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How to Start a Career as a Video Game Developer

Every game developer’s dream is to land a job at a big gaming company. However, it often isn’t that simple. Getting a job in the video game industry isn’t impossible, but it doesn’t happen overnight. There is a lot of competition to work in gaming because the industry comes with good salaries and a fun work environment.

Although there is no “right” or “wrong” way to break into the game dev industry, there are some strategies that will get you closer to your goal. In this guide, we’ll show you some handy tips to start your video game career.

Learn About Unity

Unity will become your best ally when it comes to game development. Unity is a video game platform that allows users to create 2D and 3D games. In your path to becoming a game developer, you’ll need to get familiar with this tool. If you don’t want to dive into a college degree straight away, you can watch Unity tutorials on YouTube instead, to start. Another option would be to take a coding bootcamp, which is an intensive course where you’ll learn about this tool.

Get Certified

Once you’ve decided this is the career path you’d like to take, it’s time to get certified. If you’re interested in getting your bachelor’s degree, there are many game design colleges you should consider attending. Most bachelor’s degrees in game development take four years to complete and you’ll graduate with all the knowledge you need to get started as a game developer.

If you’re hoping for a shorter path, you can attend a coding bootcamp. With the high demand for game developers, bootcamps are a great alternative for those who want to get certified quickly. Most coding bootcamps have updated their curriculums to match the latest trends in the industry.

Some of the top game development bootcamps out there are those offered by Keep Coding and The Make School. Both offer a variety of payment methods and online bootcamps. The Make School is located in San Francisco and offers on-site education as well.

Recreate Simple Video Games

Once you get certified, you need to start working on your own projects. Since you still don’t have experience in the industry, you should start building your portfolio with indie games. The best way to practice is by getting started on your first project.

If you don’t want to create a video game from scratch, you can choose to recreate a simple game that you like. Recreating a video game is easier than developing one from scratch because you won’t spend too much time on the design. Instead, you will be working on what’s more important: functionality.

Practice Writing Clean Code

Many people underestimate the importance of clean code. Messy coding may work at first if you’re only working on simple projects. But once you start to develop more complex projects, it can quickly become a complete disaster.

Imagine working on a major project that ends up being more than 80,000 lines of code. There’s no way you would end up with a functional video game if you used messy code. There are many books and resources you can consult to learn to write clean code. One of the most popular offerings is Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship.

Still, don’t forget about practice. Many people would instruct you to forget about clean code when you’re starting in the game dev industry. However, if you put an effort into writing clean code from the beginning, it will become a habit, and it will be easier for you to create a functional structure.

Introduce Your First Project to Steam or App Store

This is where the process gets exciting. Once you’ve developed a small project you like, take some time to publish it on Steam or App Store. The game doesn’t have to be extremely professional. You just need to create a video game that is functional and showcases your strengths. This last part is vital.

Remember that this is your debut. Once you publish the video game, it’s important to be aware of users’ feedback. That way, you’ll know how to improve on your next game. If you’re someone who’s very skilled in design, then go for a narrative-focused game, but still, remember to focus on core functionality. If you feel you’re stronger in programming, maybe a systems-based game would be best for you.

The most important step is to interact with users so you can get meaningful insight that will help you improve your skills later. 

Increase Your Online Visibility

Remember that the only way to get visibility is by optimizing your online presence. It’s important to create your own website and start using it as your portfolio so that recruiters can easily find you on the Internet. Other platforms like Indeed or LinkedIn are also helpful for your job hunt in the game dev industry, so try to update them often. It’s also a good idea to connect with groups of influential people in the industry.

Get an Entry-Level Job as a Game Tester

The game testing position is one of the easiest to get in the game dev industry. This is because the job doesn’t require you to have a bachelor’s degree or experience. Although it is an entry-level job, don’t underestimate its value, because it can be a great way to meet people in the industry that could open doors for your career.

One of the most inspirational stories in the game development industry is that of Merric Shank. He started out as a tester and climbed the ladder to become a game producer. Once he said:

“A few years and a few companies later, I was still in QA. But I made sure that my boss knew I was interested in learning more about production and that I was eager for more responsibility. After a while, I was given the opportunity to help out on a game – and after a successful trial run I was promoted to Associate Producer.”

Do an Internship

Computer science internships are also a great way to meet people who are already successful game developers. It’s also an excellent way to practice what you have learned at school and showcase your skills. People who take an internship and make an effort to stand out are more likely to find a job in the industry.

Get a Non-Dev Job at a Game Studio

A game studio is not only composed of game developers; it takes a bunch of other jobs to make a successful game studio. There are many non-dev positions that you can try out to make your way in a gaming company. Some of the non-dev job positions you can try are tools development or support talent. Although you’re not working specifically on game dev, you can learn from your coworkers and let them know you’re interested in working as a game developer in the future.

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