The surest way to succeed in life and still have fun is to turn a hobby into a job. That’s exactly what those who decided not only to play but also to make games did. Many players at some point ask the question, “How do I become a game developer?” They ask what it takes, whether you need any special talent or background for it, whether you had to hit math in school, and so on. For those who wonder, Jooble prepared a guide on how to start a career in game development.
Who is a game developer?
First of all, a “game developer” is not necessarily a programmer. The game developer is a common name for many professions involved in game development. These are game designers, artists, programmers, managers, and testers. And each of these professions, you’d be surprised, is not the final specialization of the developer. For example, artists are 3d-modelers, artists, and animators. Programmers are gameplay programmers, graphics programmers, and tool programmers.
Of course, to create a game you don’t need to have a whole army of employees. They can be developed by a small team, limited to game designers and programmers, or even alone, combining several professions at once.
How do you begin your journey?
First of all: think about, when you imagine the rosy prospects of a dream job, what exactly would you like to do “developing a game”? What exactly do you think you would most enjoy doing? Writing the script/story? Drawing characters? Planning levels? Caution: when you identify “game developer” and “game programmer” you could be making a mistake. Choosing the wrong profession, spending months or even years moving in the wrong direction. If you’re a great screenwriter (you write original plots), you shouldn’t go deep into programming. If you have artistic talent, there’s no point in studying to be a tester. Choose the profession in which you can fully develop yourself.
Do I need a major in this field? In today’s world, many professions can be self-taught. There are paid and free training lessons, online schools, and books.
If you are a high school student — you are in luck. It is now necessary to choose the direction in which to move. You do not need to retrain, you are a blank slate.
Who to be?
The most popular path — starting your career as a tester — is not at all obvious. This profession often seems simple, but in practice, many people misunderstand its essence. The task is not to play around the clock. You need to write test cases and conduct automated testing of different parts of the project.
The second myth: tester is the first step in gamemaking, after it, you can get a “normal” position of a programmer, game designer, etc. Testing in games is a separate serious area of knowledge, in which you can spend a long time improving, and the desire to work for six months as a tester and move to another profile the employer is unlikely to please.
On the other hand, sometimes people grow out of QA and take higher positions. However, this scenario is complicated and can take many years.
A community, SMM, or PR manager is a rare opportunity to work remotely with low entry requirements: you need a good command of language and knowledge of the specific game. True, and the disadvantages are obvious: low pay and unclear career growth. On the one hand, it is a good stepping stone on the way to game marketing, on the other hand, a remote employee may not be perceived as part of the team.
In this role, you have to communicate a lot with people and explain about failed updates, patches and rebalances, while getting almost nothing in return. That’s the price you pay for your place in game dev.
Contrary to popular belief you can start your way in game making with this position, moreover, every year it’s getting easier: open the Steam Workshop and make, for example, a storyline for Skyrim. Repeat this many times, get a playable and engaging version — and here you are a budding game designer.
There is an endless amount of room for improvement in working on game art. There are 2D and 3D artists. It is best to initially “pump” only certain skills, and when they will be at a decent level, little by little add new functionality. Do not apply for a job as an artist without a portfolio.
Carefully study the company’s projects and select the appropriate portfolio. Online courses and available tools can help you learn from scratch. A little secret: pay attention to games with custom content and create something for your favorite project. If players like your work, you’re on the right track.
There are dozens of resources for teaching programming online. But it’s better to start from school days. You can focus on a programming language (C++, Swift), or a game engine (Unity, Unreal). Or start to deal with the server-side (Java).
The programmer should choose a specialization at once, it is very difficult to change the language in the process, so try different options beforehand, and then invest your time in a particular area. And remember one more thing: a programmer should take into account the opinion of colleagues, and constantly coordinate their work with artists, designers, and others — to find the best solution for everyone.
What about jobs?
If you look at the job sites, most companies want employees with experience. Where do you get that experience? For example, if you want to become a programmer — try to develop a game yourself. If all goes well — add to your portfolio, and after a while try to redesign it, make it better. Show employers your potential. The key factor in many places is experience, not a degree. And the best demonstration of experience is a portfolio.
Try to get a job at some studio as an intern. Some game studios have training courses and internships afterward. Choose small companies so you have somewhere to grow and develop in the future.
If you were rejected at one interview today, citing little experience, that’s no reason to give up on your dreams. Learn, learn, and try sending your resume to other companies. The game industry is highly competitive, but there are always plenty of vacancies in this field.
And the salary?
According to PayScale, the average salary in the U.S. gaming industry is $75,573 a year. Testers make the least — on average, about $40,483 a year. Programmer talent is valued at more than one and a half times that — $64,744 a year. Artists and animators get about $71,071 each.
Designers aren’t too far behind artists and animators, earning $69,266 a year. Sound specialists and composers, on the other hand, are paid an average of $82,085 per 12 months.
Business and marketing departments get the most. The average salary in this segment is $96,408, but there is quite a complicated hierarchy: while PR managers make about $83,804, department heads make up to $129,167.
One final piece of advice.
Be persistent and don’t give up. Like many things in life, developing your skills and getting a job in the game industry is not easy. You’ll feel like you’re banging your head against a wall-you’ll be discouraged. We’ve all been there.
The path to the video game industry will be through a lot of months and rejections. Those who get jobs in the industry are the ones who, no matter what, keep trying despite rejections. Constantly work on yourself and your skills. Every rejection you get should motivate you to work harder until, eventually, you get an offer. Of course, it doesn’t feel good when your job application is rejected. But just remember that you have to fail before you can succeed — each rejection brings you one step closer to doing your first job.