[In part one of a new series on getting into the game industry, Paragon Studios' Destin Bales outlines the importance of understanding the industry and preparing for a future career.]
In this new series for aspiring developers, Destin Bales shares his experience and offers advice on starting a career in the game industry. Bales has been working in the industry for 11 years, and now serves as the director of product development at Paragon Studios, which manages the superhero MMO City of Heroes and is working on two unannounced titles. The following are excerpts from his blog, "I Need To Make Games."
Step 1: Understand the Market
Students are often introduced to the concept of working in the industry simply by enjoying the games that they love and daydreaming about being a part of the process. Being a gamer is a great start, but there is much more that can be done right now to understand the market.
You may already be familiar with a number of web sites that target consumers by showing news, reviews and gameplay footage. Most game developers are gamers first and frequently visit these sites on a daily basis. Some of our favorites include:
Visiting these sites each day can give you a great overall view of what games are popular today. It's an investment that takes time however, but understanding which games are successful, niche, critically acclaimed and unique is an important knowledge base for any game developer to have.
"If you want to get into the games industry, then get into it. Play all kinds of games, read the news on web sites, stay up to date on the latest changes, learn it inside and out. In the eyes of a prospective employer your knowledge will help prove your passion."
- Matt Daniels, Designer | Bethesda Game Studios
Where the sites above show the perspective from the outside looking in, listed below you can find resources that show the viewpoint from within the industry looking out. Many developers view these sites on a weekly basis to learn more about their craft and the market around them. The most popular pages tend to be:
For more concentrated and direct exposure to the industry there are a number of conferences and events that take place each year in which you can learn quite a bit about game development, gaming culture and the hottest products of today. Attending these events is not necessary to achieve your goal, but if you find that you have the means to do so you will likely learn quite a bit from the experience.
The Independent Games Festival at the 2012 Game Developers Conference
Last but not least, the most important thing you can do starting today and forever more is to play games. Play a lot of games. Play as many games as you possibly can.
"To make games you must know games. It isn't enough to play the best or the worst game that everyone is currently talking about. You must experience everything that the industry has to offer.
It may be difficult to play through the last ten levels of some poorly reviewed game, but you never know what you may learn from that very last level. That painful experience could teach a lesson that saves you when you need it most in your career!"
- Maurice Nelson, Director of Development | BioWare Mythic
There is something to learn from each and every game out there. Whether the game is good or bad, big budget or indie, on console, PC, mobile or tablet, there are valuable lessons in each title.
It is easier than ever to play games today, even for free! Do you have a Steam account? In addition to the ease of use and the ability to buy games instantly from your PC, Steam offers a simple way to download and play free game demos of all kinds.
If you own a console like the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 you can access free game demos weekly via Xbox Live or the PSN interface on your system. Also, consider trying out Gamefly -- a game rental service that works much like Netflix, allowing you to play many more games for your money.
Understanding the market is the very first step towards achieving your goal. It serves as the foundation for all future steps and is a process that takes time. Many developers have spent years accumulating a wealth of knowledge thanks to utilizing these types of resources. No matter your age, amount of disposable income, or working experience it is easily possible to dive in head first right now!
It's time to take your first step.