A little advice on starting a career, if you don't mind!
My name is Adam Reynolds, I recently graduated a 3 year computer programmer analyst course from St Lawrence College.. (your basic programming for business course).. I took all kinds of weird stuff like accounting, marketing, presentation skills, as well as a lot of programming and design classes. Particularly, we did a lot of mainframe stuff (using CMS/MVS to program COBOL, submitting with JCL), VB, and 2 great courses on C++.
Honestly - Since I was a kid, I've DREAMED of being a gameplay programmer.. when I was young I would play online text-based RPGS (called MUD's), using telnet to connect, for hours and hours.. in fact, when I was 14, I started programming my own mud (with C) using my dad's work account on his employers linux server. I hosted my MUD on the Ottawa Carleton Freenet for more then 600 people and it stayed alive for years. I'm only 22 now, but I've been gaming since I got a commodore 64 when I was 4 (playing titles like "Up and Down", "Phantasy Star", "Choplifter", "Beach Head"). I have a passion for gaming.. it's in my heart. As I got a little older though, I went through some rough times and I lost sight of my dream.. I stopped pushing myself to learn more about gameplay programming, and sort of started coasting through high school. Afterwards, it seemed like my only choice was to go to St Lawrence and take this course.. I figured, "I love computers, and programming - and I'm really good at it.. I might as well do something to get a piece of paper that proves it."
Now that I've gotten a formal education, I was thinking maybe I could look into starting a career in the field, but the more I read, the more I learn that these companies aren't looking for new graduates with semi-unrelated diplomas - they want people who come from gaming schools and who already have a lot of knowledge.
It's too late for me to do an internship.. I already did my placement with the Ontario Government (doing Mainframe programming - like JCL and COBOL for 4 months, and a year doing end user desktop support where I basically installed pgms, and fixed printers for clients).
I'm worried that I might have already passed up on my chance... I really don't want, and can't afford to go back to school and take a gaming course. I know I have the drive and talent to start my career now - but who's going to hire a "business programmer" in the gaming industry?
I just want the opportunity to impress the right person, but it feels like the right people are completely unreachable.. I KNOW I have what it takes.. and I want a chance so bad it hurts...
I've even tried applying for jobs and offering to work for free, in the hopes that I could impress someone.. but no one ever replies... its like they see where I'm from, and what I know, and just dismiss me...
Does anyone know how a government trained, business programmer could get on board in a gaming career? Or maybe how to get a chance to impress the right person?
I am not working in the gaming industry yet, but aspire to. So, while I can't offer you any advice on that end, I can offer you some encouragement from someone a little bit older and wiser than you.
You are very young, and have your whole life ahead of you! While it might seem that you lost sight of your goal for a long period of time and now you are behind, in the scheme of things, you have plenty of time to make your dream come true.
From everything that I've read on this forum and in other articles, it seems like education isn't always what these employers are looking for. Rather, they are looking for talent. Talent that you've expressed that you have. You already have an experience in making an online gaming environment. I'm sure you can find a way to draw on that experience, and to put forth some effort to educate yourself.
There are a ton of books on programming games out there. If you really want to learn, and can't afford to go back to school, then how about buying a book and teaching yourself? Also, there are options to places like DigiPen and Full Sail. I can't afford to go to those schools either. But, you really should check out gameinstitute.com. They offer reasonably priced classes (~$130 for beginning courses) in game programming, and this is something I am considering. I've asked for feedback on these forums about this school and haven't gotten any (at least no one has said anything negative about it yet!), but hey, if that's your only choice, then go for it anyway. It's better than nothing.
One of the downfalls of youth is that often one wants instant gratification. The real world just doesn't work that way. You've figured out what you want. Now, make it happen. Just know that it might take some time and investment, and don't be too anxious for it to happen right away. Work in your field while you're working toward your goal. Just because you made a decision once doesn't mean that you don't have time to change your mind.
I'm 40, have a job in a completely different field (not even in programming), and have the same aspiration you do. Although I have some of the same worries you do, I refuse to let them stand in my way. I've asked questions here, so that I know what challenges might lie before me, but that is so I can be prepared to face them. In other words, don't be discouraged by your choices. Take the "bull by the horns".
Good luck to you. I hope you make your dream come true.
Thanks for the good encouragement! I'm just going keep plugging away at resumes and cover letters.. you never know - I might just get lucky. I hope you're right about schooling stuff.. If my education puts me where its supposed to - I'm going to be in a cubicle programming COBOL for the next 35 years.. I sure hope I'm not!
I'll definitely take a look into a few books too - I love to learn this stuff and now that I have a good grasp on programming in a Win32 environment, hopefully I can understand and even implement a few concepts.
I just wanted to say that I appreciate you going out of your way to answer me... it feels frustrating sometimes, and it gets the best of me.. I've been out of college for like a month and I've been applying for all sorts of systems programmer jobs for the last year and despite being top of my class, I'm getting turned down everywhere just because I don't have enough experience. I guess that's what life is all about.
Anyways, thank you for the encouragement.
Btw: I have a C++ rpg (about the same programming level as final fantasy 5) I worked on for a good 4 months for fun in my last year of school - do you think if I finished, optimized the code, fully tested, and made it available online that it would help my chances? (as sort of a portfolio or something)
In addition, I thought you might want to read this post, which talks about getting into the gaming industry via the QA route. Read the whole thread - there are people who talk about how they got hired on as programmers starting this way. Although it may be your goal to become a programmer, your expertise in code might help you work your way up from a more entry level position. Just something to think about - sometimes when you are starting out and changing careers (like me), you have to consider taking less money and doing a different task in order to get recognized for your true talent.
Best of luck to you!
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