Is a Video Game Programmer a Good Career Choice?
Game programming is a fantastic career choice, and more and more gaming enthusiasts consider pursuing it. It is about the code used to create a video game, bringing it to life.
Over the years, game programming has evolved hand-in-hand with technology. Some years ago, programmers were responsible for nearly every aspect of game development, including design. However, with the improvement of hardware and software, games became complex. So, development teams grew and needed additional members and specific job roles.
At the same time, player expectations also grow. So, they came to expect games with high-end graphics, sharp artificial intelligence (AI), deep combat system, and interactive storylines. Consequently, to meet that demand and increase the quality of their video game products, studios created new specialized jobs, such as game designing, sound technician, and game developer.
So What Does a Game Programmer Do?
Basically, game programmers write code. And in turn, this code brings video games to life. They work in a development team and associate with game designers, artists, or sound technicians to translate the vision of the game producer into a playable, actionable game.
Game programmers may code how high, in-game characters jump, how fast they run, how quickly they withdraw their weapons, how many opponents appear on the screen, and how characters fight (combat system).
There is also a big misconception about game programmers that they do not have a say in how a game is designed or directed. On the contrary, by implementing a game's main features, they know the ins and outs of the game engine and its limitations, so they can communicate that to other departments as they collaborate to move the project forward.
Game programming, as a field, incorporates many different roles, such as audio programmer (focusing on linking certain sounds to in-game actions) or AI programmer (dictating how non-player-characters interact with the player). That said, that is dependent on the size of the studio. Smaller studios, for example, may require programmers to do everything, from designing to coding to AI programming.
On top of that, someone who desires to pursue a career in programming must have advanced math and computer skills. Extensive and in-depth knowledge of programming languages is also essential if you want game companies to take your application seriously (Java, C++. etc.). Experience with game engines, like Unity and Unreal Engine, is indispensable, too.
Communication skills should be excellent, as programmers work closely with the rest of the development team. They have to express clearly their position about a specific aspect of the game they are working on and pitch in their good viewpoint and ideas during meetings.
But Would I Find Work As a Game Programmer?
Considering that the gaming industry grows as never before with an estimated 2.5 billion gamers, or customers if you prefer, the chances of finding work as a game programmer are high. Also, recent market research estimates that market revenue will explode, reaching up to $196 billion by the end of 2022. In other words, there has never been a better time to get into the gaming industry.
After all, programmers are crucial to creating video games, and therefore, the job market is not saturated. That said, it is a highly competitive field, so being on top of trends and knowing the latest techniques is a sure way to success.
For starters, if you have graduated from a programming course, you are probably looking for junior programmer jobs or internships. Keep in mind that most programmers work on-site at a game studio, but you might work remotely or as a freelancer if you want to, too.
Start by looking out for studios around your area. Then, decide what studios you would want to work for and bookmark their career page to check it periodically for open positions.
To find what skills you need as a programmer, find a junior programmer job posting and note down the skills required from applicants. So, now you know what studies and programming skills, like languages or game engines, you have to learn. As in every job, every work environment and company is different. What you have to do is to be prepared for everything. So, learning how to adapt quickly to your new job and working under constant pressure to deliver excellent results is imperative to your success.
Average Video Game Programmer Salary
An average game programmer earns as much as $59,010 per year. On the other hand, a senior or lead game programmer may earn over $100,000 per year. That said, salaries depend on experience, size of the game studio, and location. In every case, however, numbers do not lie. Thus, game programming is a very well-paid profession.
Short Tips to Get a Game Programmer Job
Landing a game programming job is hard, especially if you do not have solid work experience. The best thing you can do is spend your time on projects and build up a rockstar portfolio. Try to show off only your best work examples to potential employers, and work on your coding skills and programming languages.
But except for having a fantastic portfolio and a marketable and salable CV, there are a couple more things you could do to help you shine among the competition.
Do Your Research
Everywhere, there are conferences, job postings, and public talks. Do your diligence and discover what skills game companies are looking for when hiring programmers. What you want to do is to familiarize yourself with the industry.
Strive to attend technology meet-ups, join forums (online and offline), establish relationships with professors or internship colleagues, and pretty much try to market your name as much as possible. Sure, it is not easy, but it is the way to success.
To ace your interviews, you have to be confident in yourself, your skills, and your portfolio. To gain confidence, you have to practice by working on programming projects and removing yourself from your comfort zone. Try to learn something new every day and get used to it because game programmers, from the first day to the last of their careers, expand on their knowledge on a day-to-day basis. How do they do that? By taking online courses and learning a new game engine as soon as it releases.
But Where Can I Study Game Programming?
Let's clarify some things first. You do not need a university degree to become a programmer. Or a diploma.
But to grab the attention of recruiters, you have to have experience, programming skills, and a rockstar portfolio.
Since the industry is super competitive, a coding course will help you attain the relevant knowledge and craft your programming skills in the hope of standing out from the competition. As such, it is feasible to be a self-taught programmer and land a job at a gaming studio, but you need to be disciplined and work hard to craft and hone your skills. It may take years until you have a portfolio capable of getting your dream job.
To find the best course, try to find a tutor who is already working in the industry, whose a prominent figure. Someone who has worked on triple-A games will know how to direct you and teach you everything you need to know about game programming. Do not also forget to look for an additional course focused on creating a work portfolio.
Make sure that the money you invest and the effort you put into your education bring results. By the end of your course, you should have the confidence, at least, to start a freelancing career if not applying directly to game companies.
Keep in mind that you could opt for a private mentorship or group classes, but that may be a bit more costly than a simple online course. If you are willing to invest that much money into your education, apply for a University or College degree instead. Courses in computer science, mathematics, software engineering, or physics provide a solid foundation (undergrad programs, though, range between $18.000-$35.000).
And by adding to your College studies, an online programming diploma, and work experience, you are one step closer to hitting your potential, breaking into the video game industry.