How’d I get here?
In summer 2010 I sat down and brainstormed a few game ideas. Of those ideas, the one that stuck with me and the one that seemed do-able became Itzy, Itzy Interactive’s first indie game slated for Android/iPhone release in a short few weeks. Currently, Itzy looks like it’ll take us about a month and a half longer to complete than I had originally planned but we’re nearing completion none the less and at this stage I thought I’d share how I got here.
In the late summer of 2008, I had dedicated nearly a decade of my life to the brokerage industry in Canada and was working as an Associate Advisor for the brokerage arm of one of our largest banks. It was my job to become my boss when they were not in the office, which was often. I balanced account holdings based on investment and risk profiles, advised on individual stocks and looked after our client’s general financial needs. I was personally responsible for a book of clients worth about 28 million while I assisted with a larger book somewhere over 90 million in assets. I had a nice office on the 24th floor overlooking an airport, a bottle of office scotch, my wife and I were starting a family and had I had just received my first professional designation, my FMA, which cumulated years of study in various, related correspondence courses. Then it all hit the fan.
The market crash of 2008 was hell. My phone rang off the hook with panicked investors trying to make sense of the sudden downturn just as brokers and analysts scrambled to do the same. For the next few months my boss went MIA, either vacationing overseas for weeks at a time or choosing to “work” from home, with firm instructions to not be disturbed by clients, myself or our assistant. In the meantime, I held the front line, trying best to advise clients I had come to care about in my years working with them on how to protect their family’s savings. The emotional toll of absorbing their distress mixed with the responsibility involved in protecting their investments left me broken on more than one occasion when I arrived home to have my wife ask “How was your day?”
In the winter of 2008-09, with revenue down over 30% in our practice, my boss in a rare office appearance first commented “I don’t know how much longer I can afford you.” In March of 2009, I became unemployed and saddled with a tremendous guilt at no longer being able to help those families I had come to care about. Another broker reminded me over coffee that they were never my clients in the first place and the responsibility of managing their affairs rested on my boss’s shoulders, not mine. So with a baby on the way I moved on and set out to find new employment. I had no shortage of job interviews but all ended with “..and when the hiring freeze is over, we’ll take this up again.” The whole financial services sector, like many sectors, seemed to have locked their doors to new hires.
I searched all spring and summer for employment in my field but without avail until late August I received a letter regarding eligibility for a temporary, government initiative to retrain “long term, tenured workers” who found themselves adrift in the economic uncertainty. I crunched the numbers with my wife and found that we could survive with the assistance offered while I retrained though at the cost of most of our savings and returning to debt. In the fall of 2009, at 35 I went back to school full-time embracing my inner geek and entering into a 2 year programming related diploma course.
Already accustomed to working an 8 hour day and then coming home to complete industry correspondence courses in my spare time, school was like a vacation for me. The work didn’t seem like work to me compared to the past 10 years of my life. Programming concepts came very naturally and as part of this new program I had the opportunity to specialize in game programming. I knew my prospects locally within the games industry were limited, but as an avid gamer all my life I felt I’d regret it if I didn’t take the chance. I loaded up on as many courses as they would let me take in addition to the game courses offered, making sure I had a well-rounded skill set in the likely case that I may not find employment in the gaming industry when I graduated.
In late January of 2010, I received the call at school that something had happened at my wife’s work and she was taken to the hospital. I met her there and after a few terrifying hours our son, Jake, was delivered via emergency c-section, 2 months early but thankfully alright. At the end of my first semester for nearly two months, my life consisted of school, then straight to the hospital to spend time with my son and wife, then home alone to finish my school projects usually until 1 or 2 in the morning. Then I’d do it all over again.
Mmm, that's good retro gaming!
During that period, my long time friend and brother-in-law, a programmer having recently dissolved his partnership in a company creating financial software, sat down with me over coffee and discussed forming a company to make video games after my wife made the suggestion. In April 2010, Itzy Interactive became a registered company. I graduated with honours from my program shortly after and bringing a few like-minded programmers and artists onboard, we started the task of creating our first mobile game in the hopes of a fulfilling experience of an eventual paycheck.
Try an early beta of Itzy on our website