Games are a huge part of modern life and culture, and many aspiring techies would like to build games for a living. If this interests you at all, you’ve come to the right place. In this piece we’ll discuss what the game-development industry entails and what you need to learn to get a piece of the action.
Why Study Game Development?
There are a couple of pretty common ways for people to become interested in programming, and game development is high on this list. Many future engineers are also avid gamers early in life, and in many cases the kinds of people who grow up to write code are children who enjoy tinkering with the source code of their favorite games.
But even if you weren’t one of these people, game development is still a fascinating, challenging, rewarding place to learn and practice software development. Building good games requires you to master a number of technical disciplines, as well as creative ones like storytelling.
There aren’t many jobs where that’s the case.
And game developers get paid pretty well. With some experience they make on the order of $100,000/year, depending on where they’re geographically located. The programming languages most game developers use are also in demand in other industries, making a career pivot well within the possible.
Skills Required for Game Development
Game developers need command of a variety of programming languages and what are called ‘game engines’. Most positions are going to use C++, a language built to extend the ability of C to write object-oriented code. If you’ve never done any coding C++ can be hard to learn, but there are many resources available for it.
There’s a good chance you’ll be expected to know another C variant, C#. This one is easier to learn that C++, so if you’re not sure which one to learn first you should probably go with C#.
Speaking at a higher-level, most games are going to require high-performance graphics, sophisticated artificial intelligences, or both. Getting all the performance you can out of a graphics card requires a solid understanding of the hardware layer underneath, and how to talk to it. And AI is a truly vast field in which you could spend your entire life without ever running out of interesting things to explore.
Becoming a Game Developer
- There are three basic paths to becoming a software engineer. First, you could learn on your own. If you have experience in completing ambitious self-directed learning projects, this might be the best way for you to go. It’ll allow you to focus on what interests you and chart the fastest course into game development.
Check out this Career Karma post on the top game development courses.
- Second, you could go the traditional route and go to school for a few years. The advantage here is that you’ll have a structured, measured approach, and you’ll almost certainly cover vastly more theory this way than you otherwise would. That theory tends to come in handy when you’re really pushing the boundaries of the tools you’ll use in the future.
- The third option is coding bootcamps. Many web development bootcamps will give you experience working with languages like Java, which will be useful to game developers, but it’s up to you to determine whether or not this approach ultimately points you in the right direction.
With their increasing popularity and sophistication, game development is a more viable career path than it’s ever been. Happy coding!