The gaming industry is easily one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, with an estimated 10% year-over-year growth and a net worth of over $162 billion in 2020. Experts believe that one in three people in the population is immersed in video games–a testament to this behemoth industry’s influence. It has also given rise to Esports, a multibillion-dollar industry that has empowered gamers to make a living out of their hobby on a competitive level.
Beyond the excitement of team PvP battles, the fulfilling brain overdose that only strategy games can offer, and even the relaxing bliss of tapping games, are developers that work day and night to make new worlds come to life.
Becoming a game developer is a coveted career choice––who doesn’t love the prospect of creating a video game? However, the reality is always a lot less vibrant, and no no-brainer strategy could help you cheese your way to the top. The world of game development is filled with long hours, passion, and the occasional stroke of luck from RNGods smiling down upon you. From an insider to you, here’s what you need to know about working in the competitive industry that fuels worldwide enjoyment.
The Easy But Not-So-Easy Barrier of Entry
Game development is a multifaceted workflow: you have people who specialize in level design, others that prefer to delve deep into storytelling, programmers who build custom functions, sound engineers, concept artists, quality testers, and more. Production involves plenty of work, which means plenty of manpower and plenty of skill sets necessary to keep operations in order.
Because game development is such a new field, most universities don’t offer degrees specific to the job description. Instead, recruiters usually look for people with a software engineering or computer programming degree. It’s a little easier on the art side, as artists with experience with character design, CGI, and 3D modeling and animation for films can shift gears and become game artists.
A Community that Cares
For aspiring game programmers and developers, gathering experience involves a little bit of self-help. It’s hard to find education in industry-specific standards, so you need to divert some of your time and passion from playing games to actually creating them. Game engines like Unity and GameMaker are highly accessible and are used by pretty big names in the industry, so you can use them as training tools to help you build a portfolio before employment.
There’s also a vast community of game developers with a passion for mobile, console, and computer games and are willing to help you in any area of development––whether map design or the technical aspects of the job. Reddit’s r/gamedev and gamedev.net are some great places where you can connect with other passionate individuals with the same goal.
Job Security is on Shaky Grounds
The amount of jobs available is dependent on the role you’re interested in. For instance, there are usually more artists than creative game directors in a team; naturally, the demand for artists will be much higher. The overarching game development role is also rather vast, so even if you opt for a career in marketing or writing, you still have a chance of entering the industry.
However, even if there’s a demand for staff members, companies usually outsource workers from low-wage countries in Asia. On average, a developer in the US earns approximately $100,000 a year, while the same kind of work in India only costs $6,000. There’s also been a shift in company dynamics––freelancers are replacing full-time workers. In 2020, COVID-19 brought a 64-68% surge in demand for game developers and designers, but most companies aren’t hiring for permanent positions.
If you do find a full-time job, there’s also an issue of job security––even if you worked on some of the greatest AAA titles in existence. Companies are known to do a mass exodus after a game has been released, firing the people who made success a reality. In short, it’s a little hard to find security in a fast-paced industry where corporate shareholders make a lot of the big decisions.
The Reality of Being on Your Own
It’s challenging to find a foothold in the world of game development, and it’s even harder if you don’t have the luxury of not having a stable job. Freelancing requires a ton of work on your end, from perfecting your skills to advertising your work and dealing with clients that underpay or don’t pay at all. But it’s sometimes the only way to get enough experience to start up an Indie company, join a major company, or feed yourself for the next few weeks.
You’re going to need to market yourself beyond Fiverr and Upwork aggressively. Finding clients usually start from word-of-mouth, but you could also leverage platforms like YouTube to showcase your work and attract recruiters.
Looking at the Bright Side
A benefit to freelancing is that you can control how much work you take in, so you have time to work on personal projects. Nowadays, the viral gaming scene is defined by independent developers, so there’s an opportunity to grow in that market. Minecraft creator Markus Persson encourages people like you to go ahead and make games that you like and be critical about your own work.
Alternatively, NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have empowered independent developers and designers by providing a source of income outside the freelancing market. With the rise of modding culture in games, platforms like DIGITALAX allow you to sell non-replicable designs, while ESPA offers you the chance to turn your game into an Esport-ready venture. Taking advantage of opportunities like these early on is essential in surviving on your own in such a competitive industry.
At the End of the Day, Do What You Want to Do
Getting into the gaming industry can feel like playing a game on hell mode without cheats. But facing challenges is what gamers are best at, right? Don’t lose hope, and start working toward your goal as early as possible. Go ahead and download Unity and some free asset packs, read up on programming languages, browse through character design books, and get started. Ultimately, it’s up to you to forge your path and make decisions that will guarantee you a spot in the coveted world of video games.
Has this article changed your perspective of the gaming industry? What do you feel now––after learning about how it’s not as easy as it seems?