If you’re a technology professional pursuing a career in the gaming industry, you might consider becoming a video game developer. These gaming experts create the framework for building video games across various platforms including mobile, computer and gaming devices.
The following sections offer a closer look at how to become a video game developer.
Video Game Developer Job Outlook
Since the first video game came onto the scene, the industry has seen exponential growth. As such, video game developers can expect fast career growth in the coming years.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide data for video game developers specifically, but the BLS projects a faster-than-average 22% growth for software developers, quality assurance analysts and testers. Video game developers fall in with these professionals.
What Is a Video Game Developer?
Video game developers play a crucial role in the success of any video game. They are responsible for bringing a video game from concept to reality. To do this, video game developers must code and program visual elements and other features. They also run tests to make sure the game performs well.
Video Game Development vs. Video Game Design
You may hear the titles “video game developer” and “video game designer” used interchangeably, but the two jobs are different. Video game designers focus on the creative aspects of video game creation. Developers, on the other hand, focus on coding and the other technical aspects of that process.
What are the Main Responsibilities of a Video Game Developer?
Video game developer roles vary depending on the place of employment. In smaller organizations, for example, these professionals may work on multiple projects—such as both coding and testing—at the same time throughout the game development process.
At larger video game companies, on the other hand, each developer may take on a more specific set of tasks.
Typical responsibilities for a video game developer include:
- Coding visual elements
- Game design ideation
- Making sure the game plays well
- Monitoring game performance
- Reviewing and improving existing code
- Working with producers, designers and other professionals to bring the game to life
Video Game Developer Salary
Factors like experience and location affect video game developers’ salaries. Developers in the entertainment or video game software industry make an average annual salary of around $87,000, according to Payscale data as of July 2022.
Steps to Becoming a Video Game Developer
Several educational paths can lead to a video game developer career. Some developers attend college. Others opt for immersive bootcamps, where they learn crucial skills such as coding and technical problem-solving. Below, we take a look at the most important steps you need to take to land a job as a video game developer.
Earn a Degree
When it comes to the hiring process, many video game companies look for developers with degrees. A degree is not an absolute requirement, but employers may prefer candidates who have completed undergraduate degrees in computer science or related fields.
Given the gaming industry’s growing popularity, several colleges now offer bachelor’s degrees specifically in video game design and development.
Obtain a Certificate
Certificates offer another option for students who want to either forgo college or supplement their current degree. Earning a certificate in video game development allows students to hone their skills through intensive, project-based curricula.
Entities like the University of Washington, Harvard University and Full Sail University offer professional certificate programs in game development. Since these certificate programs generally take less than a year to complete, they can offer a quicker path to a career in the gaming industry than traditional four-year degrees.
Certificates cannot fully replace professional experience, but they do offer several benefits. For example, video game development certificate-holders can:
- Build a solid foundation in game development and design.
- Connect with groups of fellow creatives.
- Meet teachers and mentors who can help make introductions to industry professionals.
Gain Work Experience
Professional experience is just as important as education when it comes to building a solid foundation in video game development. Before gaining professional experience or earning a degree, you might find entry-level work as a game tester. Game testing positions rarely require specialized training or a degree, so this might be a good way to build experience while completing your studies.
Many game developers begin their careers with internships as well. Consider pursuing an internship at a gaming studio to start making professional connections and building hands-on experience. You might also apply for non-development roles at gaming studios to get your foot in the door and start learning the ropes.
Video Game Development Bootcamps
Bootcamps can offer a strong alternative to traditional degrees for prospective video game developers. Bootcamps are short-term, intensive programs that offer specialized training for specific jobs. Though many employers prefer candidates with full degrees, bootcamps can also provide you with a high-quality education.
Examples of game development and design bootcamps include:
- General Assembly. Based in San Francisco, California, this game design bootcamp focuses on the mechanics of gamification and how to engage users.
- Vertex School. This 16-week, fully online program trains prospective developers to work in the gaming industry.
- Udemy. This 11-hour crash course claims to teach “everything you need to become a game developer from scratch.”
Frequently Asked Questions About Video Game Development
How do I get into video game development?
Start with education. You can pursue a degree in computer science or game development, or you can complete a coding or game development bootcamp. You might then pursue an internship or entry-level role at a gaming studio.
How long does it take to become a game developer?
If you go the traditional route, it takes at least four years to complete a bachelor’s degree and gain some professional experience before you can become a game developer.
What does a video game developer do?
Game developers bring video games from concept to reality. This work involves lots of coding, programming, testing and maintenance.
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