How To Become a Game Developer

By Indeed Editorial Team

September 16, 2021

Game developers write software code that translates artistic concepts into playable game features that can work on mobile phones, console systems and computers. It’s a competitive industry, but with the right teamwork abilities, professional development and networking, you can become a video game developer.

In this article, we discuss the steps you can take to become a game developer. We also provide salary information and answer other frequently asked questions about this profession.

What does a game developer do?

A game developer oversees the developmental process of a video game. Game developers may design games or use already executed designs and write coding that will bring the game environments, characters and other elements to life. They plan the different game levels and how players will advance through these. Generally, game developers work in small or large game studios, but some of them also work as independent developers and create and market their original games.

Related: Starting a Career in Video Game Development

How to become a game developer

Here are several steps you can take to become a game developer:

  1. Obtain a bachelor's degree.

  2. Brush up your math and physics skills.

  3. Expand your software engineering skills.

  4. Develop your storytelling skills.

  5. Build a game developer portfolio.

  6. Get an entry-level game developer position.

  7. Prepare for stiff competition in the job market.

1. Obtain a bachelor's degree

Most game software developers have a formal education background, with at least a bachelor's degree. Employers tend to prefer candidates who have completed four-year degree courses as they have a more in-depth scientific grounding that is necessary for game development. Check with colleges in your region to find out if they have any degree programs that can help you with becoming a game programmer.

While attending a full-time four-year college is the most established way of getting a video game programmer education, you can also get a game programmer education by taking an accredited online program. The popular specializations for game developers are computer science and computer engineering.

The coursework can cover C#, C++, Perl, computer 3D graphics, calculus, game algorithms, object-oriented design and network fundamentals. Some courses also include training with Unity 3D, Unreal Engine and other video game engines.

This training will also help to develop your critical thinking and problem-solving skills and your ability to undertake quality and operations analysis.

Read more: 17 Jobs With a Degree in Computer Engineering

2. Brush up your math and physics skills

To become a game developer, you need to have solid coding skills, for which a basic knowledge of mathematics and physics is essential. You need mathematical skills to create equations that can direct computer systems to perform in specific ways.

For instance, for animation programming, you need to know calculus, trigonometry and linear algebra. Also, knowing physics can help you to understand concepts like mass, inertia and thermodynamics.

While the physics, graphics and lighting engines offered by prominent game development platforms have made things easier for game developers, you should still brush up on your maths and physics skills. Degree seekers in video game development should get an in-depth education in linear algebra, basic algorithms, trigonometry and geometry. It will also help to know calculus, statistics, combinatorics, physics, game theory and AI algorithms.

3. Brush up your software engineering skills

Game developers need to be proficient in hardware technology and C, C#, C++, Java, Python, Lua and other programming languages to write code that will craft everything about the game. While you will probably learn these as part of your degree course, it will help to refresh yourself periodically and stay updated through online forums, tutorials, guides and videos.

It can be beneficial to have experience in using MySQL, Oracle or MS SQL for database development. You should also know about server backend implementation, and be aware of changes in the system architecture. Since there are constant system updates, you will need to take a dynamic approach to your design, coding and structuring to keep up.

4. Brush up your storytelling skills

Most game studios have writers to create original stories or new adaptations of existing comics, novels, films and so on. However, it will still help game developers to know about linear and non-linear storytelling and narrative techniques. In a linear storyline, the players' actions drive the story forward, while in non-linear games, the actions that the players take will determine how the story will unfold.

Understanding how stories develop and reach a satisfying end can give you a much-needed perspective in writing the increasingly complicated code that is necessary for such storylines.

5. Build a game developer portfolio

Your game development experience and portfolio are crucial factors in determining if you will get a position with a video game studio. One of the best ways to get practical experience, build your portfolio and attract the attention of large game studios is to design and develop your video games. Create simple games at first, and then work your way up to more complex ones.

When you add the games to your game developer portfolio, include screenshots of game scenes to allow interviewers and game studio executives to evaluate the games. Also, include links to the game installation software to allow them to try out the games. If you collaborated with anyone to create the games, mention that in your portfolio notes.

6. Get an entry-level game developer position

Getting started in the video game industry can be challenging for new entrants. If you have advanced skills and a very well-polished portfolio, you may be able to get a job at once with a major game studio. Otherwise, it will help to get an internship first and work in entry-level positions with smaller studios.

It will be easier to advance in your career once you have gained the necessary work experience and have a more extensive game development portfolio. Scan the job boards on leading game industry websites to get an idea of what employers are currently looking for and try to align your resume to these requirements. If you don't have the in-demand skills, acquire them as soon as possible.

Read more: How to Get Into the Gaming Industry

7. Prepare for stiff competition in the job market

The job competition is intense in the game industry, so keep improving your coding skills and be prepared to work long hours. Stay informed on industry trends and developments, attend video game seminars and conventions and network with industry professionals. Participate in online game forums, ask questions about how to become a video game programmer and help others out with the information you have.

Networking with your fellow developers and other industry professionals may help you with your career development goals. Insiders often know of new jobs or opportunities that sometimes never appear on regular job boards. Additionally, they can write you a recommendation or give you valuable tips to increase your chances of finding work.

Average salary for game developers

The average annual salary for game software developers is $105,590. The job outlook for game software developers is good, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and there is likely to be a 21% job growth in the 2018-2028 period.

FAQ for game developers

Here are some commonly-asked questions for game developers.

  • What traits should a game developer have?

  • What programming languages should a game developer know?

  • What skills should a game developer have?

What traits should a game developer have?

Writing code for complex games can be challenging and time-consuming. It can also be frustrating if, after all the work, the game doesn't catch on. To be successful in this field, game developers need to be resilient as well as creative. If one solution doesn't work, they must be able to come up with another viable one.

What programming languages should a game developer know?

If you are creating games for Android, knowing Java is essential. To write game engines, you must be proficient in C++. It will also help if you know C, C#, Python. HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and SQL.

What skills should a game developer have?

Along with being proficient in programming languages, game developers must know about various game trends. It will help to be creative and have storytelling skills. They must also have solid analytical abilities, good interpersonal skills and the ability to work in a team environment.

Where should game developers look for work?

Visit the websites of game studios and look at their open positions. If they don't have any available right then, contact their HR department and send them your details to keep on file. You can also visit the game industry news websites and check their job boards.

Marketing yourself via your website and social media may catch the attention of studio executives and lead to a job offer, so try that as well. Networking with industry professionals can help with finding work too.

Hopefully, with this article, you now know how to become a game developer. Working in game development can be a creative, fulfilling career. You can work for a major game studio, for smaller studios or even as an independent developer. Keep in mind though that video games can be expensive and time-consuming to make, ship and market, and the competition is fierce.

Even after you land a job as a game developer with a game studio, keep honing your software and creative skills and continue working on projects of your own.

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