academic career I signed up for a coding class and for the first time I’m LOVING it!

Here are some weird things I’ve been making.