August 2, 2023 — 11 min read
Justin Scott Bieshaar: How He Became A Game Developer By Accident
Justin Scott is a dedicated game developer from the Netherlands currently working at Paladin Studios. He is well known for sharing programming tips and tricks across his social media channels.
My name is Justin Scott Bieshaar and I am a full time Game Developer from the Netherlands. I got myself into programming games by accident, both literally and figuratively, as it was on that very day I injured my knee, while being in the hospital for three days that I got interested in how games were made and that's where my journey started.
Being injured had a major impact on my childhood as it resulted in losing my passion for gymnastics. So, when I eventually figured I was developing a new passion, a passion for programming video games, I fully dedicated myself to one day making games for the public. Which I am now doing professionally since 2017.
Due to how I started my journey and how grateful I am for the industry I am working in, I like to make content to educate and share my experience and awareness about the games industry. When I was a student I was constantly insecure of being good enough as I didn't really fit the profile as I was not a gamer, and had no technical background from my childhood. But those were all just wrong expectations. When I joined the industry through my first internship I realized everyone is capable of being a great developer, as long as you are interested in the craftsmanship behind it.
How did you overcome challenges and insecurities transitioning from gymnastics to game development without prior technical skills?
My biggest challenge was mainly the lack of base knowledge and guidance. When I started programming I was doing everything in Notepad as that was the only editor I knew of. I noticed programming in word wasn’t working but notepad did. So, that was what I was using for the first ~1.5 years.. When I entered college I got exposed to nice tools but that also made me realize I was quite behind on that knowledge compared to others.
I overcame the challenges and insecurities by just doing it. I had quite a few people telling me I wasn't fitting, and indeed I wasn't. I couldn't really join the chit-chats or lan parties during lunch breaks or after class. So, instead I dedicated myself fully into learning the fundamentals of programming and always actively participated during classes by sitting in the front row. But also experimenting a lot during my spare time as I am really interested in making games rather than playing them.
Mostly online community forums. I have been actively posting online during my student phase. This was also already on Instagram, but also a lot on public forums. I was active on the Unity3D Answers forums but also other specific such as java-gaming.org. I always tried to help others by trying to solve their problems as well. This was really helpful as you get to problems you might not face yourself as I was just a beginner and some posts are quite advanced. Beside that I also really liked following tutorials and making my own twist to them. I downloaded the entire OpenGL Java series by ThinMatrix so I could follow it while commuting to school or when I didn’t have internet access. Using the knowledge from OpenGL in Java, I tried to do it myself with C++ as well.
Cliche, but I am very proud of every game I worked on. As they all are reminding me of different states of my personal development, career and growth. But if I had to pick some in particular, it would be: “GamePoint Casino” and “Cut the Rope - Remastered”.
GamePoint Casino is a game that got unfortunately discontinued due to low performing results. But it taught me a lot about the industry and development. It was the first commercial game I developed completely from the ground up within a professional environment. I developed a lot of passion for becoming the systems, tools and architect programmer I am today.
Cut the Rope Remastered is the game I am currently still working on and is a game I joined mid-way. Which showcased that my expertise was useful which really made me realize my value as a programmer. Beside that, it’s also the biggest game as the Cut the Rope franchise has over a billion players which is just immense and makes me really grateful to be part of.
I have three factors: Forums/news sites (for me mainly Unity forums and Gamedevelopment.com), Social media and friends/colleagues.
Forums/news websites help me find early trends and read other’s opinions about them.
Social media (likes of YouTube, Instagram etc) help me see results, but also notice actual trends when more and more are using a specific topic.
Friends/colleagues help me find what I like to call ‘hidden gems’. Surrounding yourself with people with the same discipline of yours really helps filter the latest trends. Often everyone has their own taste, but hearing it from someone you really know adds some more value to their opinion (at least so does it to me). So, sharing your findings with colleagues and/or friends helps make this organic stream of staying up to date with latest trends as then everyone in your inner circle keeps sharing as well.
I’ve been in the industry since 2016 and I have always been surprised why there are not that many women in tech. It’s (to me) not really a masculine thing and I see it’s mainly a society sketched image than made tech more for men. But if you look at it, programming is just logical thinking and problem solving. Which I think women can excel in just as much as men.
But what triggers me the most is that men are preventing women from joining. As the tech industry evolves, a lot of women get interested. So, also in games. I see, especially in the new generation, that women tend to like games just as much as men do. But due to male dominance they are not feeling welcomed and limits them too much. And that’s a topic I really find important to be addressed more to make more awareness for equity in games (also ethical equity btw).
How do you think we can all become more welcoming and supportive of women and other underrepresented groups?
I think it’s mainly the responsibility of companies and universities to actively prioritize diversity. That doesn’t mean underrepresented groups will get an advantage to even out diversity. But they are being targeted during recruitment to feel welcomed to apply at all. And make discriminatory behavior unacceptable and reward those who actively help to make the environment more inclusive. This also means actively monitoring your current employees/students to look for potential discriminatory behavior and stimulate everyone to make the workplace as inclusive as possible.
Some say; “but it’s all about talent, not about gender/ethics.” which is true. But the problem we face is that not all genders get equal chances as they get harassed for just trying, which is unfair. We should welcome any ethnic or gender as much as anyone else, so everyone has equal chances to develop their talents as well.
Because in the end a diverse team benefits us all. We can understand our playerbase better. We can improve our workspace to be applicable to everyone. Plus we widen our industry so we gain even more talent and knowledge to grow!
It’s because passion and thereby interest is the main factor to become a great developer. Everyone that has some interest in learning to code or interested in how certain software is made like games, websites, apps. With just that interest you can grow further upon that. The more interested you get, the better you get as a developer as it fuels your will to explore. Because there is so much to learn it’s hard/impossible to truly master a discipline. So, as long as you like it, you can excel in it. And thereby it doesn’t matter what your gender or ethic is. It’s just based on if you are willing to dedicate yourself to it.
A lot of mixed reactions but mostly positive. There were some, to my surprise, who think women aren’t interested in gaming or tech in general, or who think women don’t belong in the industry. Which really shows how important it is to share awareness about the issue. As most of these commenters are the ones harassing (can even be unintentionally) and/or discriminating against women in the industry. And it’s in comparison just the small group that does. But unfortunately they are still too many to make a lot of women bail out to even consider joining the industry. Which I feel is just a shame.
What advice would you give to women who want to get into the gaming industry but might be hesitant or unsure?
Just do it. It’s cliche but you really should just do it. Like I said, I didn’t fit in at first either. Although it’s not a fair comparison as I didn’t get harassed or discriminated against. I did feel unwelcome as I am no “gamer”. But ever since I joined the industry professionally, everything changed for me. Other programmers saw my talent and that’s what matters. That’s what everyone gets excited about. When being a student other students or aspiring devs see you as a competition and are afraid you will take their job. Which is just a compliment because they see your passion does make you better than them, even though you might not fit the “traditional image”, so let’s change that traditional image, shall we?
So, if you are interested in tech or how games are made. Chase that career dream and don’t let anyone hold you back. Instead put a step forward and try even harder to prove them wrong. That’s what motivated me to go even harder as well.
Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self starting out on this journey into game development?
Professionals are no wizards, they are just like you. When I was a student I was constantly anxious about joining the industry as I felt I wasn’t good enough. But after my first day as an intern I already noticed that professionals are just as good as you are. They just have more experience.
So, don’t take it too harsh on yourself and accept that most of the ‘cool skills’ take time and real world scenarios knowledge.
Lastly, could you share what the future holds for you? Are there any exciting projects or learning opportunities on the horizon?
About exciting projects I can’t say much due to NDA. But from my personal projects; I am working hard on planning more educational content to teach about game programming and making deep topics fun and easy (easier) to understand. I hope to share more soon with my first free online course to be released.
Huge thanks to Justin for making the time to share his experience. Be sure to follow him on his socials. If you enjoyed this article then you'll surely enjoy the newsletter. If you haven't already, consider dropping your email so you don't miss out on the latest news and job opportunities in the programming world.
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