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How to Code a Game

Trent Fowler - July 27, 2021

Gaming is a popular pastime, and it’s getting more popular with every passing year. Not only are there now thousands of expansive, engrossing titles available; there are now internationally-recognized gaming competitions where the biggest names in e-sports gather to play for multi-million dollar payouts.

If you love gaming, it’s worth considering games as a vehicle for learning to code. Many talented developers and engineers got their start tinkering with game source code or building their own games from scratch.

There’s no reason you can’t do so too.

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Languages Used in Game Programming

Coding is a fundamental skill in building games.

If you dream of someday building games, you’re going to need to learn how to program. There are lots of languages you could start with, but the best one is probably C++.

C++ (not to be confused with C, C#, or Objective-C ) is a widely-used language that’s popular across many domains. C++ compiles quickly, has many third-party libraries for accomplishing common tasks, and enables programmers to handle lower-level tasks like memory management.

C++ is an intermediate language, meaning it sits somewhere between the low-level and high-level languages . This is important because applications like games tend to ask a lot of memory, processors, and graphics cards. Anyone programming a game is going to need to keep the constraints of the system in mind, and C++ allows you to work closely with hardware to accomplish this.

C# and Java are also great languages to learn if you’re an aspiring game developer.

Tools for Coding a Game

All craftsmen need tools.

Just like web developers don’t spend that much time writing HTML because they’re using a framework like Ruby on Rails, a number of platforms exist which make game programmers more productive.

Unreal Engine

The biggest example is probably the Unreal graphics engine. It can be used by people with zero coding experience and by experienced coders looking to cut down on the amount of programming required to make a beautiful game.


Unity is another popular game engine. With C# you can use Unity to create amazing iOS applications as well as compelling games. Some of the more popular indie games out there, as well as the Kerbal Space Program’s well-known flight simulator, were built with Unity. Later in this article, we cover some of the best courses to learn how to program a game in Unity.


Both Unreal and Unity either require a subscription or require you to pay for extra features. Not so with the Godot Engine, which is a free and open-source game engine for building 2D and 3D games.

Top Game Developer Skills

Becoming a game developer or game designer requires hard work and dedication. You need to develop and constantly hone particular skills that are essential to thrive in the industry. Below we discuss the main ones.

Coding Skills

Although there are several game engines that do not require programming knowledge, for the most part, it is safe to say that game developers should bring some solid coding skills to the table. The most important coding languages to learn as a game developer are C++, Java, C#, and JavaScript.

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Problem-solving Skills

Critical thinking skills are essential in the business. As a game developer, you will have to use your mathematical and coding skills to solve complex problems during the game development process. You need grit and patience to debug your game and ensure it is released in optimal condition.


Game designers need to be able to think out of the box to come with new concepts that will wow the audience. This creativity also helps them come up with cool character designs, beautiful worlds for them to inhabit, and lore that draws in the audience.


Game development can be a one-person affair if the developer is multifaceted. However, if we are talking about bigger projects, you will likely need to work alongside other professionals. In this case, collaboration and communication skills are key to fulfill the creative vision behind the game.

Becoming a game developer or game designer requires hard work and dedication. You need to develop and constantly hone particular skills that are essential to thrive in the industry. Below we discuss the main ones.

Developing a Game: Step-by-Step Guide

The game design process changes a lot depending on the type of game you are developing and for which platform. However, it is safe to say that, regardless of the particular game project you are working on, you will have to follow the following basic steps.

Nail Down Your Concept

Your head may be buzzing with game ideas. Are you looking to create beautiful indie games? Do you have a great idea for an action-adventure game? Have you been working on an epic story that will provide the perfect backdrop for an RPG? Whatever the case, the first step in the game development process is to settle on a game idea.

Choose a Game Engine

As we have seen above, you don’t need to code the game from scratch. Fortunately, there is a host of excellent game engines out there to aid you in the process, whether you are looking to code a simple 2D game or a virtual reality game. We’ve already discussed the Unreal Engine, Unity, and Godot, but there are many other excellent no-code or low-code tools out there like Playmaker, Construct 3, and GameMaker Studio 2.

Design Your Characters and World

Now that you have your concept firmly established and have chosen a game engine or platform, it is time to work on the art and design of your masterpiece. Whether you are working on an action RPG video game or a simple shooting title, creating fascinating yet believable and relatable characters that inhabit an attractive and rich world is paramount.

Create Music and Sound Effects

Another essential step in the game development process is deciding how the game will sound. The music and sound effects must match the mood of your game in order to fully immerse the player. For example, if you are working on a first-person shooter you might want something more raucous and fast, like rock. However, if your game is an RPG based on some picturesque kingdom from the Middle Ages, you might want to go for something more relaxed and melancholic.

Test the Game

Any developer should allocate sufficient time and resources for bug testing. This is the only way to ensure that your game is playable and in tip-top condition when it hits the market. Get as many people to try the game as possible. Make sure the game testers are playing your game on all targeted platforms.

Invariably, the testers will find bugs that need to be addressed. Fixing these bugs could be time-consuming, but you must ensure that your game is released as bug-free as possible, so make sure you have the resources to fix them.

Publish Your Game

You’ve made it all the way to the last step: publishing your game. After all your hard work, this last hurdle shouldn’t be too bad, but it still presents a burning question: Will you work with a publisher or self-publish your game?

Working with a publisher will save you time and effort in marketing, but you will still have to do a significant amount of due diligence to ensure you hire the right company. Although a publisher can help you reach a wider audience and rake in more money, it also represents a bigger investment.

Self-publishing is a perfectly viable option too, especially if you are lacking in the funds department, and if you like to do things on your own. Self-publishing involves more effort but it will also be a more rewarding experience and you’ll learn lots of new things along the way.

Top Game Design Courses

Taking a course in game development is a great way to test the waters and see if you are indeed game developer material. If you already have some skills in game development, one of the courses listed below can help you take your passion to the next level.

Introduction to Game Design by Coursera

Price : Free

Length : 6 hours

This beginner level course gives you a compelling introduction to the field of game design. Students learn what exactly a game is and become familiarized with the rules that underpin each type of game. All this is done on pen and paper as this course does not teach coding. You will work on four interlinked projects to develop a game concept. This course is part of Coursera’s Game Design: Art and Concepts Specialization.

Complete C# Unity Game Developer 2D by Udemy

Price : $89.99

Length : 35 hours

This Udemy course will help you build a solid foundation as a game developer and game designer. Mastering the basics of #C and the Unity game engine, the students are able to transfer their skills into other useful languages like .NET. By the end of the course, the students have a portfolio of 2D games that they can use to impress employers.

Advanced students will have no problem advancing through the coding portions of the course but beginner-level students may struggle. As such, better learn some basic coding before signing up for this one.

Professional Certificate in Unreal Engine Foundations by edX

Price : $537.30

Length : 5 months (3-4 hours per week)

One of the most advanced courses on our list, this professional certificate focuses on the popular Unreal Engine. The goal is to help students master the ability to create interactive 3D spaces and dynamic lighting effects. It also provides a comprehensive introduction to physics and the forces of simulation. The curriculum also covers animations and audio.

Due to the hefty price tag, this is a course for students that are serious about a career in game development.

3D Animation for Beginners by AIE

Price : $250

Length : 4 weeks

This course will help you master action animations, background animations, and any other type of animation you need for your game. It focuses on Autodesk Maya, one of the most widely used 3D animation software in the game industry. By the end of the class, you will have completed a short animation sequence using your own 3D assets and will have one more project to add to your portfolio.

How Long Does it Take to Learn to Code a Game?

Learning to program a game requires a lot of time and energy.

Coding might be a great way to find a career you love , but that doesn’t change the fact that it takes a significant investment to master.

How quickly you learn to code games will depend on your background, your learning approach, and how much time you spend focusing on coding.

Coding represents a pretty unusual way of thinking, and there’s no way of learning how to do it without just spending hours writing and troubleshooting. You can cut down on the time requirements by choosing good materials, consistently working on projects that are just barely within your skill range, and finding people who can help you when you get stuck.

You could be churning out beautiful, high-quality games in no time!

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Trent Fowler

About the author: Trent Fowler is a data scientist and writer with an interest in machine learning, blockchain technologies, and futurism.

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