I cried when I read the definition of "algorithm."

An anecdote about self-confidence as a still-developing developer.

Written By: Christian Sparks
Founder of Smallheart Studios. Working on Woodbound.

I’m going to preface this with the statement that I don’t handle confidence in myself very well, like I have a mortal fear of coming off as or being conceited. As such, I feel like I have a terrible perception of what’s behind the line of confidence and over the line of being a dick. So if any of this sounds too terribly self-serving or douchey, or too whiney and tip-toe-y, I apologize.

When discussing development in UE4, specifically scripting, I’ve been refraining from using words like algorithm, formula or even equation, since I assumed these words were reserved for people who were either naturally gifted in math or had studied hard and succeeded in school in math courses, which are both groups that I have no place in. In any of my descriptions of things that I do in development, I usually preface my use of the word, "procedural," with, "I’m not good at math so this is just a hack, but here’s what I tried doing," because I was legendarily stupid when it came to math in school, so I just assumed that while the stuff I was doing feigned algorithmic proceduralism, it was still fake or a hack. I’ve wanted for so long to be able to classify myself as someone who’s good at math, who can problem solve well, but I’ve never taken the time to sit down and educate myself formally through online courses or college, so I’ve always looked at it as something I might do someday, if I can find the will and the time.

But today I looked up the actual definition of the word "algorithm," and along with a definition that validated what I spend so much of my time on as real math and real problem solving, there was a literal diagram that identically matched my own visualizations of my thought processes when I’m making (actually making and not faking like I’ve been telling myself this whole time) procedural crap in UE4. It was like some stranger had looked inside my mind and drawn a diagram of what they saw.

It’s a bizarrely overwhelming feeling to realize that I’ve been unknowingly writing algorithms for fun while simultaneously shitting on myself for not taking the time to learn math like I should have in high school, and telling myself that what I do isn’t actually procedural or even smart, it’s all just a bunch of stupid hacks. Like I accidentally validated myself and was able to dispel a huge amount of self doubt and insecurity in my work. I saw the diagram and couldn’t help but start crying.

I guess the reason that I wanted to share this is because I know that I'm introspectively very hard on myself, because I feel like I need to keep myself in check, lest I become some egomaniacal monster. But I think, on some level, I may have been taking it too far, and inhibiting myself from both doing the best work that I can do, and also understanding myself as a person. I looked at myself in the mirror and called myself stupid, until I literally stumbled across something that tells me that maybe I'm not as stupid as I thought. So if anyone else is struggling with self-confidence in their passion, don’t be too hard on yourself, because you may not even realize how much you’re actually doing.

A screen shot of my game, Woodbound.