If you have a genuine love and interest for video games and also love programming, now would be a perfect time to become a videogame developer. The possibilities are endless, and the industry is growing at a breakneck speed at the moment. You could work with a major company and develop games for PC or consoles or start your own little indie operation and make games for mobiles or browsers.
You need to be aware that there’s a lot of work involved in being a videogame developer. This is why you have to know what the job of a developer is truly like first. Let’s look at how you can start a career as a videogame developer.
You have to do some research on the industry before you get started. This will allow you to know which trends are shaping up for the future so you can position yourself correctly.
For instance, did you know that the mobile gaming industry will be worth about five times the PC industry by 2030? This is something you definitely need to pay attention to whether you want to work in a company or start your own.
You also have to research the industry to know how much of a personal and financial investment it will take if you want to start independently. You need to know how many resources you’ll need to start a successful gaming company on the support of your choice.
You might realize that starting with a console-oriented company demands a lot more capital and effort than starting a mobile or PC gaming company for instance. This will allow you to revise your game plan and come up with something a bit more realistic.
The next thing you should do before you embark on a career in video game development is to check if you have the skills and aptitudes needed to be a good one. It takes more than a passion for gaming to make it in this industry. It’s very technical work, and it can get boring from time to time even if you’re a hardcore gamer.
Coding video games is nothing like playing them. It involves a lot of problem-solving, so if you struggle in this area or tend to give up easily when you have to work on a problem for long hours, you might have trouble as a gaming developer. Developers have to work hours and even days on fixing issues with games and making them better, so you need to be a hard worker who doesn’t mind a challenge if you want to make it in the industry.
As a developer, you will also need to work as part of a team, so you’ll need to have basic soft skills. Knowing how to take orders if you’re lower down the hierarchy and giving them when you’re at the top is very important. Dev teams that know how to communicate are better able to fix problems and collaborate better. Teams that don’t communicate well start operating in silos which leads to all sorts of issues and slows down the development process.
You need to be well-organized, disciplined, and great at managing your time as a game developer as well. You’ll have to abide by strict deadlines for the sake of the people in your team, which means that you’ll also need to be able to deal with lots of pressure.
Besides that, you need to have basic math and computer skills. Video game developers also need to be curious by nature. This is what will push you to always stay on top of new trends and learn new ways of doing things.
The next thing we would suggest you do would be to get at least a basic coding formation. This will allow you to tell if you truly have what it takes to be a gaming programmer, but it will also show you if you like coding in the first place.
If your goal is to work with a studio, however, know that none of them will pick up a random developer from the street even if they have a great portfolio. You also need to have some sort of computing science degree so that you won’t end up getting stumped by some simple issue you never learned how to fix on your own.
You could get a bachelor’s degree, but if you really want to stand out as a candidate and have your resume moved to the top of the pile when applying, you should look at a master’s degree. Also know that you can get a master of computer science online through the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and earn your credentials in your own time. This is a much more convenient way to get a degree and could also allow you to get it slightly faster while keeping your current job.
The next step would be to start on a few vanity projects. Learn the ropes and hone your skills at first until you can create games that are playable and fun. Once you have a few of those under your belt, you can start building a portfolio. We would also suggest that you look for a few gaming forums and groups that you could join.
Speaking with other developers is one of the things that will allow you to improve your game developing skills the most. You’ll be able to share some of the issues you have encountered and see if other people have had to deal with those issues as well. They’ll then be able to tell you how they were able to fix these problems.
Joining game programming communities will also allow you to post your work and get it critiqued. Getting insight from people with more experience than you will help you tighten up your game design or notice things you would’ve never been able to with your limited experience. Programming communities can be a great place to network and find potential partners as well.
If you haven’t joined a few video game development forums and are looking for great ones, forums like IndieDB, Gamedev.net, and Kongregate are all great options. There are also many great subreddits for gaming development and people there tend to be very helpful and responsive. Don’t hesitate to use these groups to learn not only about gaming development but about the gaming industry in general.
Once you’re fairly confident about your programming skills, you can start getting a little bit more involved. One of the things we would suggest is that you start building your own blog. This can be a great place to start showcasing your creations, but you can also use this to speak about general news or issues with the industry.
Even though having credentials help, having a blog could help you stand apart when companies are looking for fresh talent. This will also allow you to build a community of your own and use it to build connections. You never know who might be reading one of your blog posts. You might find someone who would be ready to invest in you, or a scout wanting to recruit you to their team. Do not underestimate the power of blogging as a new developer, and consider starting one as soon as possible, even before you start getting your credentials.
You should also know that many gaming developers did not start with developing games. Many of them were doing small jobs in the industry first. So, you have to be ready to do work you aren’t crazy about before you can start developing. These jobs could also give you a little bit more insight into the industry if you are thinking of starting your own business.
One of the best ways to get started is to get an entry-level job as a game tester. Most testing jobs do not require that you have a special degree, which makes them one of the best jobs to get while you get your credentials. You’ll be able to learn about the development process and the most common issues with video games by testing, so don’t see it as just another job.
It’s also not uncommon for gaming companies to recruit from their pool of testers. So, if you end up testing multiple games for a company and they learn that you’re studying to get a degree, they might move you up to a more important role and have a spot ready for you once you complete your studies. This is why you need to treat your testing gigs seriously and use the opportunity to build valuable relationships that will be beneficial to you later on in your career.
You have to go above and beyond when testing games for companies as well. If you have special skills in design, for instance, and you feel like the game’s design could be improved, don’t hesitate to tell higher-ups. Don’t expect companies to see this as you being a know-it-all. They appreciate well-informed criticism and advice, and this is the kind of thing that will allow you to stand out.
Another thing you should do is look at internship opportunities. Even if it’s for free, working as an intern is one of the best ways to get insider information about the industry and get noticed. Some of the biggest names in the industry started that way, so don’t see it as a downgrade and look for as many internship possibilities as possible.
If your goal is to start your own gaming company, then the best thing you could do would be to start with a small indie title that you’ll either release for mobile or as a browser-based game. These games don’t require many resources, and this will be a good way to learn more about the game development process from start to finish.
You’ll also have a marquee game that you can use to start promoting your brand. Having a critically acclaimed game, even if it’s a small one, can do a lot to up your profile as a developer and could be enough for you to start attracting serious investors. What we suggest you do here is go with a genre that you love and are familiar with. This will allow you to craft a much better game as you know exactly what you like and dislike from these games and will make sure that your game has all the best features.
You don’t necessarily need to hire full-time employees at the beginning. You can have a head designer that you work with, but most of the work can be handled by good freelancers. If you’re looking for people to build your temporary dev team, sites like Toptal, Upwork, and Triplebyte are all great places to start your search.
From then on, you’ll need to learn how to use project management tools and methodologies such as Scrum and Kanban to coordinate your team remotely. You’ll need to hire quality testers as well to work out bugs before your official release. Once your game is ready, you can release it on the platform of your choice and start looking for different ways to build buzz for it.
This is all you need to do if you want to start a career as a game developer. Learn as much as you can about the industry, get your credentials, and be ready to knock on many doors and make many mistakes before you get your first big break.