I “sat down” with Glen Henry from across the seas and time zones recently and it was such a fun interview. When you first come across Glen, you quickly become acquainted with his company, Spritewrench. It is a one-man micro-studio in Kingston, Jamaica managed and operated by the man of the hour himself.
Just to give you a little more information about Spritewrench. Spritewrench is a gaming studio that deals with “smaller, self-contained titles with an emphasis on narrative elements.” You can read more about Glen and Spritewrench in our interview below:
Q. Who is Glen Henry?
A. That’s a very loaded question. I have a computer science background and a very strong creative streak, so I spent a lot of time growing up trying to figure out a way to merge the two. I often found that I kind of vacillated between them. There are moments where I’m very technically inclined, very much a problem solver and then moments where I need to express myself. Just finding the balance has been the story of my life. As such, I kind of landed on video games because they seem to be the medium through which I can combine both.
Q. Where does Spritewrench come in?
A. It’s been a central part of who I am for a long time. I’ve been releasing games under this name since about 2011 or 2012, and I’ve also recently formally registered it. It’s really a one-man studio, where I act as the primary asset generator for everything, the code and so on, but I have also partnered with other people for music, quality assurance and etc. I try to use my network as best I can. The end goal is formalising a structure that engages everyone and that they can get compensated in a way that makes sense. It’s less volunteer-based and more spotlighting of local talents.
In a recent project, Grimm and Tonic, I was the primary writer, artist and programmer. However, there was a team of editors I put together from close friends just to go over my writing, verify that there aren’t any typos and so on to ensure that things flow properly.
Q. I saw that you had the Grimm and Tonic and another called Shiny Gauntlet, do you have any more games?
A. Yes, there’s another game called Questlike, which is also on Steam but it didn’t really get picked up that much. Truthfully, it was a prototype. I guess you can say it’s a business thesis with me just trying to see what the minimum bar is; What is needed to deliver in terms of efficiency and an idea of what is needed for it to be successful. I’m actually taking this concept and reimagining it a bit for my current project, Questlike Pocket, which is coming to mobile soon. Outside of that, there are a couple of game jam games, which are games that came out of hackathons and such. You can see all my projects and my very first release, which was released for free, [email protected] on my itch.io page (https://spritewrench.itch.io/). The games are usually published here and on Steam.
Q. What made you choose computer science?
A. Short version, it’s what I was good at. Originally, I wanted to get into robotics, and I had a very strong appreciation for science and the scientific method. Then I also had an interest in video games. At that point, I thought, ‘okay, how do video games get made? Computer science.’ I did a bit of introduction to programming in the fifth form of high school (Ardene High). I passed it. So I did it again in the sixth form, in doing that I understood it more. Then all of a sudden, I’m in university. I had to think ‘what do you want to do?’ I then came to the conclusion that if I’m not going abroad, I might as well continue the trend. And that’s kind of where it is now.
Q. Okay, so Spritewrench is your baby, and you’ve had all these projects. What keeps you motivated?
A. For me, motivation is actually kind of a personal thing. I mentioned earlier that I vacillate between the technical side, a problem solver side and a creative expression side. What I find is that when I get bouts of depression or general malaise, more than likely it’s because I don’t have a project. If I don’t have that, if I’m not constantly creating, then I’m not my true and authentic self. So, Spritewrench truly is the vehicle to facilitate that and try to spot other people locally who have that same makeup. As well as to connect with them and ensure that I keep myself sane and happy. Long story short, motivation is not the hard part. For me, it’s managing all the other aspects of it, like not going too crazy on it and throwing off my work-life balance completely.
Q. So, I’ve noticed that you you’ve worked your way up from the lower rungs of IT then into a management role and you’re now an entrepreneur. What was that journey like for you?
A. Right now, I still do have a day job as a Business Analyst, and I am also an entrepreneur. In terms of working my way up, a bit of background, I worked with FiMi Wireless. I started at the lowest rung as an IT officer; I was doing technical support, fixing printers, firewall work and stuff like that. Eventually, I got myself in management positions and found that some of the decisions that you didn’t understand, like, why is management doing this and whatever. I kind of got to experience first-hand why that’s the case. Then from there, I realised that there was a gap in terms of my own knowledge, so I got an MBA to round that out.
The journey has been interesting. I definitely appreciate my technical roots, and it allows me to communicate with people pretty clearly. I do try to always remember some of the difficulties at the start, like, not understanding why management is doing certain things, and I try to mitigate that as much as possible. I am able to smooth things over and offer clarification about these things because if there’s no buy-in from the team, I definitely understand how detrimental that can be to self-esteem, motivation, etc. So, I try to address that to the best of my ability in whatever role I’m in.
I’ve moved around from management on to project management, and now I’m currently in a business analyst role, which is, weirdly still enough within the same technical business-like creative space. It’s really and truthfully remembering where I’m coming from, remembering the difficulties that I faced and then trying to smooth that out for people coming up. At the same time, I also now have an appreciation for the grief that my managers would have gone through at the time. So, it really feels like this ongoing lesson in empathy.
Q. What advice do you have for others who want to enter the field of IT, or are apprehensive about entering?
A. The advice I give is probably, listen first, Google and then ask questions in that order. Oftentimes when somebody explains a situation to you or explains a problem, they kind of detail exactly how they’re experiencing it from their point of view and that can give you a lot of clues on how to address the problem directly. A simple example could be a Help Desk ticket that says the ‘computer is not turning on.’ If you listen carefully, you’ll notice why. For example, they’ll say, “Oh, you know, I just came in from lunch, and you know, I open up the store and everything, turned on the computer and it’s not turning on” With this case, if you’re listening you could ask, “oh, well, did you try turning on the light switch?” Then they might say “No, I haven’t.” They go over and turn on the switch and realise there was a power outage.
Next one is Google. The reason I say this, rather than ask a question first is that learning how to Google things really kind of teaches the sense of self-sufficiency and really sharpens up problem-solving skills because a lot of information is already there like Stack Overflow. If you prioritise looking it up or trying to solve the problem yourself first, in as non-destructive a manner as possible. I’m not saying like, try and write a script to solve the problem or something like that, but non-disruptive research will give you a lot of adjacent information as well as refine your entire problem-solving approach. For example, you find out that the printer is not working. Why is the printer not working? You look up the model of the printer, you check and see if anybody else is having similar problems. You search and eventually find that one forum post five pages deep that says “if you own this model of printer after five years, you really need to clear the tray. If you don’t do that it’s going to give you this error.” Then someone else would say ‘run this thing that resets the counter because you don’t need to do that,’ you`ll have that knowledge. Then you ask questions, you ask your supervisor, “Hey, I saw this, it seems non-destructive, can I go ahead and do it?” Then your supervisor will say something along the lines of either sure, go ahead, or no. Either way, you realise that you understand the problem, increased your own personal knowledge and sharpened your skills. You can show later on that you are a thinker and not waiting for others to spoon-feed you information.
Q. What other areas do you use to express your creativity?
A. It’s not really outside of Spritewrench, but I do illustrations and some light graphic work. I’ll often find art pieces that don’t necessarily directly relate to the game or interesting colour combination from scrolling through Instagram. Something about it pops, and I want to see if I can take the same colours and give it a similar treatment or even a pose. I would try and replicate it for whatever reason.
Q. Okay, so a lot of what you do links to Spritewrench but what do you do for fun?
A. Throwing out the obvious answer, video games, I actually read a lot. I’m a voracious reader, specifically high fantasy, sometimes sci-fi. One of my favourite series just released their 16th novel, which is the Dresden Files. I just finished reading that, and it was great. I’m looking forward to the next one which would be later this year among others. I also read a lot of web novels. My favourite one right now is A Practical Guide to Evil, which is just phenomenal.
Q. What are your next steps. Your plans for the future (3-5 years)?
A. In the short-term, I’m planning to finish up and release Questlike Pocket. Within the next 2-3 months, I want to finish the alpha then for the medium term secure some form of funding. If funding is unavailable, then I’ll just self-publish. Depending on the responses, I’ll continue to support the project. I have about 2 years mapped out for it right now. This is liable to change based on a number of factors, but that’s where my focus is right now.
Q. So my final question is, what is the one thing about IT or your area of IT that you would change in the Caribbean and why?
A. One single area? If I’m going to choose one, it would be looking at software development and the cultural impact that creativity had in that space. A lot of players in the market look at IT as a form of immediate money-maker. Like, ‘how much dollars can investing in the IT department make me,’ rather than how much money is being saved by having IT people on staff. Somehow that also dovetails into, looking at software development itself as something not just being a money-maker because not everyone wants to be the next Facebook or the next Steve Jobs. Some people are making a lot of cool and interesting things, only for creative expression. And that’s important because that has a cultural impact. Oftentimes, we tend to ignore that completely until somebody else somewhere external looks on it and says, ‘hey, that’s cool’. That is when we go to invest. It’s something that we keep seeing repeated within music, dance, art, and we’re kind of seeing the same thing happen again in IT.
Q. Now I want to ask more questions, are you saying that in the Caribbean currently, we are being too passive?
So I actually kind of cheated, I said two things. In the Caribbean, we’re not necessarily passive here we tend to be a bit too dollar focused when it comes to investing in IT and looking for immediate returns rather than the far-reaching impact. That’s what I mean when I say I kind of cheated and gave two answers. If you talk to any Sys-Ad (Systems Administrator) at almost any company in Jamaica, you’re going to hit the same problems over and over, and it’s the same if you talk to a technical manager. They always have to justify the existence of the IT department, and It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve saved the company. It also morphs into the department needing to generate money-making ventures as well, that has happened in my experience. The thinking is that ‘we have all these developers, why aren’t we developing anything?’ To sum it up, we’re too focused on return on investment and not on the other ways in which value can be extracted from it.
I had to agree with Glen on that last point. IT is so multifaceted, yet it is generally viewed in a limited capacity.
Thank you so much for checking out this interview with Glen Henry, Business Analyst, founder and CEO of Spritewrench. If you would like to interact with Glen and other like-minded individuals within IT of varying experience levels check out the Caribbean Cyber Support Team and join us on Discord.
This interview was done and written by Daneille N. O’Neil, MSc. ISM, Freelance Writer with G5 Cyber Security, Inc.