For the past two and a half years, I’ve been helping to develop an open source video game called Alien Arena. I’d been playing the game for a long time before this. I’d noticed a few bugs that needed fixing, and features that needed adding. A nice thing about open source development is that you can submit patches even if no one’s heard of you before, and I did so. One thing led to another. Now I have commit access to the game’s Subversion repository, and I regularly commit code changes (You can see my recent activity here.) I also run the Alien Arena Google+ page. I’m listed in the credits. I have this listed as work experience on my resumé. Somehow, I became a real game developer before I even made it out of high school.

I think it says a lot about the power of open source development that I had this opportunity. I was a stakeholder in the game and in the community, I had a few ideas for how the game should evolve, and the most natural course of action was to take things into my own hands. But it’s almost like the game chose me.

To anyone starting out in programming, and looking to get some real-world experience, I heartily encourage you to find an open source project you have longterm interest in, think about how it could be improved, and start coding.

Alien Arena might even be the right choice for you. It’s an old-school fast-paced first-person shooter in the mold of Quake III and Unreal Tournament. If you come expecting a single-player story mode, you won’t find one. If you’re hoping for an elaborate gray-brown modern-warfare simulation, you’ll be disappointed. If you enjoy trash-talking and hurling abuse at people in multiplayer, you’ll find yourself banned from most servers in short order. But if you want to blow off some steam and play a great game with a friendly crowd, or maybe even get some programming experience, you’ll feel right at home. We’ve got a great new version coming out very soon, and we’re very proud of it. I hope to see you there!