The Guide on how to start a career in game development

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Game development is a booming industry with a lot of excellent job opportunities. It combines creativity with technical work to create various video games for others to enjoy.

If you are passionate about this industry, it can be a valid career choice. Although it might be difficult to enter as there is a lot of competition, one can build a fruitful career. For many people, starting as a game developer intern is a great way to break into this sphere. But how to get there? In this guide, prepared in partnership with Jooble, you’ll learn all you need to know to get a job in game development.

What is Game Development?

It is a process of creating video games, to put it simply. Those could be titles for mobile use, consoles, or personal computers. There are games of all sizes, different mechanics, and target audiences. Some work for huge companies that release world-known titles, while others get employed in indie studios.

Overall, there are many roles in a game development team one can choose from, namely:

  • Software developer;
  • Writer;
  • Audio engineer;
  • Tester;
  • Animator;
  • Graphic designer.
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Some of these positions require technical expertise, while some rely on other competencies. In large companies, roles are separated and the teams are bigger. Smaller studios do not have as many resources so one professional might combine the responsibilities of different roles.

If you are interested in development, you’ll need to be an expert in software programming used in this industry.

Game Developer Responsibilities

The main duty of a programmer here is to write code for the game. Such professionals work as a part of the team. So you can be responsible for a specific section of a game or a particular element. Or, if it is an indie title, one can work on the entirety of it.

Often, game development is confused with game design. Although the professions sound similar, they are quite different when it comes to duties and focus.

Designers create a vision for a game – how it is going to start and where it is going to end. Developers bring this vision to life with coding. The first ones work on the idea, graphic design, and overall concept. They also are responsible for the flow of the game.

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Developers focus on the programming of all those concepts and elements. Overall, it is a role of a software programmer in game development.

Skills and Competencies of a Game Developer

In the early days of this industry, there were no educational requirements for programmers. There were no degrees in game development in general. However, now the situation is different. A lot of employers expect a candidate to have a college degree in Computer Science or Programming. This is evidence of one’s fundamental skills and competencies.

Yet sometimes it is possible to get into the industry without a college education as long as one is very skilled and has a great portfolio. It truly depends on the employer and their expectations.

As for the skills, an expert in this field needs to have strong hard skills, including:

  • Programming and software development practices;
  • Knowledge of video games, different types, mechanics, and elements;
  • Proficiency in programming languages used in this industry like C++, C#, Python, or Java;
  • Understanding of user interface design and character design;
  • Testing and debugging;
  • Expertise in database management (SQL).
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Also, one needs a set of soft skills, including:

  • Creativity;
  • Teamwork;
  • Communication;
  • Problem-solving;
  • Analytical thinking;
  • Time management;
  • Adaptability;
  • Storytelling.

Another requirement is to have some sort of experience in the field. The amount of experience expected depends on the role you are aiming at. But the overall rule is simple – the more of it you have, the easier it will be to get a job.

Start Your Career in Video Game Development

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to start your career in this industry and become an expert developer.

Step 1. Analyze Video Games

This is probably one of the most fun parts of the job. It is essential to know more about various titles and the best way to do it is to play and keep up with the industry.

Learn various types of games and look into the components that go into them. When you play it, think of why would developers make a particular decision or what is the purpose of specific elements. Besides entertainment, playing will help build an understanding of the user’s point of view and how the game works.

The key here is not to focus on one type of title but try different ones. Even if you are going to work with one genre in the future, it is good to have strong background knowledge.

Step 2. Get Education

The most common way to become a programmer now is to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Game Art & Design, or Software Engineering. Depending on the college, one can take courses with a focus on graphics design, storytelling, or gaming. Try to choose courses that will be helpful for your future career.

A degree always gives one a competitive edge in the work market. Also, it ensures the fundamental knowledge of software programming.

Another valid idea is to get specific certifications relevant to the industry.

Step 3. Focus on Specific Programming Languages

There are plenty of them out there, but you need to work on skills in those used in game development.  One can opt for an online course, bootcamp, or learn on their own.

The most widely used languages in the industry are C++, C, C#, Python, Java, and Lua. Also, get to know database management and such technologies as MySQL, MS SQL, or Oracle.

Step 4. Learn Storytelling

Although as a programmer you might not be responsible for storytelling, it could be your other competitive advantage among candidates. And it is always good to know more about the projects you work on.

Read about linear and non-linear storytelling, and watch some movies as examples. Get to know various narrative strategies and how they are used in games.

Step 5. Get Experience

It is important to try your knowledge in practice and build a portfolio. Even if you start small, it is incredibly valuable.

Here are some ways to get an experience:

  • Build your own small apps or simple games;
  • Work on some graphics art;
  • Get freelance gigs relevant to the career;
  • Search for internships in the industry;
  • Start as a game tester.

You can also consider starting a career in a game development studio or company even if it is not a programming position. This will give you a lot of valuable knowledge and allow networking. And with some effort and earning, you can transfer to a developer role later.

Now as you have skills and experience, you can start looking for opportunities. Often, it is easier to start in indie studios and small companies. Check the job boards and look into entry-level positions.

Make sure your resume is top notch and with some persistence and time, you are going to get the job you want.

Conclusion

A game developer is a great career that offers a lot of opportunities in terms of professional growth. It requires strong technical skills and an understanding of the industry. But if you are passionate about it and ready to put some effort in, the result is going to be worth it.

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