2016. A Year of #Gamedev in Review. Also, Blood Cancer.

2016 was a mixed bag. On the downside we lost Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali. Also I got cancer. On the plus side, I published my first game development book, was contracted for a second, and then again a third. Also I got cancer.

That a cancer diagnosis could possibly improve my life is a grim and grizzly admission. It speaks volumes about where I was in life when I received the news, October 5th, 2016. But more than that, it speaks about a newfound optimism. In Chinese, the word for Crisis doubles for Opportunity. Trite, but true. And in the new year I resolve to prove it.

In 2016, as per usual, I kept many of my New Year’s resolutions. I didn’t touch a drop of pop and lost 30lbs on the nose (thanks chemo!). Unfortunately, I failed to post to my blog every day, stopping circa October 5th, 2016 (no thanks, chemo). This New Year’s resolution? Beating cancer all the while turning (Blast) Crisis into Opportunity.

Like all indie game devs I have a backlog of good ideas and unfinished projects. Until now, this has served to divide my attention and derail my ambitions. In the context of a cancer diagnosis it can be even more heartbreaking as one is forced to face their own mortality.

“So many inventions half-invented… so many loves half-loved.”

A cancer diagnosis makes you realize that time is running out. But this realization can also be positive, inspiring the commitment necessary to see a project all the way through. The question remains, however; “which video game should I complete?” It’s a question as gnawing as the cancer. Choosing incorrectly will set me down the wrong path, wasting precious time.

“What should I build before I die” can be rephrased more optimistically as; “which game will mean the most to people?” This rephrasing reveals why the question is so very difficult. I can’t answer it. If I want to know which game will mean the most to people, I have to ask the people. And so in 2017 I will do just that. I’m soon to launch my “Cancer Scare Crowdfunder:” coincidental, competing campaigns that will help me decide which good game idea to see through to the end.

They say that when you have cancer, the most important thing is to stay positive. To find joy in the little things. To stay engaged. For most of my life playing video games has made me happy.

“Life well spent!”

Now, it’s creating games that fulfills me. I hope to give back. With Pilotthings VR I hope to impart the same sense of awe-inducing vertigo I felt when playing Pilotwings. With both T-Rex Care and Feeding and Chess Tactics RPG I want to extend my life-long passion for teaching into the game medium. In Star Foxy VR I aim to make a parody of Star Fox that is less furry, more foxy. And I think I can leave the world a better place if each home had Wall Candy Cabs, arcade cabinets that save their owners space, time, and money. I’ll create a bare-bones campaign for each in the hopes that gamers understand I’m working with limited resources and potentially very little time.

Time. 2016 was not great. In 2017 I hope to turn it around. Every little #gamedev success will be another time bonus, providing me purpose, giving me hope, moving me forward. Such is the power of gaming and I hope you will co-op with me against cancer. Find me on twitter (@nickelcitypixel) or shoot me an email (admin(at)mikejkelley(dot)com ASAP, won’t you? Also, check out my blog and youtube channel where I hope to document what it’s like to gamedev with cancer. Let’s get out there and win 2017!


  1. Avatar

    Paolo Gambardella


    this is a wonderful post, dude.
    I sincerely hope things will get way better in 2017 for you.

    • admin



      Hi Paolo,
      Thanks! It’s difficult to put myself out there like that. But, success is all going to depend on how much exposure I get. So please share this post, I truly appreciate your support! I’m hoping 2017 will be better for everybody! 🙂


  2. Avatar

    roy smith


    Hi Mike
    My mom in law just got her cancer in remission and is doing great. I also want this for you. I recently discovered playmaker and found you are one of the few and smartest people on the subject. So hell yeah yeah i want another book and for you to keep doing tutorials. I dreamed of a day when i could make a game with such tools and finally they exist. Thanks for being a kickass teacher. All the best looking forward to your remission!

    • admin



      Congratulate mom-in-law on remission! Thank you for the kind and encouraging words, I hope to be able to finish the second and third books (someday soon). Thanks for your support!

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