What a Video Game Developer is, and How Do I Become One?

What a Video Game Developer is, and How Do I Become One?

Remember being a kid, barely old enough to hold a controller, and marveling at the landscapes and features of your favorite video games? Maybe that passion you felt gave way to the dream of one day making a video game of your own. You’d help craft a riveting story, build huge and inviting levels, and release the next big installment for all to explore. Well, now is the time to do some exploring of your own! Let’s take a closer look at what makes a video game developer, what their day-to-day life is like, and how you can prepare to join the profession.

Game developers write software code that translates artistic concepts into playable game features that can work on mobile phones, console systems and computers. It’s a competitive industry, but with the right teamwork abilities, professional development and networking, you can become a video game developer.

In this article, we discuss the steps you can take to become a game developer. We also provide salary information and answer other frequently asked questions about this profession.

What is a Video Game Developer?

Video game developers, or game programmers, are the professionals behind the software and programming efforts that develop games into the fully accomplished works you know and love. They spend months (and even years) creating the artificial intelligence used to dictate non-playable character actions, building fundamental mechanics, and fixing any issues that can potentially arise. To accomplish this, programmers write code using their knowledge of popular game development programming languages including Java, C++, and Python. They also need experience using game engines such as Unreal, CRYENGINE, or Unity. These are software frameworks with relevant libraries and support programs used to develop video games.

But life as a video game developer isn’t just spent in front of a screen. These tech professionals are experts at delegating tasks to their team of coders and master communicators, ensuring everything the design team creates gets as close to their vision as possible.

How to become a game developer

Here are several steps you can take to become a game developer:

1. Obtain a bachelor’s degree

Most game software developers have a formal education background, with at least a bachelor’s degree. Employers tend to prefer candidates who have completed four-year degree courses as they have a more in-depth scientific grounding that is necessary for game development. Check with colleges in your region to find out if they have any degree programs that can help you with becoming a game programmer.

While attending a full-time four-year college is the most established way of getting a video game programmer education, you can also get a game programmer education by taking an accredited online program. The popular specializations for game developers are computer science and computer engineering.

The coursework can cover C#, C++, Perl, computer 3D graphics, calculus, game algorithms, object-oriented design and network fundamentals. Some courses also include training with Unity 3D, Unreal Engine and other video game engines.

This training will also help to develop your critical thinking and problem-solving skills and your ability to undertake quality and operations analysis.

2. Brush up your math and physics skills

To become a game developer, you need to have solid coding skills, for which a basic knowledge of mathematics and physics is essential. You need mathematical skills to create equations that can direct computer systems to perform in specific ways.

For instance, for animation programming, you need to know calculus, trigonometry and linear algebra. Also, knowing physics can help you to understand concepts like mass, inertia and thermodynamics.

While the physics, graphics and lighting engines offered by prominent game development platforms have made things easier for game developers, you should still brush up on your maths and physics skills. Degree seekers in video game development should get an in-depth education in linear algebra, basic algorithms, trigonometry and geometry. It will also help to know calculus, statistics, combinatorics, physics, game theory and AI algorithms.

3. Brush up your software engineering skills

Game developers need to be proficient in hardware technology and C, C#, C++, Java, Python, Lua and other programming languages to write code that will craft everything about the game. While you will probably learn these as part of your degree course, it will help to refresh yourself periodically and stay updated through online forums, tutorials, guides and videos.

It can be beneficial to have experience in using MySQL, Oracle or MS SQL for database development. You should also know about server backend implementation, and be aware of changes in the system architecture. Since there are constant system updates, you will need to take a dynamic approach to your design, coding and structuring to keep up.

4. Brush up your storytelling skills

Most game studios have writers to create original stories or new adaptations of existing comics, novels, films and so on. However, it will still help game developers to know about linear and non-linear storytelling and narrative techniques. In a linear storyline, the players’ actions drive the story forward, while in non-linear games, the actions that the players take will determine how the story will unfold.

Understanding how stories develop and reach a satisfying end can give you a much-needed perspective in writing the increasingly complicated code that is necessary for such storylines.

5. Build a game developer portfolio

Your game development experience and portfolio are crucial factors in determining if you will get a position with a video game studio. One of the best ways to get practical experience, build your portfolio and attract the attention of large game studios is to design and develop your video games. Create simple games at first, and then work your way up to more complex ones.

When you add the games to your game developer portfolio, include screenshots of game scenes to allow interviewers and game studio executives to evaluate the games. Also, include links to the game installation software to allow them to try out the games. If you collaborated with anyone to create the games, mention that in your portfolio notes.

6. Get an entry-level game developer position

Getting started in the video game industry can be challenging for new entrants. If you have advanced skills and a very well-polished portfolio, you may be able to get a job at once with a major game studio. Otherwise, it will help to get an internship first and work in entry-level positions with smaller studios.

It will be easier to advance in your career once you have gained the necessary work experience and have a more extensive game development portfolio. Scan the job boards on leading game industry websites to get an idea of what employers are currently looking for and try to align your resume to these requirements. If you don’t have the in-demand skills, acquire them as soon as possible.

7. Prepare for stiff competition in the job market

The job competition is intense in the game industry, so keep improving your coding skills and be prepared to work long hours. Stay informed on industry trends and developments, attend video game seminars and conventions and network with industry professionals. Participate in online game forums, ask questions about how to become a video game programmer and help others out with the information you have.

Networking with your fellow developers and other industry professionals may help you with your career development goals. Insiders often know of new jobs or opportunities that sometimes never appear on regular job boards. Additionally, they can write you a recommendation or give you valuable tips to increase your chances of finding work.

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