When I reflect back on the past two years I have spent developing games, the main question that comes to mind is:
Is what I am doing actually important?
This fear arises when I examine what other people are working on. Software that strives to improve the quality of people's lives seems much more admirable than what I try to provide. Can I really say, then, that I have been spending my time wisely?
I haven't quite found an answer for myself, but here are some thoughts in response.
Game development is incredible for getting a broad overview of Computer Science. Graphics, applied math, data structures, algorithms, and even networks and security are critical fields in the development of a strong game engine, and since rapid prototyping is such an important part of game jams, you also learn how to effectively write reusable code. If making games doesn't help other people, it at least gives me an idea of where my interests lie as a programmer and a breadth of knowledge that I can carry on to future endeavours.
The game development community is also extremely active and supportive, with an amazing sense of culture and spirit that I haven't found anywhere else. When you go to a hackathon or an independent game expo, you always meet very talented people who, in spite of their success, are really down to earth and always willing to offer advice or share stories from other events. This is also true of most other tech events, but the sense of personality given off by game developers is unparalleled in my experience, and their support has kept me going in times of doubt. The TIGSource dev log forum is a particularly excellent example of how the community looks after its own.
I never really appreciated the importance of game development, however, until recently, when I saw how happy a demo of one my games made people. Video games may be a luxury, but when I see someone enjoy playing my game, it reminds me of the excitement and wonder that games brought into my life, and how they made me think and dream of such fantastic worlds. The ability to realize those fantasies is what captivated me about game development when I was younger, and I think it's incredible that I can give that kind of experience to someone else through my work.
Ultimately, I feel like my time spent developing games has been helpful, even if there might be better ways to apply the skills that I have learned. I feel myself improving, and I get to see other people enjoy what I have made. This is enough for me to conclude that even if game development isn't the most important field, it has been one of the most valuable.
Programmer, drummer and occasional blogger.