André Thomas, Texas A&M University
When you step out of the game console to play a video game like NBA2K, chances are the biggest decision you have to make is which player or team you want to be. But have you ever considered becoming one of the people who actually designs a game like NBA2K?
With an estimated value of $ 336 billion, the video game industry is bigger than television, movies and music combined. And as the industry is developing at a rapid pace, there are many opportunities to work in this field. From game designers and software engineers who program games to graphic designers or electrical engineers who design game consoles, careers in the video game industry abound.
These jobs pay between $ 55,000 and $ 100,000 or more per year. But much like the NBA itself, the path to the video game industry is filled with stiff competition.
As a former graphic director for a large video game company – and as the director of the Interactive Visualization Learning Experience – or LIVE Lab – at Texas A&M University, I know firsthand what it takes to land a job in the video game industry. Here are 5 tips to achieve this.
1. Design your own games
When it comes time to apply for a job or even an internship at a video game company, it helps show off the games you’ve created or modified.
Fortunately, game engines, which are the technology behind games, are available for free and allow you to build your own game. Unreal and Unity are two that you might want to try.
You can also use free software, such as Houdini and Blender, to create video game assets such as buildings, characters, vehicles, and animations.
If it is too intimidating to create a game from scratch, you can always “modify” – short for “modify” – an existing game like Portal 2, Civilization or Minecraft. It’s a great start to learning the basics of game design and asset creation.
2. Participate in game jams
A game jam is a competition in which participants create a new video game within a defined period of time. Game jams are a great way to meet and work with others on a game project and simply learn how to design games. Many jams feature representatives of video game companies. These company representatives serve as mentors, judges and coaches. They can give you tips and advice on how to break into the industry. They can also give you leads on jobs.
Game jams are usually short, like a day or two, but some last a week or more. You can participate in a game jam individually or as a small team. Some game jams focus on specific themes such as health, conservation or science and provide resources for teachers and students to participate, such as the Games for Change student challenge. Other game jams are open to everyone, including professionals, such as the Global Game Jam. Some game jams are held in person, allowing you to meet face-to-face with other game designers, artists, developers, industry mentors, and game companies, like Chillennium.
3. Attend gaming conventions
One of the largest conferences in the United States is the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, which has historically attracted over 29,000 attendees. In Europe, Gamescom’s annual conference in Cologne, Germany attracted more than 370,000 attendees. Several PAX conferences are held throughout the year in different locations across the United States. PAX started out as Penny Arcade Expo before becoming a full-fledged conference and exhibition. These conferences allow participants to experience new games, meet professionals in the gaming industry, play games and attend seminars and workshops on topics related to game design and development.
A conference like PAX East also gives independent developers the chance to showcase their games and get feedback from the public. Most conferences will return in person in 2022 and will require a fee to attend or exhibit. Ticket prices can range from $ 50 to several hundred dollars.
4. Take game design courses
Many high schools, community colleges and universities now offer game design courses.
In addition to these classes, it helps to take math, physics, art, and technology classes, starting in high school if you can. Almost all careers in the video game industry benefit from all of these areas. A game designer trying to create a balanced game requires a solid foundation in math and statistics. To balance a game, the designer must use math and statistics to ensure that no particular game element – such as a particular character or strategy – trumps another element.
Even if you think you won’t be using math or doing art, having a basic understanding of both and being able to talk about these topics with colleagues goes a long way.
5. Play outside
In order to create good games, you need to be familiar with the games you are playing now that have been successful in the past. This means that you also have to play games that you wouldn’t normally play and even games that you don’t like. Not everyone likes all games. There are many types of games, from entertainment games to educational games, health games, science games and many more. Being able to critically examine games and identify which elements work well, which elements could be improved upon, and which elements you could use for your own games will help you become a great game designer.
Breaking into the gaming industry is possible with a little work. It can also be extremely rewarding. Just imagine that the game you helped create teaches players new knowledge, or helps players heal faster, helps scientists discover new proteins, or entertains players for hours on end.
André Thomas, associate professor of Game Design, Texas A&M University
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.