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How to Become a Game Developer

As the internet and web applications become a bigger part of our lives, the gaming industry's growth has exploded, and with it, the demand for Game Developers. Gaming companies are releasing products on our phones and computers, where we are spending more and more time.

Someone has to build, update, and maintain the games people play every day. Worldwide, Game Developers are in high demand, commanding impressive salaries. Game development is an attractive career path for many, especially for those that enjoy gaming.

So, how do you become a Game Developer? In this guide, we give you all the information you need to decide if a career in game development is right for you. We also provide details on Game Developers' salaries and training programs.

What is a Game Developer?

Game Developers are responsible for designing, programming and testing games. Their work involves creating the visual content of a game as well as writing the code necessary to implement its features.

Game Developers create specifications for a game, and use those specifications to inform the plan. They create the storyline, characters, activities, scoring system, and environment of the game, breaking each component into smaller parts assigned to different team members.

These professionals use programming languages to write the code that supplies the logic and allows the player to interact with the game. But the work of a Game Developer does not stop there—throughout the development process, they must also test the game and debug code to ensure users have a seamless experience.

Game Developers continue to make improvements to the game after its release. Such enhancements include add-ons to the game that introduce new levels and functionality.

This is a list of the main responsibilities of a Game Developer:

  • Translate specifications into efficient code
  • Create and maintain the engine on which the game relies
  • Produce prototypes and create code to implement them
  • Create a development schedule and determine milestones
  • Create unit tests and quality assurance procedures
  • Fix bugs and resolve other problems to maintain the game
  • Animate characters and objects

Job Outlook

Game Developers are handsomely rewarded for their services. According to Glassdoor, most Game Developers earn between $47,000 and $88,000 per year, with the national average at $56,000.

Salaries in the sector vary widely depending on the company and the location. Game Developers in San Francisco report earning an average of $70,200 per year. The same Game Developers in Seattle would earn $64,500.

Your salary will also vary depending on experience. Senior Game Developers (developers with extensive educational and/or work experience) earn an average of $110,000 per year. Keep in mind that this does not include stock options, employee benefits, or other perks offered by some tech companies.

How Can You Become a Game Developer?

Several paths can lead you to your dream job—becoming a Game Developer. These are some of the most common ways to kickstart a career in game development:

  1. Earn a university or college degree in computer science, animation or related field
  2. Attend a coding bootcamp specializing in game development
  3. Self-teaching using the many resources freely available on the Internet

Each path has its advantages and drawbacks. Pursuing a college degree will provide you with a well-rounded education in computer science, opening the doors to a career in game development.

Coding bootcamps are an excellent alternative to a college education. A coding bootcamp allows you to acquire the skills you need to thrive in a specific career in tech in a fraction of the time you would need for a university degree. Also, during your time at a bootcamp, you will build your professional portfolio to show potential employers.

Top Skills Needed for Game Development Careers

To succeed as a Game Developer, you need to develop and master a host of skills. These can be divided into two categories: technical or hard skills, and interpersonal or soft ones.

Essential Technical Skills

The technical skills needed to become a Game Developer include programming languages and development concepts.

  1. Game engine:

    Game Developers need to master at least one game engine. Unity is the most popular development platform for creating multi-platform and interactive games. Other companies use other tools, such as the Unreal Engine. Game Developers need to know how to use a game engine to create, update and maintain a game.

  2. Programming language:

    Game Developers need to know at least one programming language. The most popular one for platform games is C#, which is similar to Java, another language you may be expected to know. Game Developers may also need to know Python and Lua.

  3. 2D/3D modeling:

    To become a Game Developer, you should be able to model 2D/3D assets using tools like Unity, Maya, Blender and RealFlow. You will also be expected to manage assets for a game, and iterate upon existing asset models.

  4. Programming specialty:

    These professionals must master at least one programming specialty. For example, if you’re working on game mechanics, you need to know about animation and physics; those working on multiplayer support need to know about web services and networking.

  5. Prototyping and testing:

    As a Game Developer, you should be able to produce prototypes of gameplay ideas and features, including low-fidelity and high-fidelity versions. You should also be able to write test cases and test plans as well as execute a game test effectively.

Essential Soft Skills

Here are the soft skills you will need to succeed in a career in game development:

  • Teamwork:

    As a Game Developer, you will most likely work in a team, so you must feel comfortable working with others. You will be expected to lend a hand to your teammates if they need help.

  • Creativity:

    Making games is a very creative endeavor. Game Developers need to find creative solutions to difficult programming problems, such as designing the assets of a game, and figuring out how the player interacts with the product.

  • Problem-solving:

    All positions that involve programming require a high degree of problem-solving. Game Developers must be able to think critically and break down problems into smaller components that can be tackled individually. You will be expected to anticipate the challenges that users could encounter in a game and find solutions.

How to Become a Game Developer

Becoming a Game Developer involves the following steps:

  1. Learn about game development by attending a bootcamp, earning a degree at a university or college, or teaching yourself using resources available online
  2. Develop and practice your technical skills
  3. Build your portfolio
  4. Write your technical resume
  5. Search for jobs

It’s a lot of work. The good news is that Career Kaarma can help you every step of the way. We provide the mentorship and coaching you need as well as access to a community of peers that can support you in your career as a Game Developer.

Career Karma also helps you find the best game development bootcamps, so you can get the training you need to succeed in your new career!

Get matched to top bootcamps