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What can I expect as a game developer?

How is the workload for video game developers? What can I expect if I decide to go into that field?

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John’s Answer

Hi Sydney,

I wanted to encourage you to go into computer science for video game development with a twist or two. First of all, a little introduction on my part. I currently work for Microsoft for the past 14 years and have a total of 30 years of experience in the technology field. While I've never directly worked in the video game industry, I have a passing knowledge of it. And my years of general technology work in a related field is relevant.

So what's it like to work building video games. If we believe what's written in the press, it's generally hard but getting better. Some companies like Microsoft (XBox) have an excellent culture but that's not universally true.

When you hear about a young person wanting to build video games for a living, two things come to mind. First, competition is fierce, and pay is low. Because so many young people want to build video games (as opposed to say coding a firewall or one of the million or so other computer science jobs) companies can pay less. The second thing that comes to mind is if you can't get a good paying job at a great company as a video game developer, your computer science skills are in high demand for a million or so other computer science jobs!

So, to answer the question you didn't ask, "Should I go to school to learn how to code games?" YES! Absolutely. Computer science is a great field. College graduates can often get great pay and grate corporate culture right out of college. You may or may not end up actually developing video games. But all the skills and languages you learn are easily transferable if your plan A doesn't work out.

Saying yes to Game Developing but having a broader mind set for your plan B was the first twist.

Here is twist number 2. I noticed on another post, you asked some questions about being a lawyer. Why not do both? Your law degree would start after your undergraduate degree finishes. You could easily go to school for computer science for your 4 year degree. Then continue on into law school. Have you ever noticed when you first log on to a video game you have to accept something called the terms of service? Who do you think writes that? Yup a lawyer.

Both jobs pay well. Both jobs can have great lifestyles. It's really what fits you best. As a young person, you may change your mind or interests along the way. It's common for college students to change their majors several times before settling on one. So you don't have to be married to one answer or the other right away. You can't go to law school without a 4-year degree first most of the time. So if these are the two careers you are thinking about today, I'd say YES to both.

Best of luck,

-John

John recommends the following next steps:

Take all the math courses you can
Take all the English courses you can
Enroll in extracurricular STEM activates
Enroll in extracurricular activities like Mock Court and Model United Nations
Keep an open mind for now. Learn everything you can. Find what fits you best.
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Alexandra’s Answer

I do not work in gaming. However, a friend of mine provided me with some advice for my little brother. The first thing he said truly focus on math. This definitely makes sense to me and a lot of tech thinking aligns with the similar thought process needed to build algorithms.

The way the industry is changing, I would also suggest to focus on your core learning. Such as the math and stuff. But truly take a minute to think about what YOU want the role to look like. What do you envision for yourself as a gamer? What does the typical day look like for you? How about when you go into an office? Do you even want to go into an office? What do you imagine the culture to be like and your relationship with team members. In terms of career progression? Think about these things and then go find the companies that can offer you that.

I think to often we are looking for someone to tell us what to expect but look for what you expect or want it to look like and then go find that. In the meantime check your local area for gaming events and conventions and see if someone can take you to one. Then you will also be able to speak to others in the field and possibly check out some cool things regarding the field.
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