How to start a career in Video Game Making

Starting a career in the video game industry used to a difficult thing; there were very few options and very few schools that could teach the required cutting edge skills. If you wanted to choose this path you had to be self taught. Today this dilemma has been turned upside down. You now have a plethora of schools to choose from and lots of programs and specialties to decide amongst. Here is some advice on what the industry has to offer and what you can do to prepare yourself.

The video game industry has changed over the past ten years. It has matured and is now a full-fledged industry. This means that there are plenty of opportunities to find a rewarding career without being a hot-shot game programmer. As a matter of fact, the days of the hot shot developer are pretty much over. In today’s world the creation of a state of the art video game now requires a dedicated team of employees with a wide range of skills and interests.

What does this mean for you? It means opportunity in a lot of different disciplines and it means that you have to specialize within a subgenre of the big picture of "Making Video Games". But before you pack off and go to a video game school or dish out the dollars for an online school there are some things you should do and some things you need to know.

1. Learn the basic concepts of game design

Have an understanding of video games, how they're played, and what they're all about. You should have a feel for the game industry; know what games are out there, what styles of play they have, and how they handle the game playing experience. Chances are good that you already fulfill this requirement.

Have an understanding of the underlying principles of game design. There are several ways that you can do this. I recommend one or both of these methods to get you started in this:

Build Mods – Mods are modifications of existing games. Quake is a famous game for this approach. You use the mod builder software and you build levels or worlds that can be added right into the game itself. The Mod sub culture is very vibrant and you can find a lot of support and help. To gain even better experience that translates well into a corporate environment you should join a volunteer Mod development team. This gives you good teamwork experience and gives you insight on how a video game project is broken down into pieces.
Get a free or inexpensive Game engine development suite and build your own games. You can build adequate and fun to play games on your own this way. I recommend you do this with the Genesis 3d Game development software. It is completely free.

2. Get familiar with some of the professions in the industry and the tools that are used.

Video Game Design Revealed Video Game Design Revealed (Revealed (Charles River Media))

There are a whole host of tools that game design teams use. And the tools you would use are dependent on what role you would play on the team. Here is an overview of some of the different jobs in the industry and what software tools they would use.

If you like drawing and painting with traditional tools you might want to consider being a concept artist. They do all their work with off computer art tools. They would conceptualize and draw the scenes and the creatures in a game.

If you think you might like computer designing worlds and scenes in a video game you should consider being a 2-dimensional artist. They create all the structures, textures and backgrounds in game worlds. Photoshop is the de-facto program for this job. If you can afford a copy of this program you will get a definite insight into this career path. If you cannot afford Photoshop you should consider getting Paint Shop Pro. It is less expensive and very similar to Photoshop and it will give you a good foundation into the world of 2-dimensional artwork.

If Characters and models are what you are enthusiastic about you should consider becoming a 3-Dimensional Model Artist. This type of artist is concerned with making the characters, monsters, creatures and objects that inhabit a video game world. In this area of game art the choice of software is not as straight-forward as in the 2d art. The most accepted software is 3D studio Max. Two other popular programs are Maya and SoftImage. If you are looking for a free 3d modeling tool that will get you started you may want to get Milkshape. It is a tool designed for the game Half-Life.
The concepts of modeling are universal so the skills will transfer from one tool to the other. You will just have to learn the specifics of the new tool which will be easy enough.

Animator - This is the person that makes the characters and objects in the game move. It is a very specific skill and it takes good understanding of animation to get things right. There are many software programs that are used for animation and they include Macromedia Flash, Alias/Wavefront, 3D Studio Max and Lightwave 3D.

Programmer - This is something that is a little more traditional when we think of video game making "Programming" and it is a very wide field that can find you doing almost anything in the video game making arena. A programmer could be called upon to do any number of things from managing a database to designing the artificial intelligence within a game or creating specialized software tools that other designers use to create the game.

Other Opportunities in Video game design - There are many other jobs in the video game industry ranging from Script and story writer to even network administrator or computer maintenance and repair technician.

Today there are many different career paths that can be taken into the video game industry. This requires you to specialize in a set of skills. Understanding what these different skills are and getting a head start now will increase your marketability in the very competitive video game industry.

Further Reading

I have some articles that might help you further explore video games as a career.

Hot Jobs in Video Games Hot Jobs In Video Games (Young Adult book)

Every kid knows playing video games is fun, but making them is serious business! Cool Careers for Gamers offers readers an introduction to the world of game development by profiling professionals with jobs kids can relate and aspire to. How about making sure golf superstar Tiger Woods looks as lifelike as possible, or picking out songs for a new iteration of Guitar Hero? Someone has to do it! This book shows that the challenge of creating games can be just as much fun as playing them.


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