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  • So you want to make games, eh?

    [01.14.16]
    - Rahul Sehgal

  • Even if you do plan to set up your own game making outfit or become a solo developer, a basic education in making games will help a lot. 

    Game making is collaborative in nature and whether you wish to be a designer, programmer or artist, it really helps to understand the nature of the work of the remainder of the team. Try to be as versatile as possible; a programmer that can use image editing software like Photoshop, dabble in 3D modelling software like Blender as well as be part of a strong design feedback loop is worth a lot to any development team.

    The best place to develop this kind of versatility is a small, highly motivated team, such as an Indie outfit. Typically, everyone helps out with design and nobody is excluded from any part of the game development process. The whole team needs to pull hard together to build a high quality game with limited resources, and the skills acquired in this kind of creative environment are very valuable. Moreover, it is a high-risk creative environment and ideas/concepts are edgier and more radical. Unfortunately, it also means that your paycheck (if there is one at all) is not going to be very secure. It's a great ride, creatively speaking, but It may not be a dependable way to pay your bills.

    Larger companies are comparatively low-risk creative environments. Large teams mean that you will probably be a small part of a large process. There is scope there to learn structured game development processes (and politics!) as well as gather experience in newer areas of the game making process such as Analytics and Marketing as well as really understand the QA (Quality Assurance) process. All of these are valuable skills too.

    A good way to start (like I did) is as an Intern. I worked for quite a while in Piranha Games, Vancouver as a QA Intern. I would (without pay) work Monday to Friday from 10 to 5, testing games. I actually helped to set up a QA system where none existed, and learned how a studio functions. I made some good friends there and my work there helped me to get my first job as game designer at Gameloft. It may sound like exploitation now, but I was actually quite happy doing the work.

    Some outfits welcome interns, and even pay a decent stipend. Others can be persuaded to take on a new team member who is wiling to work for little or no money.

    The last option is to start your own outfit without any kind of education or work experience. This could work too, but you will need the heart of a Lion (or Lioness). To make good games you're going to need a team, and getting one together could take years, like it did for me. This particular journey needs a post all of its own, that I aim to write sometime soon.

    A very important factor is the development of a work portfolio. Start a blog, post links to your projects, sketches, renders. Write a game review without worrying about how it's going to sound. Go to game jams, make something. Post it on Facebook developer groups and ignore the trolls. Look for genuine feedback for your work without being greedy for praise. Strive to be honest, sincere and earnest. You'll go far.

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