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  • So you want to make games, eh?

    - Rahul Sehgal
  • I get asked this question a lot, so I decided to write a post and link it if someone asked again. It's generally one of these variations:

    "How do I join the video game industry?"

    "I love playing games and want to make them! How do I start?"

    "How can I get a job in a video game company?"

    The game industry is made up of several kinds of 'Outfits'. There are large companies with studios in different countries that employ thousands, medium-sized ones that have 20-100 employees as well as Indies that consist of a few people working together to make games.

    Some of these outfits work on client projects; that is, they make games for other people; also known as outsourcing. This is a reliable source of revenue and pays the bills, so to speak. Some outfits only make their own games; that is, they conceive, create and release games and live on the revenue thus generated. This is comparatively risky, as there is no assurance of when a new game will be completed satisfactorily or how much money it will make.

    Others such as my own outfit Roach Interactive, do a mix of the two. We work on client projects as well as make and release our own games in the mobile space. It's a simple strategy that helps us to pay the bills while making the kind of games that we can be happy about.

    The important thing to understand here is:

    "The only way to learn how to make games is ACTUALLY MAKE THEM".

    This means that theory and textbooks and lessons have a rather limited scope in teaching game creation. It is very practical and "Just Do It" based learning, so any path that you choose to learn how to make games must involve actually making them.

    That said, it definitely helps to have a strong base in the theory of game design, art and programming. A good mentor and/or experienced instructor (with actual industry experience) can make a big difference in the time it takes to figure things out.

    I'd say that there are generally two paths to being a professional game maker-a formalized education followed by work experience, or jumping straight in and starting to make games. A lot depends on your circumstances and background; if you already know some art and/or programming through school or your work, that will make things easier. However, remember that you will need to make at least one buggy, unpolished game that you may be embarrassed to show after a few years.

    A formalized game development training course can be anywhere from six months to four years, and the fees can vary from a couple of thousand to a hundred thousand dollars. A good training course involves theory as well as project training, where students form teams and create their own games in consultation with mentors and/or instructors. At the end, students graduate with at least one game title to their name.

    If you can afford the time and money, I would definitely recommend some form of formalized education, as it helps to build a strong skill base and establishes an invaluable network of peers and mentors. It takes away a considerable chunk of trial-and-error from your first few projects. I studied game design at VFS, and I now realize that one year of education and training taught me what I would have taken three to five years to learn otherwise. It was a heavy financial burden though, and one that I still bear.

    If your circumstances do not allow you to join a course of study, then by all means jump right in. This is a great time for making video games, as the technical and financial barrier to creating games has recently become very, very low. This is good as well as bad news. It means that almost everyone can (and is) making a video game, so the world of video games is getting very crowded. However, most of these games are of a rather low quality that betrays the unprofessional game development process behind them.


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