Solutions Come to Me at 2 AM


A warm hello, greetings, and welcome

Introductions are always weird, I feel like I never have anything to say which is shadowed by an overwhelming amount of experiences I wish I could share.

To keep this conversation as close to my software journey as possible, well the beginning of it, we start off in November 2003, when I was only 8 years old. For my birthday my parents got me Warcraft III – The Frozen Throne Expansion, a real time strategy game that offered an immersive campaign full of stories, characters, and units. One amazing thing about this game, and Blizzards early games in general, was their games ‘World Editors’, an extension that allowed users to create custom heroes, units, maps, campaigns, and scenarios, or more concisely, custom games.

Now I am not going to lie, I was 8 and knew absolutely nothing about creating full fledged custom games, but that did not stop me from waking up at 6am to plop custom units onto a map of terrain I generated hours before and watch them interact with my poorly designed triggers and events. But, seeing I was able to, as an 8 year old, go into a software designed to allow users to alter parameters and triggers and make use of those functions, such as create a trigger that spawned 5 units every 30 seconds, where if there was an archer present on the map it would spawn a huntress, but if all the archers were dead it would spawn more archers, is an impressive feat. I know that sounds silly, maybe even ridiculous, but it is the first time that I was exposed to a technology that allowed me to create a ‘program’ of sorts.

Game design is not my goal, nor an interest to me as a career. In high school I became part of a construction pathway, doing woodshop related projects during school and then construction jobs over the summer. In college I pursued a degree in Anthropology while working in the theatre departments scenic shop. After graduation I moved to NYC and continued to build theatrical sets as well as artistic structures and pop up scenes. I moved into the CnC department of the company, programming large machinery of different types to cut/shape foam, wood, and metal. And then the pandemic. No theatre, no art, no pop ups. This added up to being out of a job.

I wont bore you with the details, but the start of the pandemic involved binging the Eric Andre show, being couped up in a 400 sq foot apartment, and playing video games. I got bored fast. I was so use to being involved in projects, creating things every single day for the past 10 years, working my mind and using my hands, and now I am sitting in my apartment wasting the last year of my life doing absolutely nothing. I looked as hard as I could for work, but no one was making things.

In my boredom I started re-playing a game called ‘Creativerse’ one night at like 2 AM. Much like Minecraft, this game was a block placement game where you could make structures, mazes, cities, and the such. There’s this mechanic in the game called “Wiring” that allowed you to connect machines together to do things in game, for example walking across a specific block can open a door. Back in college I ended up playing with this mechanic for the better half of 200 hours and made my own platformer adventure. Players would solve puzzles and parkour across an ever changing obstacle course. An example of this was I created a puzzle with 13 different floor tile colors, and whenever a player touches one, all the tiles of that color disappears, meaning the player could only make 13 total jumps, and had to plan a route that didn’t create to much distance between floor tiles.

The reason I bring this up is because these puzzles were built on basic AND OR XOR functions. That’s it. And when I revisited this years later during the pandemic, I saw the computers I basically built in game and felt like this was something I was good at. I always enjoyed working with computers in a sense, and I understood the logic of these wires, the trigger and effect systems of Warcraft III, the what I believed at the time, was the basics behind programming.

So I did what everyone does when they get an epiphany at 2 am in the morning, I took a HTML/CSS Khan class to see if ‘coding’ was for me. After finishing the course and making a blog filled with pink and blue squares everywhere on screen, I started looking at my options and ultimately picked OSU.

Now, I am on track to graduate this Fall, have a full time offer this March for a FAANG company, and am excited about what my future holds.

I am excited to talk about many of my experiences here, such as but not limited to, my time working with CnC machines, designing and implementing multi-million dollar projects, and my time as an Undergrad Learning Assistant.

Best,
Alex Baker

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