I was born in 2000 and learned to read and write before I was 3, mostly by playing small educational computer games on Windows 95, dial-up internet and 3.5” floppy disks. Both my parents were middle/high school teachers during my whole basic education, so that definitely contributed a ton as well. Although I was far from spending a lot of time in front of computers, by the age of 5 my answer to people’s classic “what do you want to be when you grow up” question was “I wanna work with something that doesn’t exist yet”.
That Windows 95 machine was eventually replaced with an XP one circa 2005, which I’m pretty sure had some model of an Athlon processor. That time was also when my dad taught me the difference between volatile and non-volatile storage (as well as other basic computer knowledge) and I started spending quite a while after school playing a bunch of games from Big Splash Games, PopCap and whatever else Zylom had on their store.
Around 2008, my dad got a work laptop from his school, and that was when my online presence spiked. Although we still took around two more years to move from dial-up to DSL internet, there went hundreds - if not thousands - of hours in MSN Messenger whilst exploring the vast and shiny world of online gaming. Somehow I got wind of MMORPGs, and I got instantly hooked. To name a few of the big ones at the time: Grand Chase, Perfect World, MapleStory, Ragnarök Online and Angels Online. But by far, my favorite one was Lunia. It was the biggest part of my life for around four years, although not in an unhealthy way by any means. It’s undeniable how much it taught me, though. Other than the usual stuff - social skills, time and resource management, etc. -, Lunia also gave me the ability of fast typing, which is mostly a party trick nowadays, but oh well. Funnily enough, only my left hand got the boost, as Lunia was played with arrow keys for movement so my right one didn’t do much work other than the index finger.
Alongside that, I picked up on the existence of the Nintendo DS Lite and the Nintendo Wii, both of which I quickly convinced my family of letting me save up for my own over the following years. While I did have some hefty English vocab under my belt at 9 years old from just general internet usage, both the DS and the Wii were the push I needed to actually learn the language, as that was the only way I could understand whatever I was supposed to do to get past the tough levels of whichever game it was (probably Pokémon or Super Mario Galaxy). Scouring GameFAQs and sometimes even editing/rewriting some guides was vital to my English learning. In 2011, I got a beautiful Cosmo Blue Nintendo 3DS at launch, which just kept that ball rolling for me.
Nintendo consoles also got me into the Brazilian gaming communities and forums, from which I branched out into PC gaming in early 2012. Of course, that was the early Minecraft era: and so I went. There’s simply no denying that Minecraft was one of the most influential games of the 2010s, but for me, it was the most: life-changing even, I would say. Then, on my super-duper laptop consisting of a second-gen i3 with integrated graphics and a whopping 4 gigs of RAM, I was able to run the game at an amazing 18 FPS or so with all the available optimizations. Eventually, I got into Steam and also found friends in school that were into the same stuff, with which I happily spent hundreds of hours in Minecraft, as well as other big gems like Team Fortress 2 and Terraria.
Well, the recipe to being the coolest kid on the block at that age and time was simple: you hosted a Minecraft server to your friends. Playing on US servers was my first time interacting in real-time with native English speakers, which also boosted my language skills by a lot, but we’d rather have our own little playground. It was at the end of 2012 that my programmer life started: I decided to create a server for more than just my friends or friends of friends. Creating a basic server required next to no programming skills other than some terminal commands; maintaining one for over three years with more than 50,000 unique players, on the other hand, did.
Before its fourth anniversary, I sadly had to shut it down. I was the project’s only developer, and I didn’t have the necessary free time anymore. However, because of it, a beautiful community was born, and a lot came out of it over the years. Of course, it forced me to start learning how to code and work with other people’s code, and, more importantly, I learned how to manage a team of people. I also earned my first dollars - we’re talking cents per hour of work, but for a 12-year old kid, that was just wonderful! I started many great friendships that I keep until this day, and that can also be said by many of the community’s members - even a marriage came out of it! Some great content creators started on the server, quickly growing its audience to over a million YouTube subscribers, and making a living out of it. When I said Minecraft was life-changing, that’s what I meant.
While that happened, some of the server’s team members introduced me to World of Warcraft. At the time, Deathwing was wrapping up its rampage and destruction and Mists of Pandaria was just around the corner. Since then, I kept my WoW gametime strictly to summer and winter breaks, totaling over 4000 hours of playtime. Yeah, I know. Don’t ask me about Battle for Azeroth, though. Totally skipped that trainwreck.
It didn’t take long to realize that my laptop wouldn’t hold. After months of gaming with wet napkins under it so it wouldn’t overheat and shut down after minutes of Team Fortress 2 at its lowest settings, I took the plunge and started considering a desktop PC. Some weeks of research didn’t save me from getting an Ivy Bridge i5 prebuilt and slapping a GTX 660Ti in it. To be honest, that was more than enough as a mid-tier setup in early 2013. That allowed me to get into Borderlands 2, Call of Duty, lots of amazing indie games of the time and the PC gaming world in general. Learning the ins and outs of building a desktop setup was the next big step towards Computer Science, and it’s been my biggest (and most expensive!) hobby since then.
In late 2014, I joined a club at my high school to develop new skills - at the time, the group was mostly focused on tech. After a couple hundred hours of work put into basic video editing in the years before, I figured I would try my hand at VFX and Adobe’s software suite, and so my first projects were around animated music lyrics and karaoke timing, which I very much enjoyed and miss working with. Motivated by the club leader (a school teacher) and other members, alongside the Minecraft server thing that was still going on, I quickly redirected my interests to learning programming. My first real glimpse at what CS really was came from Harvard’s Introduction to Computer Science class aka CS50: I completed most of the Fall 2014 edition via edX on early 2015 - and to this day I still very much recommend CS50 to everyone I meet -, and with it came the decision: I was going to pursue Computer Science as a career.
High school was also when I first had the opportunity to travel abroad. In Summer 2015, I spent a month at California Baptist University, having English classes and experiencing the culture with a host family. Although far from being tech-related, the personal growth was priceless, as well as the friendships earned. However, now that I knew a lot more about them, I did manage to snag some sweet PC components, as they are way cheaper in the US compared to Brazil!
The new - and current - chapter started in early 2017: I passed with flying colors the entrance exam to one of the most (arguably, at least to Wikipedia, the most) prestigious universities in the country, Universidade de São Paulo. Since then, I found out CS is a broader field than I could have ever imagined. To take advantage of that, I’ve since participated in many clubs that aligned to my interests, but mostly focusing on developing my own ideas and seeing what interesting projects I can create in the free time.
Summer 2019 was time for my second experience outside Brazil: coincidentally, in California, again! However, this time, it couldn’t be more techy! I was accepted to work as a Student Volunteer at SIGGRAPH 2019, the world’s biggest Computer Graphics convention, and I couldn’t be more hyped. The 2019 edition was hosted in Los Angeles, and so ensued a fantastic week of meeting experienced people from industry’s big names like Google, Microsoft, Disney, Dreamworks, Pixar, Intel, AMD, NVIDIA and so many more.
And then, what next? As I write this, it’s January 2020. If everything goes according to plan, I should graduate in December 2021, and I’m currently working extra hard on getting an internship abroad before then, mostly around Software Engineering, Computer Graphics or Computer Hardware. The current long-term life goals as a naïve young adult are moving to Canada and being able to travel a bunch. Regardless, I’m definitely excited to see what is yet to come, and at the same time, looking back at the 5-year-old me that wanted to “work with something that doesn’t exist yet”, I think he would be quite happy to know about today.