By Gamer_152 26 Comments
In my time endlessly perusing the internet and hanging around with people who are generally very interested in video games, I've heard a lot of people say they want to work in the video game industry. They'll come out with the phrase “I Want to Be a Game Developer” or some variation on this, such as “I Want to Make Video Games”, or “I Want to Work in the Games Industry”. Some also have a more direct and focused goal, saying they want to become a game designer, programmer, artist, or some other common position on a development team. Indeed, some of you reading this right now might have said such things.
I know many of you out there are making confident strides to learn what you need to know and get the job you want, but I've also seen many people who say they want to work in the games industry without any idea what they really want to do within it and I've seen many of the people who claim they want to attain a specific position, or are thinking about specific positions in the industry, being unclear about what their chosen career would even entail. At the risk of disappointing some people I think I need to say a few things to anyone who feels like they associate themselves with these views. My intention here is not to attack anyone's aspirations, but to help anyone who might be reading this and have similar views to those I’ve just mentioned.
The Job, Not the Product
I believe there is one big mistake a lot of people make when contemplating a job in the games industry and that's that they tend to focus on the product such a job will create instead of the job itself. Hypothetically let's say you want to go into the industry as a games programmer. Have you tried games programming and enjoyed it? If the answer is no then I'm afraid the reality is that you don't want to be a games programmer, you just like the idea of being one. The same applies for those who claim they want to be a designer but haven't tried and enjoyed designing, or those who want to be an artist but haven't tried and enjoyed sprite work, modelling and animation, and so on.
Now, that's not to say if you like the idea of being a developer and you haven't tried any of this stuff out that you should just give up on your goal. Try out a little coding, artistry, or whatever you feel like, you might find a genuinely fun and fulfilling experience there, even one that could lead to an industry job, however if you don't like the experience of actually doing what you say you want to do then a job in the industry probably isn’t for you. Until you've spent a significant amount of time working with your chosen skill then you don't know if games development is really what you're passionate about.
Working in the Industry
Keep in mind if games development is what you are considering as a profession, it's not just something you can like a little, you must have a genuine drive to do it. There are a whole lot of people out there who want to develop games and you’ll have to outclass many of them to claim your place in your chosen profession. Jobs on development teams out there are very highly contested and even working as part of an indie development team requires a hell of a lot of work. Not only will you be working hard for a considerable number of hours if you actually get the job, but to acquire the knowledge and skills you need to get to that point will take hundreds of hours of study and practise. Much like the job itself, you're going to have to be ready for this preparation to be difficult at times, but needless to say if it's something you're going to be doing for that long at a time, you're going to have to really enjoy the process of doing it.
If games development is something you don't have a strong conviction towards doing then you have two big problems. The first is that it's going to be nigh on impossible to muster up the effort you need to put in to help create a game. I've not exactly done a scientific survey of every developer in the industry, but I've never seen anyone who worked as a professional games developer speak for a significant amount of time who seemed genuinely unenthusiastic about their job. Likewise as a games programming student I've found those that just don't get a kick out of programming aren't able to output anywhere near the quality of work of those who do, and that they just end up dropping off the course. Secondly, even if you did somehow get into the industry with a half-hearted like of what you’ve said you wanted to do, for the very large majority of the time you're not going to be happy. Sure, at the end of the project you'd have the thrill of seeing your game on store shelves, in virtual marketplaces or wherever it might exist, but most of your time would be spent throwing away hour after hour of your life to a stressful and frustrating task with no regular emotional pay-off. If even the most impassioned devs can end up pulling out their hair during crunch time, how would you fair?
The Money Angle
This wasn't something I predicted coming across, but it seems that there are a certain number of people out saying they’re looking to enter the games industry looking for not only something fun to do, but something that will let them wind up with a big fat pay cheque on a regular basis. While this pay is no doubt a bonus for those in the industry, I'm sure there are easier ways to make a fair bit of money and even then there are probably jobs which will leave you with more time and energy to enjoy the fruits of your labour than games development.
Duder, It’s Over
For those of you still exploring what facets of game development you might enjoy then I urge you to start trying stuff out as soon as possible, and for those of you who already have your sights set on one aspect of development I say the same. The sooner you start, the sooner you could be prepared to enter the industry and the sooner you can get to doing something you may genuinely enjoy. It's a task that you're going to have to put may hours into, it's a task that's going to have more than its fair share of unpleasant moments and it's something that has no guaranteed pay-outs, but at its best it could be one of the greatest things you ever do. Good luck, have Onion.