If you grew up playing video games, we can virtually guarantee that the thought of becoming a video game developer has crossed your mind. Being a rewarding career – both emotionally and monetarily – in an ever-growing industry, the appeal of becoming a game developer is massive.
But what exactly is a game developer? What does their job entail? How much do game developers make, and what qualifications are required to become one? We’ll answer all these questions, and more, right here in this article.
Game developers are responsible for the creation and production of video games. Whether they specialise in one area of game development, or are responsible for multiple areas of game development at once, a game developer is responsible for creating a fantastic gaming experience.
From company to company, games development can be a very versatile role. Nevertheless, nearly all the time, your primary tool as a game developer is your knowledge of code. The term ‘game developer’ is often synonymous with ‘game programmer’, considering the majority of your time spent will be writing, testing, and fixing code. That being said, you may not just be involved in programming, but also creative decisions, art design, sound design, and testing; especially in indie game developer companies, where more people need to fill more tasks.
It’s the role of the game developer to take the game designer’s concepts and form them into a playable game for consumers. This typically involves writing lots and lots of code, translating ideas into in-game content – and the game itself. Mechanics, graphics, artificial intelligence features; it’s the job of the game developer to build all of this out of code, making a strong base for the game.
From the game’s inception until its release (and after), the developer works very closely with all other members of the game’s team. They turn the designers’ ideas into workable code, implement the artists’ creations into functional game mechanics, and work on feedback from the testing team. Even after the game’s release, it’s the developer’s job to quickly fix any bugs that consumers come across in-game. Indeed, most modern game development companies release DLC (downloadable content) packs a few months after their game’s initial release. This keeps the developers busy throughout the downtime between game releases; so it’s certain that as a developer, you’ll never be bored!
Depending typically on the size of the game development company, the game developer may also have a hand in design. In indie games companies, developers and designers often work hand-in-hand, each assisting the other in their creative and practical roles.
The gaming industry is a competitive one, and finding development roles can be tough – but if you can break through, it becomes one of the most rewarding jobs in the industry. Keep in mind that this role can be demanding, though. High amounts of pressure and long, deadline-driven hours abound in the gaming industry. It’s necessary that you demonstrate a high level of drive, commitment, and programming practice – if so, you can get far.
In the past decade, game development has been recognised as a truly valuable skill, so many universities across the world now offer game development courses. Ideally, the best way to enter the industry would be with a relevant degree – but it’s by no means necessary to do so.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or even animation can seriously help you stand out to employers or funding-backers. It’s an immediate badge of quality you stick to your CV, and three years of study can open up a huge number of gates that would remain closed to you otherwise. Not only that, but we offer this consistent advice to any and all university students; make the most of it! If you go out of your way to make connections, build your portfolio, and network among your peers and professors, you could be walking straight out of university with a job. And nowadays, that’s becoming a more and more impressive feat!
Not only that, but three years of study will give you bounds of confidence. In a competitive industry, confidence is key. If you can sell yourself convincingly, you’re set for success; with knowledge comes confidence! Like any degree nowadays, your certificate alone won’t guarantee you immediate employment. Nevertheless, if you work hard and make connections, you’ll be in the best possible position to become a professional game developer.
For many people though, it’s not feasible for them to obtain a degree. Luckily for them, as with most careers, practical experience is king.
Indeed, you don’t need any formal qualifications to become a video game developer. What you really need is working knowledge of the most important parts of games development. In short, you really need to know your coding.
To be a functionally successful game developer, you’ve got to have the knowledge, experience, and fluency in multiple different programming languages. Your goal as a games developer should be to create the smoothest-running code possible, for whatever specification you’re given. You should be familiar with the most popular game engines, such as Unity, Unreal Engine, CryEngine, Amazon Lumberyard or Godot. Additionally, any programmers worth their salt should be proficient in C++, and to a lesser extent other languages like Java.
If you are looking for entry-level jobs to rise up the ranks in, game tester roles are ideal. If you stick with it, it may lead to a more senior role in the company, likely in game development or design. You’ll have built up the necessary knowledge of programming, development software, and critical thinking.
Also, don’t get bogged down trying to apply only to game development companies you’ve heard of. When beginning your career, your primary goal should be to get your foot in the door. Absolutely send those applications to Activision-Blizzard or Ubisoft – you never know what might happen! But focus primarily on offering your services to mobile or indie game development companies. Indeed, many small companies can’t afford to employ full-time in-house developers, so don’t be afraid to offer your services freelance. In short, the more experience, the better!
Being primarily a programming role, game developer salaries are quite attractive. Programming and software development jobs remain one of the best-paid professions for entry-level employees (but still not as good as those finance guys).
Entry-level indie game developers can range anywhere from £20,000-£30,000. With a few years’ experience, you could find yourself already making somewhere between £35,000 to £50,000. If you stay as a game developer for a long time, enough to get promoted to a senior position, you have the potential to make upwards of £75,000.
Those are some pretty attractive numbers – but bear in mind that pay can vary widely depending on many factors. These include what your specialism is, the size of the company you work in, and your location.
Like we said before, your best bet for starting out as a video game developer is to get a degree in games development, or an area relevant to it. Not only will this give you your badge of quality, but if you put the effort in and play your cards right, you stand to make some fantastic industry connections during your studies. You might find yourself walking out of university with both a degree and a job.
Indeed, don’t be afraid to delve into freelance work as an entry-level game developer. If you find you’re having trouble securing a permanent position, you’re not alone. Even in full-time employment, game development is a project-driven role. To gain professional experience, take a look at your options for fixed-term contracts and freelance work. There are some good websites that specialise in finding freelance games industry work; a few examples are Gamedev.jobs, GamesIndustry.biz and Games Jobs Direct.
Otherwise, the regular routes are the most reliable. We’re talking LinkedIn, Indeed, Reed, Glassdoor – the essentials for any job hunt. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is fully updated, and you’ll be on your way to landing your first role as a video game developer.
Growing up in the 2000s means the thought of becoming a game developer has crossed your mind at some point. Seen as a dream job by many, you’re taking the first step towards a fantastic (and well-paid) career – congratulations!
Whatever path you choose to venture down, whether it be degree-led or self-taught, make sure you do one thing; practice! Practice your coding, become fluent in multiple programming languages and game engines. Maintain that drive you’ve got, and harness it. Keep up with industry news, and create a few small games of your own. You’ll land an official video game developer role soon enough!
If you enjoyed this article, why not check out another on our blog? Here are a few to get you started: How To Become A Video Game Designer, How To Become A Video Game Composer, or What Does A Video Game Producer Do?
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