Meet Pierce Zaifman, an interesting self-made man who was once "the growing coder" and who is now a successful developer and blogger.
Fred: Hi, Pierce! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Please introduce yourself and tell us something about your career as a developer.
Pierce: Of course! My name is Pierce Zaifman, and I am a Canadian software developer. I graduated from university in 2013 with a Computer Science degree and got a job straight out of school doing Android app development. I have continued that career to this day, doing Android development professionally. Albeit at a different company. I really enjoy my work and don’t consider it a chore or “just a job”. I’m not just doing it to earn a living, I do it because I enjoy it. Last year I took a break from work for a little while, but continued programming my own projects without earning any money.
While I truly am content with my work, I am always looking to grow. I would love to run my own company someday, given the opportunity.
Fred: 5 years ago, I came across “Monster Tactics”, one of your first games I guess. Were you also involved in the development of other games since then?
Pierce: When I got accepted to university, I was originally in a social science program, not computer science. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I had a passion for games. I thought I would enjoy a career in video game development. So, prior to picking my first-year university courses, I contacted a professor there who focused on game development. He told me what courses to take so that I could switch programs in the following year. If I didn’t enjoy it then I wouldn’t switch. But I loved it and decided to switch to computer science. I found that I actually enjoyed programming, regardless of what the end product was. I also started to learn that the game development industry is very competitive, and working conditions aren’t always great. Game development became more of a hobby for me.
When I developed my first game, it was also the first Android app I made. I ended up pursuing Android development instead of game development. But, I did have fun making my game. What I realized though with game development and app development, is that it’s hard to get noticed. And while it’s fun making something, spending several months on a project is a lot of time. I really wanted people to enjoy what I made, and getting little to no response made it feel like it wasn’t worth my time.
However, the following year I discovered game jams. Specifically Ludum Dare, which happens a few times a year and is one of the bigger game jams. For those unfamiliar, a game jam is where you make a game in a short period of time (usually over a weekend). Making a complete product in a short period of time feels great, and due to the nature of the competition, many people will actually try your game and give you real feedback. I have participated several times and always had fun.
Pierce: Haha, this is quite interesting. I forgot that I said this, but I think my statement is still pretty accurate. I had claimed that in 2 console generations it would be much more common. We’ll have to see how the next generation goes, but things are already moving in this direction. The only thing really holding it back is specific platforms paying for exclusivity of titles. While there are some technical challenges, they are becoming less and less of a concern. I think this has become especially true with the explosion in popularity of tools like Unity, making it much easier to develop once and run everywhere. Consider that a game like Hearthstone was developed with Unity, and they were able to push it out to PC, Mac, Android, and iOS. There are also titles like Rocket League, which is on PC and multiple consoles and is even including cross-platform play.
Pierce: Last year I took a break from working and decided to try blogging. Not as a career, but I always wanted to try it and I certainly had the spare time at that point to do it. Many programmers I’d seen recommended it, especially for freelancers. At the time, becoming a freelance developer was my goal. So I started writing about whatever I felt like, from productivity, to investing, to programming. As it turns out, programming was by far more popular than anything else I wrote.
So I started to write about programming and it is by far the most popular thing I’ve ever done. Compared to apps or websites I’ve made, blogging has resulted in easily 100x more users. I was even approached by a few publications to use my content on their websites. Although I haven’t earned any money from this, I enjoy seeing the growth of readers. For a while, I would constantly check the stats of my articles, how many views I got, how many likes an article had. Blogging also helped establish my reputation as a programmer, and to a lesser extent as a writer.
Fred: Finally, our off-the-wall question from the Daikon Media surprise bag: If you had to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but all your human needs were taken care of, what two items would you want to have with you?
Pierce: Well, a computer with an internet connection would certainly be at the top of my list (if that counts as one item). I spend most of my time on a computer, I would be very bored without it. Even if I don’t need to work, I could keep myself entertained pretty much forever with the internet. I would also be pretty lonely so having some way to communicate with other people is important to me. I would definitely start to go crazy pretty fast otherwise. My 2nd item would be a video camera, to record myself. I always thought it would be fun to be a Twitch streamer (playing games and having people watch). Given that I would have no obligations in my life, I could stream my island life to the world. They could watch me explore this island with my camera and with people watching I wouldn’t feel too lonely.
This is all assuming that I can have unlimited electricity and some connection to the internet. I think I could make the most of it for a while, but still ultimately go insane.