I'm James Hague, a recovering programmer who has been designing video games since the 1980s. This is Why You Spent All that Time Learning to Program and The Pure Tech Side is the Dark Side are good places to start.
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Follow the Vibrancy
Back in 1999 or 2000, I started reading a now-defunct Linux game news site. I thought the combination of enthusiastic people wanting to write video games and the excitement surrounding both Linux and open source would result in a vibrant, creative community.
Instead there were endless emulators and uninspired rewrites of stale old games.
I could theorize about why there was such a lack of spark, a lack of motivation to create anything distinctive and exciting. Perhaps most of the projects were intended to fulfill coding itches, not personal visions. I don't know. But I lost interest, and I stopped following that site
When I wanted to modernize my programming skills, I took a long look at Lisp. It's a beautiful and powerful language, but I was put off by the community. It was a justifiably smug community, yes, but it was an empty smugness. Where were the people using this amazing technology to build impressive applications? Why was everyone so touchy and defensive? That doesn't directly point at the language being flawed--not by any means--but it seemed an indication that something wasn't right, that maybe there was a reason that people driven to push boundaries and create new experiences weren't drawn to the tremendous purported advantages of Lisp. So I moved on.
Vibrancy is an indicator of worthwhile technology. If people are excited, if there's a community of developers more concerned with building things than advocating or justifying, then that's a good place to be. "Worthwhile" may not mean the best or fastest, but I'll take enthusiasm and creativity over either of those.
(If you liked this, you might enjoy The Pure Tech Side is the Dark Side.)