Become a Video Game Developer

by Nancy

Video game developer is often a catch all term used to describe multiple jobs in the video game industry. Many use video game developer to refer to someone who programs video games, but roles such as game artist, sound designer and sometimes even testers may also be classified as video game developer.

Some of the general responsibilities of a video game developer include building the mechanics for a game, creating a graphics engine and programming artificial intelligence. Even if it is not listed as a specific responsibility, video game developers are often expected to test their products as well. Technical skill, problem solving and creative thinking are all important skills for video game developers. In addition to getting the right education, becoming a video game developer is reliant on your portfolio. More information about becoming a video game developer is detailed below.


Educational Requirements

Compared to other career paths, the road to becoming a game developer is fairly open ended. Degrees and certifications are less important than actual experience and developing a strong portfolio. But, to get the experience and build a portfolio, you need the right education. At a minimum, you are recommended to get your bachelor’s degree. Computer programming and coding are naturally important skills for game developers, but math classes are also important as well. Understanding how to use basic algorithms and linear algebra often helps with game development. Advanced mathematics which help with game development include physics and calculus. These classes also help you develop critical thinking skills, which is helpful for game development, especially if you want to lead a team of programmers.

It typically takes four years to get a bachelor’s degree, but there are many expedited programs which allow you to finish in three years. With summer and winter classes, you may even be able to cut it down to two, but this requires a great deal of work. There are also many opportunities for getting a programming degree online.

Creating a Portfolio

While you are taking classes, it is important to build a portfolio. Building a video game portfolio is difficult. One of the most common mistake hopeful developers make is being too ambitious. Nobody expects you to be a pro from your portfolio. You show companies your portfolio to highlight your talents and show you have the potential to make it in the industry. If you had a giant completed game in your portfolio, you would not be looking for an entry level position.

The best portfolio includes several small games. Each game must be fully completed, but do not try and make a sprawling epic with endless hours of gameplay. Do not only include the games in your portfolio. Add screenshots to highlight key areas of your game, and make sure to link to all the necessary installation software to make your game work. Each game also needs the source code. If you built the game with a team, include the credits for all the necessary parties. Game studios know how much work goes into creating a game, even a small one, and it reflects poorly on you if they believe you are taking credit for someone else’s contributions.

Finding an Entry Level Position

If you want to work for a major, AAA developer, you need experience. The best way to develop experience is working with a smaller studio. In 2021, the majority of new game developers start by making shorter, simple games. Typically, these games are for mobile devices, or even social media sites. While these games may be developed by smaller companies, it does not diminish the popularity or success of their games. According to a 2019 study, almost 45 percent of the global gaming market worth comes from mobile games.

In addition to gaining on the job experience, working an entry level position is a great way to develop contacts within the gaming industry. Many smaller studios are directly contracted by larger companies, either to develop a game outright for them, or help with a specific area. For example, many large companies design a game for a single platform, then hire a smaller company to take the final product and make it compatible with another console.

If you are adamantly against working for a smaller company, your other option is to get an internship. Many of the largest companies, such as Volition, EA, Lucas Arts or Insomniac Games frequently offer internships. You still need a portfolio to present, but the experience requirements are usually laxer. The downside is, not all internships are paid. However, this allows you to get direct experience working for a major studio, which also helps build professional contacts.

It may take several years, but if you continue to work and build experience, the next step is advancing to a software developer. Software developers are still responsible for coding, but you have additional responsibilities, more focused on the development side. This includes managing team members and conceptualizing games. These positions are much more competitive. Some developers choose to return to school while working internships or entry level positions, getting a master’s degree to further boost their resume.