I think I'd enjoy programming but as someone who is more interested in the art and design side of game development I wonder if I should focus on that instead
First, you need to figure out your passions. What is it that drives you. You say you think to might enjoy something, but that is very different from doing it day-in and day-out for the next twenty years of your life.
A book I frequently recommend is "What Color Is Your Parachute". Go get any edition -- there is a new one every year -- and work through the flower diagram. It takes a few days of soul searching to complete it properly, but when you are done you can have a solid understanding of what you really want out of your career.
Since you want game development as a career, that means a lateral move is in order. Look for a job that is similar to your current job, but in a game company. Then if you still want to, use your new contacts and work history within the industry to move again into the target job.
You say you are already an artist, although you don't say what your 'main job' is. Consider a job as a texture artist or concept artist at an existing game studio. I've known game programmers who started out as game artists, then became technical artists, and finally moved to programmer positions. If your 'main job' is working with people, consider a job as a producer. If your 'main job' is contacting people, consider a job in marketing. Etc., etc.
First off I want to say that I really appreciate the feedback from everyone. You've given thoughtful replies and I am very grateful for it.
To answer your questions:
1) Honestly, my current job is what drives me to find something better. I'm working as a sort of jack-of-all-trades for my family's business. They sell construction equipment. I have grown to enjoy it and have learned a lot but my favorite work for them has been designing their website, product catalog, and newsletters. I'm unhappy there, though, as my marketing and web/graphic design skills are underutilized. I am currently doing freelance work on the side.
But I believe this answer needs further clarification. To be clear, I live and breathe video games as well as design. I'm not saying I'm an amazing designer but I believe I have the potential to make great things. So why haven't I pursued this earlier? There's a few reasons.
For one, I've grown tired of a lot of what comes out now. However, the digital distribution and indie side of things have re-ignited my passion. It has shown me that interesting, original ideas can still find an audience to enjoy and support it. Then there's the question of how in the world would I get a job as a designer if I didn't have any strong secondary skills to get me there. Perhaps I had gotten some half-hearted advice years ago, I'm not sure, but I'm not a great artist. I'm just a serviceable one. I never thought I'd enjoy programming until recently (math was never my strong suit). I've never been the most outgoing of people so being a producer seemed a bit of a reach. So, I became discouraged and felt that game development was a pipe dream for me. But I've had a change of heart for several reasons, many have been mentioned above.
2) Thank you for sharing that book. I will check it out.
3) Michael: Right. If I was to learn how to program it'd be primarily a means to an end. One, while it'd be satisfying to be able to program the game or software myself, I'd still be doing it out of necessity. As stated, designing it is what I want to be focusing on.
Edited by jabjab, 29 May 2012 - 04:51 PM.