On Age

by Darius Kazemi on May 20, 2008

in Uncategorized

So I realized at ION last week that I’m finally at a point where I don’t mind telling people how old I am. I’ve never taken pains to hide my age. If you friend me on Facebook, you’ll see it right there, if you friend me on LinkedIn, you can guess it from my college graduation date, if you’re reading my resume, you can infer it the same way. If someone asks me my age, I tell them. It’s just been a source of discomfort until now.

I started attending the Game Developers Conference at the age of 19, and while it was kind of fun blowing people’s minds at the end of a discussion with “by the way I’m 19 and a student,” I tended to avoid doing that because (a) it’s arrogant, and (b) I feared that people would discount what I was saying based on my age.

It’s only been six years since that first conference, which means I’m just pushing 25 right now. On the other hand, I’ve been doing this game industry thing on at least a semi-professional level for six years now, which puts me ahead of plenty of people older than me in terms of experience. It helps that I’m no longer the youngest person in any given group when I’m out at a conference. It’s a nice feeling, and it makes me feel like I’m not a completely precocious ass when I’m commiserating with people 10 years my senior.

One of the reasons I started my own company was that I knew I’d never be given the level of responsibility I wanted at the age of 23. I really felt like I was ready to take on the role of assistant project manager or associate producer, but I couldn’t expect to be given those positions. I spent a lot of time doing that kind of work anyway, but you can only take on so much responsibility without the appropriate compensation.

(Important note: if you are 23 years old and you think you can be a project manager, good for you. You’re probably not ready. The only way I can say for sure that I was ready at the time was that I did it anyway without the title. And it turns out I did a good job transforming a project from an internal laughing stock into an indispensable tool with the help of the great developers on my team. You mileage will vary.)

I used to just play it coy and have people assume I was about 30 (I can physically pass for it). I felt more confident if people didn’t know my age. But I just had lunch today with another entrepreneur whose company has millions of dollars in VC money who is also about my age. And all I could think was, “Okay, I’m now a legitimate age.”


Dave May 20, 2008 at 10:17 pm

You haven’t hit the real fun point yet.

You’ve made it from precocious young talent to “normal”.

The weird mind shift is when you go from that to “seasoned/grizzled/jaded veteran”.

david.mcgraw May 20, 2008 at 10:55 pm

Ugh… Now I really feel old. Nothing like a detour in the Marines to slap that one on the face. I’m going to turn 26 in August. O_o

Dave May 20, 2008 at 11:16 pm

Whereas I, being 21, felt completely out of place at ION. Everyone kept thinking I was somewhere between 12-17 years old. But it didn’t really matter, because as long as I had their attention, it made no difference to me what age they thought I was.

~David Bass

Ian Schreiber May 21, 2008 at 4:32 am

It’s really hard to tell a game developer’s age just by looking. Must be all that time spent in the “flow”, causing weird time dilation effects with aging, or something… but I know very few developers who actually look their age. (It can go in either direction.)

I know that in Darius’s case, I was surprised when he was a student. I didn’t hold his age against him; by the time I found out, he had already earned enough respect points. Hell, you could be 3 years old, purple-skinned and from the planet Zagon, as long as you’ve got solid game dev skills :)

Patrick May 21, 2008 at 3:43 pm

I candidly mentioned that I’m 22 to an Angel Investor at GDC, and he had this flabberghasted look briefly, but then we kept talking and it seemed like not such a big deal. The trick is to have the uncertainty of your compentency due to age cancel out against the feelings that you’re exceptionally professional for your age.

Joe Ludwig May 22, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Well I was certainly surprised when you told me, but it was in more of a “Wow, good for you” sort of way than a “you kids get off my lawn” kind of thing. :)

I was 27 (or so) when I joined the industry so I missed the first transition. Now that I’ve made the second to “grizzled veteran” I know that one wasn’t sooo bad. Next up: old timer that no one takes seriously.

doomzilla May 24, 2008 at 4:40 am

At work I send out weekly emails with forewords that highlight certain aspects of the industry with some deep analysis. This has been going on since I started in the industry *cough* three months ago *cough*. ;-)

I’ve met a few people that looked stunned once they realized who I am (aka “the report guy”). Apparently its shocking to people that a 23 year old can have intelligent views of the industry.

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