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Is Game Development a Viable Career?

Ever wondered how difficult it is to become a game developer? John Sonmez made the transition and tells you how you can do it, too.

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Hey, what’s up? I'm John Sonmez from simpleprogrammer.com. I get a lot of questions about game development, and I’m going to try to answer some of those questions. Of course, if you know my background, I started out really wanting to become a game developer, that’s why I really became a programmer in the first place. If you want to hear my history I’ve got a video that’s a 3-part so far series of my history through my career

I get a lot of questions about whether it’s viable. I got this question and it says:

Hi John, how’s it going? I’m a 19-year-old college student and I’m interested in the gaming industry mostly in programming. I’ve been doing some basic tutorials for different game engines and languages and I’m not really sure what to do about school. I’ve been doubting that a degree would be good for me. I recently found block.io and it looks interesting. The android developer option looks cool and it’s shorter and less expensive than others. There seems to be lots of boot camps or web development and software engineering but none for game development like working on a PC or consul games either making your own or working with other people. Do you have any advice? Is software engineering and web development a good thing to look into even though it doesn’t seem as interesting right now? Thanks for your time.

This is sort of a tough one, right? I mean game development is difficult to get into. Why? Because everyone wants to get in the game development—I mean who wouldn’t want to? The only thing I can think of that would be more difficult to get into besides game development would probably be game testing. Who wouldn’t want to test games, right?

But a game developer it’s definitely difficult to break into but you can do it and you can go to school for it. I’m going to give you 2 schools that I’ve always wanted to attend. I don’t know a lotabout these schools but I’ve heard of them and they’re game development schools specifically. One of them is DigiPen so check that one out. The other one is here in Orlando called Full Sail University. I’ve heard of them. I’ve heard really good things. In fact, just a few years ago I was tempted to go get a degree from there just because I wanted to go to the school because it seemed like it would be cool.

I don’t know of any boot camps that would actually do game development and I don’t know if you'd really want to. I think if you wanted to, game development is in-depth enough that you need a lot of connections, and you probably want to go to school to do that. There’s a lot of things that I don’t recommend schooling for, but this seems like one of them primarily because of the connections and the amount of in-depth topics that are going to be difficult for you to learn on your own.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t be self-taught; I taught myself how to develop games. Of course, I’m not an expert but I’ve taught other people how to develop games. I did some PluralSight courses. You can check them out here on game development. You can watch mines if you want as well, but it’s simple stuff. It’s not very complicated stuff.

If you want to do complicated 3D stuff and rendering, and you want to get the full gamut of not just doing game development—the art, design, and stuff like that—you probably need more formal training, or you need to really focus and figure out what you could teach yourself on.

Now let’s get into the question of should you do web development or game development—is game development actually viable. It’s viable, but it’s going to take a lot of work. You better be ready to fight and compete and be the best of the best if you’re going to make it there. If you just sort of want to get a job with game development, just get a job doing web development and develop your own games on the side because that’s going to be better. You’re definitely going to be able to get a job there and make some money.

You’ve got to decide for yourself whether it’s worth it. It might not even be, pay wise. Again, a lot of opportunities where people want the opportunity but it doesn’t pay as well as the other things. You might make a lot more money doing web development, and in game development, you might make less money and work a whole lot more hours. I know a lot of game developers at some of the big studios work ridiculous hours but they like it and enjoy it. They don’t care that they’re getting paid less because they’re doing what they really, really want to do. You’re going to have to make that decision.

I do think it is viable. I think that you can make it in that industry but I think there’s a lot of competition and you’re going to have to really, really focus on it. It’s not going to just fall in your lap. I’m not saying web development would, but it’s going to be a lot easier for you to get in; there’s going to be a lot more opportunities.

The other option I would give you is you could do independent game development. There’s a lot of developers that make money as Indie game developers. You can self-teach and you don’t have to get into the complex 3D stuff I know that you can develop for iOS and Android games. Or you can develop games and sell them on some of the Indie platforms. You're probably not going to make a lot of money doing that unless you have a runaway hit—it’s very competitive but that’s an option. You can always do it as a part-time thing as well and see. Maybe you get your regular job as a web developer right now and then you start doing any development part time. And then maybe if that business is good, you can transition into doing that full-time, I know plenty of people who have done that.

The key thing though is making your choices upfront—think about it. Decide what your future is, what you want your goal to be and then start moving in that direction. If it’s professional gaming development for a big studio it’s probably going to be somewhere like Full Sail University or DigiPan. If it’s independent then you can live on macaroni and cheese and try to make it and see what you could do. Or you could do the web development and do independent development on the side. If it’s I just want to make money and just program. Game development would be nice., then just go with the easy route and become a web developer or whatever. Don’t specialize in game development and just do it as a hobby.

Anyway, great question. I know that there are a lot of you out there that are curious about game development. I hope to do some more videos on that topic. Let me know, thumbs up. I’ll leave some comments if you’d like to hear more topics on game development in general or if you’d like me to interview someone who does games. I think that might be pretty cool.

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