Today we sat down for a chat with Joseph Whittington, an aspiring game developer looking to break into the industry upon finishing his degree at Full Sail University. We spoke with Joseph about his interest in game development, his past experiences with web development, GraphQL and much more. Read on to see some of his awesome insights!
1. What sparked your interest in game development?
I made the decision to spend 2018 learning web development in a bootcamp and I really wanted to know what I was getting myself into, so I went to 5 conferences last year and a ton of meetups while I was in the bootcamp and I asked everyone I spoke to what they like about web development and how they feel about the industry. The responses I received, along with my own opinion on web development, led me to the conclusion that web development isn’t for me. I am a huge fan of mathematics and I’ve always been into computer graphics, so I decided that I wanted to work on game engines. As a result, I am now working on a bachelor’s degree in game development at Full Sail University.
2. What are the biggest lessons or takeaways you have learned during your time in school?
So far, my biggest takeaway has been the importance of networking. I’ve gotten a few side jobs and even a couple of job interviews just from knowing the right people. I now see the importance of having a network and maintaining professional relationships.
3. What are you goals for after you finish at Full Sail? Your longer-term goals?
After I finish Full Sail, I’d like to work on a proprietary game engine at a large company, so I can specialize in a specific part of the game engine. Ideally, I’d like an opportunity to work on the graphics pipeline of a game and specialize in lighting or particle effects, but any relevant experience would be welcome.
In the long term, I think I’m going to continue my education and would like to earn a Ph.D. focusing either on linear algebra or computer graphics because I want to do computer graphics research. I don’t just want to make computer graphics look good using known techniques and methods, I want to do research and come up with my own methods and techniques to achieve cutting-edge computer graphics.
4. Thank you for your military service. How do you think your time in the services has influenced your work today?
I think being a veteran helped me mature both professionally and personally, which I think will help me in the long run. Had I not been humbled by my experiences in the military, I would not be the person I am today. I’d still be a foolish teenager in a grown man’s body and I am thankful that that’s not the case.
5. Is there a project you have worked on recently that you are most proud of or excited about?
I have a little mobile game that I made called Fighter’s Journey. I decided to do that game for my final project for the bootcamp. I learned C# and Unity in one week to learn how to make that game. It is far from complete and hardly playable, but I am just so impressed with my growth as a developer to be able to pick up new technologies on the fly for a project. Additionally, building and shipping a cross-platform mobile game on the App Store and Play Store, in only 3 weeks, is quite an accomplishment for me. I’m proud that I even had something to show for my final project, especially because I had to do this project alone since none of my classmates were crazy enough to join me.
6. What was your experience like at the coding bootcamp?
I recently graduated from a year-long coding bootcamp in New York. It was an excellent learning experience and I made some great friends while I was there. The program was very intensive, and I took every opportunity I could to do additional coursework to learn more. I was always busy during the bootcamp, bootcamps are no joke.
7. How do you think the industry can become more encouraging to aspiring game developers?
I think the industry can be more encouraging to aspiring game developers by responding to aspiring game developers the same way they respond to aspiring web developers. When I was going to a ton of conferences and meetups and I told people I wanted to be a web developer, they were very encouraging; offering advice and resources to help me learn the skills I need to succeed. This is not the case when I tell people I want to be a game developer, but I feel like maybe responding in a similar way would be more encouraging. Simply offering some guidance or resources to help aspiring game developers get would be more encouraging than the usual response I have received of a scoff and a snide comment.
8. GraphQL has recently exploded onto the JS scene. What benefits do you think it offers for developers compared to OData, REST, or other data query techniques?
I’m still pretty new to GraphQL, but I did notice some benefits of GraphQL over REST from my limited experience with it. The first benefit is having only one endpoint. This may not seem like a huge benefit, but it saves so much time. You don’t have to constantly look up which endpoint gives you specific data, you just make a query requesting the data you need and it’s right there. Another huge benefit is being able to aggregate all the data I need in just one or a few queries or mutations. There are no more nightmares about handling tons of data fetching from REST APIs. I also like being able to specify the data I want and getting only that data. This saves a ton of network overhead and makes the mobile experience of a site or app way better compared to REST, which just sends a ton of data regardless of what you need. These are just a few of the obvious benefits I’ve seen from building a simple chat app in React using Apollo GraphQL.
9. Could you see the format of GraphQL queries becoming preferred to standard SQL queries in backend systems? What are the pros and cons of each, in your opinion?
GraphQL doesn’t replace a SQL database, the need for SQL is still there. GraphQL can be used with tools like Prisma that take a database model and generate GraphQL schemas for you; I guess that might be one way GraphQL can serve as an alternative to writing SQL queries. The pros of SQL in my opinion is that it is verbose and accurate and performs fast if written correctly, but the cons are that you may need to hire a SQL expert or DBA to model your data and write performant queries if your data is complex. When It comes to GraphQL, the pros are that the queries are super flexible and allow you to reshape the data in the query to match the shape you need for the UI, additionally you can model your schema after the UI and just make simple queries; the flexibility is there if you need it. That brings me to the cons, there is still a lot of debate about how the schema is supposed to be modeled when using GraphQL. I like to model my schema after the database and reshape the data using queries or resolvers to fit the UI. It just makes sense to me that way. I don’t really know many other cons of the GraphQL Query Language.
10. Are there any other recent APIs, languages, or patterns that have caught your eye as worthy ingredients of the future of development?
I haven’t been following the Web Development world too much, but I am still excited to see what happens with the React community after React suspense gets shipped. I’ll be tuning in to see what people do with React, I have a feeling it’s going to be huge. I’m also hearing a lot of cool things about C++ 20. That’s something that’s going to directly affect game development and I want to see what’s in store.
11. Anything else you would like to add?
I am very thankful to be interviewed. I feel a little special and it’s been a wonderful experience. I’d like to extend a special thanks to my awesome sister Tiffany, who’s been very supportive of my decision to pursue a career in tech since I left the military.
We really enjoyed chatting with Joseph and we can’t wait to see where the next phase of his career takes him! You can stay in touch with Joseph on Twitter, @the_whittington and with the Kuvio team, @kuviocreative.
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*Some responses have been edited for length or clarity*
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