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Design, Photography, & Fashion

How to Become a Video Game Developer

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jul 20, 2020 • 3 min read

Most major video game companies have an extensive development team and staff that address all levels of game design, from conceptualization to the shipped finished product. Each department plays its own specific role, with all the moving parts working in tandem to ensure a seamless gaming experience for players. One of the most important roles is the game developer, as they are the ones who turn the game designer’s ideas into a real, playable video game.

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What Is a Video Game Developer?

A video game developer is a person who specializes in developing and programming all the creative aspects of a video game. Game development is a job that requires coding knowledge, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills.

The term “video game developer” is often used interchangeably with “video game programmer,” the person who writes the game code that makes the video game function. Video game development is also sometimes used as an umbrella term for anyone that participates in the development process of a video game, including game artists, sound designers, and testers.

What Does a Video Game Developer Do?

Depending on the size of the studio, video game developers may contribute to various stages of video game development, but are mostly charged with building a workable version of the game through computer code. Game coders turn concepts into a tangible form. They program the game world—mechanics, graphics, artificial intelligence (AI) behavior—building a strong base for the game to run on, and ensuring all programming aspects are in line with the video game designer’s specifications.

Video game developers also function as game testers: A good developer is able to test and troubleshoot the functionality of the game they’re building. They can spot bugs, errors, or mistakes, and have the technical knowledge to fix them.

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How to Become a Video Game Developer

The video game industry is a high-pressure and deadline-driven environment that requires long hours and hard work. If you are looking to land a game developer job, check out the following steps:

  1. Get a degree. A bachelor’s degree in software engineering or computer science can help you stand out to employers. Even if you have plenty of skill and talent, a certification or completion of a relevant program may demonstrate extensive knowledge and a solid foundation of the field, and give you a leg up on the equally talented competition.
  2. Understand the process. You should have a full understanding of the game development process from concept to publishing. Game development requires cooperation with a number of other departments, so be well-versed in the duties of not just your job, but the duties of all the other teams you’ll have to work with.
  3. Know your computer languages. Behind every video game is the code that is running it. Programming languages are integral to software development and are responsible for how we experience and interact with gaming platforms. Well-written code can provide a smooth, seamless gameplay experience, which is the objective of every game publisher. Game developers should be familiar with the most popular game engines, have a thorough knowledge of the C++ programming language, and also a working knowledge of other languages like C and Java. Rather than pursuing a programming job for a major game development studio that may require extensive experience, you should try to find your footing in the mobile game or low-budget indie game world. Knowing a variety of other programming languages and game engines can expand your skillset and make you a valuable asset to future employers.
  4. Perform routine job searches. Some video game companies are more generous with job postings than others, so periodically checking the job boards from those companies can be beneficial. You can also create a website or profile on a job site to advertise your skills and availability. Many smaller game companies can’t afford in-house programmers and will look for freelancers to fill the developer role, so be sure to aptly market your talents.
  5. Build a portfolio. The best way to become a game developer is to develop your own game. If you have the software (and the time), create a game or prototype that demonstrates your abilities and technical skills. Compile a portfolio that showcases your best game programming samples.

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