The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Video Game Developer
The gaming industry is constantly changing and developing. It offers not only entertainment for users but also great career opportunities for professionals.
Video game developers help bring a concept to a playable reality. They design and develop various elements, features, and iterations. If you are interested in work-from-home game developer jobs, this article will cover all about this profession and how to get into the industry. In partnership with job aggregator Jooble, we’ve created an ultimate guide to a game developer career.
What is a Video Game Developer?
It is a crucial role in creating and releasing video titles. Such experts play a part in developing visuals, interfaces, game logic, and various features. Also, they perform tests and fix any errors and bugs to provide a smooth experience for users.
Often this position is confused with the game designer role. Yet, those are quite different. Designers are preoccupied with the creative part of the process while developers do the coding.
Depending on the company you work for, you might specialize in a specific niche like AI, VR, or level building.
Types of Developers
Overall, there are four types of developers in the industry, namely:
- Game developer – works on a game for a single platform/console (for example Retro Studios or Obsidian Entertainment);
- Second-party programmer – creates games only for consoles (Game Freak);
- Third-party programmer – creates their own titles to release themselves or for other publishers (Ubisoft and Electronic Arts);
- Indie developer – works with indie and often self-funded games as a member of a small team (Thekla).
One can also specialize in a particular console, game type, or particular element.
Duties and Responsibilities
The exact duties depend on the type of programmer you will be and the employer. Indie studios do not have a lot of resources and often one professional does a lot of different tasks. Huge corporations have large teams and experts tend to focus on specialized fields.
For example, in a small team, you will probably do the testing yourself. But in a bigger one, testing is usually done by separate specialists. But there are some core responsibilities that every video game developer has, such as:
- Developing and programming visual elements;
- Animating various objects and elements in a game;
- Working on new ideas for design;
- Creating prototypes, iterations, and gameplay flows;
- Creating validation procedures to maintain the overall quality of the code;
- Collaboration with designers, artists, producers, and quality analysts during the whole project;
- Reviewing, improving, and upgrading existing code;
- Evaluation and maintenance of game performance and stability on different platforms;
- Migration-specific elements from one system to another;
- Fixing any errors, bugs, or mistakes when they arise;
- Creating technical specifications;
- Programming updates and new features for the released game.
As for the required skills, you’ll need specific hard skills (programming languages and tools) and soft ones (communication, problem-solving, creativity, and teamwork).
Game Developer Job Outlook
It is a fulfilling career with good growth prospects. A lot of people get into this industry because they love games and enjoy the creative process. Gaming is quite popular all over the world, so there are a lot of career options out there.
The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects a 25% growth for software developers in 2021-2031, which is significantly higher than average. It means that there is a high demand for specialists and it is only going to grow in the future.
As for the salary expectations, Salary.com states that the average annual rate for video game programmers in the US is $69,137. But the numbers vary based on experience, education, certifications, employer, and rare skills.
It is safe to say that this is a good career with great prospects.
How to Become a Game Developer
If you are passionate about this industry and have an interest in the technical aspect of it, this step-by-step guide will help become a professional programmer in the field.
Step 1. Get Education
Although a college degree might not be always necessary, it gives a competitive edge in the work market. And it is a comprehensive way to learn all the fundamentals and best practices.
So if possible, it is good to apply for a Computer Science program. Some institutions also offer minors in Game Design and Interactive Entertainment, which is very helpful.
A degree ensures you have good coding skills, a general understanding of architectural requirements, and a lot of practice when it comes to programming. It also boosts networking, learning from experts, and finding specific niches you might like.
Step 2. Analyze Games
While you are studying in college, you can also do some work on your own. The most enjoyable part is to play existing titles and analyze them. This is useful to keep up with the industry and new developments. It also helps one learn more about various types of games, particular features, and storytelling.
You can understand how it works and why programmers made specific decisions. Pay attention to different iterations, elements, and overall performance.
Step 3. Learn Programming Languages
As the major part of your job has to do with coding, it is important to put effort into learning useful programming languages. Of course, the choice of a particular technology depends on a platform (PC, console, or mobile device) and internal interactivity.
But there are the most widely used languages in this industry, namely:
- C++ is one of the most common ones. It is relatively difficult to learn, yet it is very useful;
- Java is versatile and popular among indie and mobile programmers;
- HTML5 is essential for cross-platform solutions and cross-browser apps;
- Python is also used for development;
- Lua is a multiplatform language used in such titles as Angry Birds and Age of Conan;
- UnrealScript is used for Windows, Linux, Android, and PlayStation;
- C# is great for Windows and Xbox.
Among other technical skills, it is good to have a decent knowledge of database management (SQL, MySQL, or Oracle). One might get to know more about software programming best practices, version control, and the main testing tools.
Step 4. Consider Certification
Certifications are great whether you have a college degree or not as they prove your skills and competencies. There are plenty of online courses, boot camps, and programs to choose from. Some might even go for certification instead of an undergraduate degree as they are more affordable and take less time.
Choose only accredited courses given by respectable institutions.
Step 5. Gain Experience
There are several ways one can gain experience, such as:
- Work on personal projects;
- Do freelance gigs;
- Apply for internships;
- Work as a game tester;
- Apply for entry-level positions.
It is important to build a portfolio and learn from practice to get the desired position. Starting small is a good opportunity to get into the industry and grow as a professional
Game development is a promising and fruitful career for those who are passionate about this field. Although technical skills take time to master, with the right effort and motivation, you can become a great developer and create some amazing titles.