Play for Life: What You Need to Know About Becoming a Video Game Developer
If you love video games, you’re definitely not alone!
Gaming is a 23.5 billion dollar industry, with 63 percent of homes housing at least one person who plays video games. Women make up almost half of the gaming population, and the average gamer is 35 years old.
With such an exciting industry that is constantly evolving (think virtual reality, gamification and more) why wouldn’t you want to take your hobby to the next level and create a career of it?
If you’re seriously considering becoming a video game developer, you’re in the right place! Learn some helpful first steps that you can take to level up to your future career.
6 tips for future video game developers
1. Dive in to development
"You will learn so much through trial and error."
“Dive in and start making games,” advises Matt Engesser of Epic Games. “You will learn so much through trial and error. Also this will allow you to see all the different aspects that go into making a video game, even if it is a simple platform.”
2. Check out conventions
“Networking will be a huge help and conventions are the best place to start,” Engesser says. He recommends saving up some cash to check out the Penny Arcade Expo, a conference for game fanatics featuring console free play, panels, a hand-held lounge and more with five locations around the states. Then possibly, attend the more “formal environment” of the Game Developers Conference (GDC).
According to the GDC website, the conference “features over 400 lectures, panels, tutorials and roundtable discussions on a comprehensive selection of game development topics taught by leading industry experts.” The conference also boasts their inclusion of some of the most relevant game development tools, platforms and services, which would make it a great place for someone interested in game development careers to stay relevant and make connections.
3. Pick a position
There are several different individual roles fall under the umbrella of game development, including animators, audio engineers, game designers and more. So take some time to research and explore to find out where your interests truly lie.
“Game development is one of the most appealing sectors in the software community,” says Jordan Hudgens, CTO of CronDose.com and cofounder of devCamp. “Within the game dev category there are multiple positions to pursue, including backend programming, user interface design, and various SysOps and DevOps roles, so it's important to first select what type of game development ecosystem that you want to fit in.”
4. Get educated
Like most tech-based professions, one of your first steps into the industry is gaining a solid foundation of knowledge on which to build your career. With such a variety of roles and responsibilities, educational paths may vary, but for the most part a background in computer science, software engineering or other related fields is preferred. Engesser chose the path of computer game design, graduating with a traditional bachelor’s degree. You can also begin learning the languages of video games to be even further prepared.
“From a language standpoint most games are built in C++, Java and Lua, with Lua probably being the easiest to learn,” Hudgens says. “From a design perspective, developers should have a solid understanding of frameworks such as Unity.”
5. Find an internship
“Internships are the next level as those will literally get your foot in the door,” Engesser explains. “You will gain relevant experience in the field and network at the exact same time.”
Engesser found that the majority of internship opportunities in the gaming industry were on the coasts, so if you’re serious about game development, you may want to consider relocating.
6. Be a learner
"Learn how to teach yourself almost anything."
In the tech industry as a whole, change is the name of the game. As a video game developer you will be in a state of constant evolution as new technologies and trends emerge. Learning to embrace the change is all part of the adventure.
“Learn how to teach yourself almost anything,” Engesser says. “I find myself daily having to learn new processes and tools to help out in various ways on my project.” He believes your biggest asset in the industry will be the ability to adapt and learn on the fly.
Control your career
Becoming a video game developer is a great career option for a gamer like you, but it can be a competitive field. If you’re not willing to relocate to chase down the career of your dreams, that’s ok!
There are several in-demand tech careers available in your own backyard that allow you to capitalize on those same skills and interests. Find the perfect fit for your future by familiarizing yourself with the Top 10 Computer Science Careers.