My Path To Becoming A Self-Taught Software Engineer & Game Developer
It starts with baby face Jonathan Weinberger…Wanting to make a name for myself in this big great world. Rocking the Bieber cut before Justin was famous. I was the youngest GeekSquad agent in history! 16, fixing computers, and if you were nice to me, I’d fix it for free :)
I’m a completely self-taught software engineer & game developer. I picked up Unity over 10 years ago when the initial public release of version 2.6 came out. I was 16 years old, experimenting with java programming creating my own game servers of a title called “RuneScape.” I was a terrible student through school. I focused more on girls and being popular than grades and my future. When I turned 18, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I knew GeekSquad wouldn’t be my fate and there’s no way in hell college was going to work for me.
I had never considered game programming as a possibility. I’ve always programmed RuneScape servers as a hobby and it was just hundreds of Java files and a compiler. I had no experience with an editor and certainly no proper training in programming. For years I was working with booleans and had no idea what they actually did. I was strictly what you would call a copy and paste developer.
When learning Unity, I really struggled. The editor was new. It was extremely intimidating and I had nobody who I could ask questions. I would browse Youtube tutorials and the Unity forums and the information was so spoon-fed, I couldn’t actually do anything outside of what the tutorial taught me. I didn’t know how to program, and I had no clue what was involved in making a real video game.
At this time, I’m attending college as a Biology Major in Maryland, hating it of course, and I kept thinking about game development and Unity. I was determined to master this program and make video games. I went through every spoon-fed tutorial over and over again and forced myself to figure out and understand what everything was doing. I would constantly read the unity scripting API and try to understand why in the video they are using whatever method they are typing.
It drove me crazy that I couldn’t write code from scratch. That I didn’t understand the logic of how to do this without a youtube tutorial. That the youtube tutorial didn’t teach me how to think for myself and expand my knowledge. I spent a solid year struggling, spending 10 hours a day (18 y/o dropped out of college), learning everything about Unity, getting involved with communities, and trying to grasp how to do things in Unity without the need for a youtube tutorial.
I became obsessed with Unity. I hated how difficult it was to learn and I especially hated the spoon-feeding tutorials. I was so determined to understand and master Unity, that my entire life revolved around it, and I was very fortunate to have an incredibly supporting girlfriend who I’m happy to report is now my wife as of March 2018. I read every unity book on the market, every c# book on the market, watched every unity tutorial available in 2010, and I walked away with nothing. Everyone SPOONFED and it was absolutely ridiculous.
Finally, after a year of going through awful struggles, I finally began to understand it. I became addicted to knowing how things work in Unity and how to just “know” how to create things. Today, I call it that “Eureka” moment where things begin to just click, and it’s what I strive to teach all of my students. I decided that I didn’t want anyone to ever go through that struggle again. I created my first YouTube video on how to move a GameObject in Unity.
I had no clue that my first ever youtube tutorial was going to change the course of my life forever. I taught and still continue to teach WITHOUT spoon-feeding. I teach problem-solving techniques that help you understand the problem and how to logically think and write the solution from scratch. My videos went crazy through the unity community. I was receiving dozens of requests to teach individuals 1 on 1. I started my educational tutoring business. 6 months later, I receive a phone call from Apress Publishing Media. I’m 19 years old and they want me to write a book. By the time I was 20 years old, I was a published author with no college degree.
They discovered me from YouTube. Fast forward another 6 months, and I receive a phone call from Adult Swim to work in their video game department. I had finally made it. I was teaching the world how to program with Unity through YouTube and working at Adult Swim while still teaching individuals online who needed that extra guidance. Education with Unity has been my passion since going through the struggles over 10 years ago. A year after Adult Swim, I’m approached by a technology company that’s working with Unity, developing enterprise augmented reality applications and they wanted me to be their programmer.
I had NEVER created real-world applications. I’m a self-taught game developer. I don’t know what real-world applications are, and I certainly don’t know the logic to problem solve them. I was so intrigued by the opportunity that I jumped at it. I was so scared to start, but what happened was incredible. The logic and problem solving that I applied to make video games were the EXACT same when applied to real-world applications. Within 6 months of working at this company, I had learned more from their developers than in the entire 4 years of self-educating myself.
I was hooked. I made sure that I became as good if not better than the best programmer in that office. I stayed humbled, asked questions, and wrote everything. I ended up writing applications for Coca-Cola, AT&T, ThyssenKrupp, GE, and in the process I fell in love with software engineering and the idea of using Unity to go beyond gaming. My passion for education grew from training game developers to using game development as a gateway to software engineering and helping individuals get Careers with Unity.
Go forward a few months and I joined a casino company that develops state of the art casino software and they wanted to start using Unity. I worked for American Gaming Systems for 2 years developing over 20 titles that are found across the world in real casinos. Finally, we get to November 9th, 2017. The day I left AGS and became the face of Unity through their official authorized courses. Unity and I have partnered through 2018 to create The Ultimate Guide Series on Udemy which trains game developers from the ground up with a focus on problem-solving techniques so that developers can self-educate themselves, research, and discover solutions on their own. We have 5 courses currently which can all be found on GameDevHQ.com. Thanks to Unity Technologies, I’ve been able to create GameDevHQ, a community dedicated to your success by offering high-quality game development courses and resources to help you build the best games possible.
As of 2019 we have helped students land careers at Apple, Facebook, Deloitte, Boeing, IBM, Disney, Universal Studios, Activation, East Side Games, Cartoon Network, Casino Industries, and so many more… All from the concept of using Game Development as a gateway to Software Engineering.
Now we’re in 2020…My wife and I live in Honolulu, Hawaii and I get to do what I love every single day…Training others how to follow my path and become a self-taught software engineer and game developer. I have trained over 100,000 students from over 130+ different countries on how to write code with Unity & C#.
To everyone who is apart of the GameDevHQ Community,
Hope you feel inspired and enjoyed reading this. I look forward to writing more on Medium and diving deeper into my experience as a self-taught software engineer & game developer.
If you’re interested in getting started on your path to a career with Unity, then head to https://learn.gamedevhq.com to learn how.
- Jonathan Weinberger