Getting Started As A Video Game Developer In The Gaming Industry
Video game developers bring to life the designs, mechanics, and creative assets developed by the game design and art departments. They are the technical part of the team that makes games. Developers are skilled at computer programming and using various game engines to do their work.
The term “game developer” is sometimes used to reference everyone who works on the game, but in this article, we will use the term to mean those team members who “program” or “code” the game. With this in mind, let’s talk about what game developers do, what skills they need, and how you can improve your chances of getting a job in game development.
What Does A Game Developer Do?
Putting it simply, developers build the parts of a game that make it work. Lines of code in the thousands are written to describe everything in a game, from small things like rippling water to big things like the game’s physics. Game developers also add gameplay features, fix bugs, and make changes to the code already there.
You might also build tools for the rest of your team so that they can make their designs come to life as quickly or smoothly as possible. For example, you might program a graphic engine or work with the audio team to make sure that recorded clips play at the right time in the game and the right decibel level.
Sometimes, a developer’s job means telling game designers that something is not possible. Doing this tactfully is a skill in and of itself. It is not easy to tell someone that what they want to do cannot be done.
Career Skills for Game Developers
As we can see, video game developers perform many different tasks. Here are some helpful skills to have based on your level on the career ladder of a team.
Junior Level Skills
- Basic coding proficiency in C/C++/C#
- Comfort in dissecting and working with other people’s code
- Experience working with a game engine.
- Problem solving.
- Strong math skills
Intermediate Level Skills
- Strong coding proficiency in C/C++/C#
- Good written and verbal communication skills
- Detailed documentation of your processes
Senior Level Skills
- Expert coding proficiency in C/C++/C#
- Advanced technical architecture
- Leadership & influence skills
- Coaching & Mentoring experience
- Code analysis & review
- Ability to lead courageous conversations
Programming languages do not drastically change over time, but game developers must master them. The most common languages include C/C++/C#. Different studios place more weight on one of the three, but game developers must learn them all. Other coding such as Python, java script, Ruby, Elm and other language are always welcome but the 3 C’s are the main languages game developers look for.
Another important body of knowledge is understanding game engines, such as Unreal, Unity, and CRYENGINE, with Unreal and Unity being the most common. Anyone can download these game engines for free, allowing you to learn and practice with them. Game development jobs require a deep understanding of these and other engines, so make sure you start working on that right away.
A sometimes-overlooked skill is communication. The ability to clearly explain your ideas to laymen teammates is essential. Co-workers and bosses who are designers, artists, audio engineers, composers, producers, writers and more might have little to no programming skills. Explaining complex problems to them in a way they can understand is always a very useful skill that will help you tremendously as you progress up the career ladder.
Your Player Profile
If, you want to build video games? Then it’s time to make a character profile! Not ever playing the game you want to help build, is not a good way to start a career as a game programmer. Working as a video game developer, you should at least play the game or similar games so an employer can see your familiar with the concept, construct and competition, .
All your wealth lies beneath your hat!
A college degree is not a requirement in game development, though some companies may list it in job postings. It is not a must-have, but it sure is a nice to have for many studios. That said, having a formal education is a benefit. A good course in computer science provides a strong foundation for many kinds of programming, including games.
Not everyone can get a formal education and not everyone wants to spend the time and money to get one. Fortunately, there are other ways to learn the necessary skills for game development. There are many YouTube videos that can teach you the basics of game programming and how to create a portfolio to show potential employers. There are also online courses that provide certification. These courses are a cheaper and quicker route than universities.
The Three C’s
In traditional software development, a company might need someone who knows many different programming languages. In video game development, on the other hand, C, C#, and C++ make up most jobs. This means that, as a new or aspiring developer, you know where to focus your learning. While some studios may only use one of these, it is essential to learn all three.
C# is easier to learn than C++, but most PC, Xbox, and PlayStation games use C++. The only games that don’t use C++ are those that run on Unity. Learning all three of these, therefore, opens up more opportunities for employment with a larger number of studios.
If you want to know where you can learn these languages, please read the section above: you can use YouTube, articles, online courses, or even go to school.
Apprentice & Mentorships
Rookie game developers usually work closely with a more experienced team member. Use this opportunity to get feedback on your work and learn all you can from more experienced programmers. We have heard from many professionals in the games industry that feedback is very helpful, so always look for ways to get it, whether it’s from coworkers, online forums like Reddit, Discord communities or somewhere else. In short, always strive to learn more and improve your skills. Constructive criticism can help you build better games as a developer.
Tips To Get You Started
Your Work Resume
No matter where you are in your career, always have a resume that displays your professionalism and communicates your skills. Highlight any programming experience you have, whether it’s from school, your own projects (even including things like modding), or even a job. Also point out skills in communication and math.
While your portfolio is your most critical asset going into interviews, you may also need a resume and a cover letter to get you in the door.
Mods, personal projects, and code examples
Having something to show potential employers always helps you land the job you want. There are a few ways to do this.
It’s not unusual for companies to list “modding” as work experience. Modding sometimes involves modifying or changing parts of the original codebase of a game. Mods you have created proves to potential employers that you have some of the skills they require. Creating mods, or modding games, relevant to the studio in question makes your project even more impactful.
You can also show-off your skills with personal projects, making small games or demos using the free downloadable game engines mentioned earlier. Like mods, such projects can prove to a studio that you have the skills and the desire to create games.
Companies often ask for a code sample from people who want to work as junior game developers. This could be a personal portfolio or a GitHub page. Either way, you are giving the company a taste of your skill, so aspiring developers should definitely have samples prepared. Keep your code, clean, concise and easy for someone to see your skills. Sloppy shortcuts and lack of documentation will not impress the managers that will review your portfolio of work.
A Career Progression You Can Profit From
What can you expect to earn?
Entry-level jobs can pay between $40k and $50k per year, and senior and lead jobs can pay more than $100k per year. Glassdoor Salary Calculator says that the average salary for a job for a programmer or game developer in the US is around $70,000.
If this sounds like your dream job, do not wait to express interest. Seek out the career/jobs section of your favorite game website, check out gaming specialty job sites Hitmarker, and set up job alerts on LinkedIn or Indeed.
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