My life story

A personal journey of a ex-gamer becoming a high-level developer as efficiently as possible, using skills acquired from years of competitive gaming.

My name is Victor Huynh, and I am a graduate of Ryerson University in 2018, majoring in computer science. Throughout my youth and adolescence, I grew up as a very competitive child, spending the majority of my time playing sports and games with my older cousins and younger brother. I would try to finish my school work as quickly as possible, skipping it at times, so I could free up my time for “fun time” with the family – and that has become a huge part of my character growing up.

In particular, I grew up playing Starcraft since I was 6 years old, and that really kick-started my interest in gaming. It was further fueled by the fact that my cousins would never go easy on me, and I would try and learn game mechanics and strategies in order to beat them – which still ended in defeat. This translated to a competitive environment when it came to sports as well, and I was an active child ever since, dabbling in multiple sports at times.

It wasn’t until I hit Grade 8 when Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty came out, and that really opened my eyes to how competitive ladders (ELO) worked. I did not have the best computer at the time, so I would frame drop from time to time during some key moments. As a result, I had to adapt and had to play more accurately and more strategically in order to make up for the potential handicaps. Not too long later, the introduction of League of Legends during my freshman year of high school got me hooked right away, and over the later years I have easily poured thousands of hours into League, polishing my skills to become as good of a competitor as I could be.

I later learned that I felt the greatest joy when I could see myself improving in something I cared for, and for me, that inevitably was gaming and sports. However, that also meant that I was not spending as much time as I would like into putting effort into my field of study. Embarrassingly enough, this trend continued on throughout my study at Ryerson University.

That brings us to 2020, the era of the infamous COVID-19, where I had excessive time on my hands from working at home, and got me thinking a lot about my future as I spent more time gaming more than ever. Yet, this gave me a lot of time to reflect and contemplate how my future would look like. After lots of indecisiveness and regret, I’ve finally concluded that it was time to close that chapter of my life and redirect my game time into something that truly mattered for my future – programming.

The strategy

As a gamer who grew up playing Starcraft and League of Legends, I highly value strategy and a strong set of fundamentals, and I am a strong believer that the skills that I’ve attained from gaming are translatable to real life. Over the years, I have adopted a min/max mindset, and I knew that strategically, my first steps would be to fix any gaping weaknesses in my character. For example, these weaknesses would be a basketball player unable to do a layup on either side, a soccer player who can only dribble well with his right leg, or an artist who cannot draw facial expressions.

For me, I concluded that the things to first work on was:

  • Cooking – the inability to make a meal would mean that I was not in control of my calories/nutrition intake, as well as spending more money on takeout or relying on someone else for food
  • Health – definitely a broad term, but I felt like a healthy body equates to a healthy mind, and for me it meant:
    • Sleeping and waking up at a reasonable and consistent times
    • Having a reasonable muscle to fat ratio
    • Drinking at least 1.5L of water a day
    • Being injury and pain free
  • Reading – a skill that I disregarded as a skill for the longest time, but I strongly feel like this is something necessary to have, especially with more ambitious endeavours. Probably the most consistent and time efficient way to expand perspectives and give your brain a workout.
  • Cutting down on distractions – this includes social media, YouTube, reddit, watching shows – a large piece of “time waste”, as most of the time, there is no direct benefit to my life other than evoking temporary feelings such as happiness or envy.
  • Quitting gaming – the most quintessential piece of the puzzle, this allows me to regain a lot of my time back and focus it into things that would benefit me more in the long term instead of short/mid term gratification. This may be the hardest thing to do for some, because I know from personal experience that it makes up a lot of your character and routine, as well as a social outlet to some.

Once those fundamentals were set, I wanted to figure out how to “make up” for lost time. I felt like because of my time spent and thinking about gaming and having fun (no regrets), I did not make the most out of my first few years in the workforce. As a result, I wanted to restart from the ground up, and form a strategy in order to level up as fast as I could. I knew that my programming skills were lacking and that, by itself, is a major setback for me. However, I also knew that most people would not run a blog, would not read programming books, and probably only had a LinkedIn, a GitHub, and a resume for recruiters to look at.

I figured that it would be winnable to do as much as I could, as well as document my strategy and progress on YouTube, as I felt like because of survivorship bias, most developers looking to improve their skills would only see and learn from the people who have already made it to the top and have successful careers already. I think there is a large group of people who fit under a gamer/programming lifestyle, and I feel like I could inspire others who have been in the same situation as I have.

Current goals

Personally, I love a good challenge and the sense of urgency truly motivates me to do better than ever. As a result, I quit my job without having another one lined up as of August 26, 2021 in order to make my strategy a reality. I felt like I could not progress as fast as I could in my previous position, and I wanted to free up even more time in order to fully get my mind shift in place.

My current plan is to:

  • Start hosting on AWS (Aug 26, 2021)
  • Set up my personal website (Aug 26, 2021)
    • Update my About Me page (Aug 27, 2021)
    • Set it up to an acceptable level, with analytics (Aug 27, 2021)
    • Write my first blog post (Sept 7, 2021)
  • Upload my first YouTube video (Sept 7, 2021)
  • Create showable content on my GitHub (wip)
    • A simple app that calls a public API
    • A simple responsive web page
    • A simple game that has 1-2 player interaction
    • A more complex game that has multiplayer (>2) interaction
  • Continue leveling up my skills – this is an ongoing, infinite process
    • Continue to blog and create YouTube videos to show progression UPDATE (10/2/2021): perhaps will get back to this, doing this to free up more time and mental space, and I felt like I gave off preachy vibes
    • Increase my problem solving skills in a predictable and measurable way via LeetCode and Codewars
    • Relearn, engrain and educate myself on computer science fundamentals (not sure if this is the best order, but I’m going with it anyway)
      • Cracking the Coding Interview: 189 Programming Questions and Solutions – to get past the interviewing process again
      • The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master – I feel like this would give me a better idea of what to do and expect in the workfield, as least some sort of foundation
      • Introduction to Algorithms – I feel like after having fundamentals in, I should probably train my brain to see problems differently and solve them efficiently
      • Other books are to be determined later after the previous 3, would ideally be learning specifics that would benefit me at my current job/interests
  • Main goals for long term:
    • React/Typescript
    • Golang