Do your thumbs ache from playing too much Call of Duty? Is your ultimate ambition to win the Champions League with Huddersfield Town on Football Manager? Do you go all misty-eyed when someone mentions one of your all-time favourite computer games: Grand Theft Auto, Shenmue or Shogun: Total War? Have you ever thought about turning your passion for gaming into a career? Well, you’re in the right place!
Games developers use their creative flair and technical prowess to create the video games that keep us glued to the screen for hours, days and sometimes weeks at a time.
Without these guys there would be no Halo, there would be no Angry Birds, and there would be no Just Dance 2 (ok, maybe we could live without that last one).
Creating games for all kinds of platforms, from PCs and PlayStations to iPhones and arcade machines, games developers tend to specialise in one or two areas of the incredibly complex games development process, such as design, programming, testing or 3D modelling.
Games publishers (e.g. EA Sports) divide up the programming, testing and design duties in different ways. Consequently, you might be responsible for performing a combination of tasks.
You might get involved at the ‘idea generation’ stage, producing sketches and discussing ideas for every aspect of the game, from the storyline and the design to the gameplay and the interface.
If design is a large part of your role, you will most likely get stuck into some serious 3D modelling, using state-of-the-art software packages, such as Maya, Blender, 3ds Max, Cinema 4D and RealFlow.
Many games developers focus their efforts on coding, using programming languages, such as C++, and scripting languages, such as Python and Lua.
During the development phase, games developers will also conduct automated unit testing. This innovative approach, which is known as test-driven development (TDD), essentially involves programming and testing in parallel. This makes the whole process much more efficient.
When it comes to developing new, exciting and innovative games, which are going to sell millions of copies worldwide, high-performance and attention to detail are essential.
Graphical glitches and other bugs must be detected and ironed out at all costs. Consequently, the games development process always involves additional quality testing. Some people are even employed as specialist games testers.
Salary & benefits
Entry-level games developers tend to earn between £18,000 and £26,000 per annum. Senior games developers, however, can earn up to £75,000 a year, and freelance contractors can earn considerably more.
Games developers typically work quite long hours. Extra evening and weekend work is commonly required when project deadlines are looming.
completing an undergraduate degree in a relevant subject, such as computer games technology, computer games development, computer games modelling and design, computer games animation, software engineering, computer science, graphic design, physics or maths may boost your chances of securing an entry-level position.
If you don’t have an applicable undergraduate degree, it may be advisable to complete a postgraduate qualification in a games-related subject.
Another way to boost your employability is to get work experience with a games publisher, such as rRemode or Codemasters. This will give you fantastic hands-on experience and will enable you to build up a network of useful contacts.
Training & progression
The majority of your training will be done whilst on the job under the supervision of senior games developers.
Working in the games development industry is a constant learning process and, in order to be successful, you will need to keep on top of industry developments and teach yourself new skills all the time.
Organisations such as the Chartered Institute for I.T. also offer training courses for games developers who are keen to keep their skills fresh.
Once you have gained a decent amount of experience, you may step up into a senior games developer position with team leading responsibilities.
Eventually, you may advance your technical knowledge even further and begin working as a technical director.
Alternatively, you might decide to branch out and work in a different area of the industry, such as project management or design.
Some games developers decide to head overseas in search of other opportunities – the USA and Japan being the most popular destinations. Freelance work is another viable option.