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Do you want an exciting career in game development and design? Unfortunately, it takes more than just a love of video games to be successful. Luckily, a Bachelor’s degree in game programming development and design from Coleman University can open the door to the myriad of opportunities the gaming industry has to offer. While many video game development careers may seem similar, a vast array of roles exists in the industry, ranging from creative functions (story development, artwork, music, etc.) to technical functions (coding, modeling, animation, etc.). At Coleman University, we offer a unique program that will prepare you for a rewarding career in game development and design by teaching you the skills and technologies that prospective employers look for in an applicant.
With such a wide array of potential career options, it befits you to determine which path is right for you, based on your interests, skills, and abilities. Though falling under the video game development and design umbrella, the distinct career paths all possess their own necessary skills and experiences. Can you draw? Concept art may be the right path for you! Are you a coding whiz? You just may be the next great game mechanics engineer! Let’s look at a few possible careers and what they look for in a candidate.
Game Designers are the architects of video game creation. They develop a vision of what the game will look like, how it plays, and how the various teams of developers will work together to bring that vision to life. First and foremost, game designers have to understand what gamers want and how to bring that demand to the screen. Once an idea for a game has been pitched, it is the game designer’s responsibility to determine which genre, platform, and game engine would suit the concept best. Once the foundation has been built, the game designer will lay out the fundamental concepts of the game, including characters, setting, and story. Each of these concepts will then be broken down further to include levels, landscapes, missions, and other central models that will ultimately shape how the gamer will interact with the game. Simply put, game designers see the big picture for every project.
Game programmers take the outline provided by the game designer and bring it to life through code. Since video games are essentially self-contained software packages, game programmers must be familiar with various coding languages, such as C++ (the most popular), Java, and C#. Another option that game studios utilize when developing a new game is the use of game engines. Game engines are basically pre-built software templates that programmers use to expedite the development process. They generally contain the game studio’s preferred physics engines, rendering engine, and animation bundles, among other things. The Coleman University Gaming Development and Design program will prepare students to master arguably the two most popular game engines available today: Unity and Unreal. Though used to accomplish similar tasks, these game engines possess different attributes, strengths, and limitations that prospective employers expect applicants to be able to navigate. With these tools at their disposal, game programmers can dictate characters interaction with the environment, commands from the player, and other characters.
Animators are responsible for the movements and interactions of characters and the environment. Much like game programmers, animators utilize a specialized software package to determine how things interact in the game. Though some games have cut scenes (a short movie within a game) that animators must design, most of the work comes from determining how the playable character moves within the environment. Early 2D games (like Mario and Pong) had fixed settings, because the hardware was not equipped to render advanced environments. However, with the advances in technology over the years, animators possess more freedom to explore the boundaries of what is possible within the construct of the game. With that said, animators are relied upon to portray the simulations as effectively as the hardware and software will allow. As a result, animators must be cognizant of the platform’s strengths and weakness, as well as the physics engine’s capabilities. With that said, this allows animators to create a cache of standardized character models that he or she can pull from in the future, rather than starting from scratch every time.
Video game tester may be the most sought after position in the video game industry, due to the nature of the role. Game testers provide quality assurance for studios by playing through upcoming games and discovering bugs or glitches. Generally, these positions are more entry-level than the others on this list, but still require the knowledge necessary to identify technical problems in the game. Video game testers also serve as the first focus group for a new game, as they are asked to give feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of each new project. Since video games are meant to be vessels of enjoyment, studios count on testers to determine if the gameplay is conducive to fun.
Though an education is important, experience is the most crucial requirement for a career in game design and development. In an effort to provide additional hands-on experience, Coleman University encourages students to work on independent game projects, as well as participate in two “Game Jams” per year. A game jam is a game development marathon that can last up to 48 hours and is meant to be collaborative. Generally, game jams bring people together in a single location, and participants are given a theme on which to base their game. By bringing people together, students have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of each other, ask questions, and receive feedback from their classmates and instructors. Though they only have 48 hours to produce a prototype, many developers go on to complete their games afterwards. By designing and programming their own games, students receive the opportunity to experience the responsibilities and tasks that accompany a career in game design and development. It also allows the students an opportunity to create a portfolio of their work, which can set an applicant apart when applying for jobs after graduation. As a matter of fact, some of the assets created are used in actual games!
Though the gaming industry encompasses many roles, the most basic (and valuable) skill is the ability to code. Many industry experts would recommend learning C++, as it is the most widely used. When pursuing careers in the industry, being able to present a game (even a rudimentary game) that you produced will be invaluable, as it proves to employers that you have the skills and knowledge to do what they are looking for. From there, more often than not, you will begin as a game tester. This role allows you to display your understanding of how a game should play and how to fix glitches. It also comes with the added benefit of playing video games for a living! Once you prove your worth, you have the opportunity to branch out to any of the jobs listed above (and many more). Unlike many professions, the foundational knowledge and skills allow designers and developers to dabble in multiple roles. Though some people do specialize, there is simply more crossover in the video game industry than others.
The video game business is ever-evolving due to its reliance on technology. As new technologies are developed, new breakthroughs in video gaming will follow. With an industry larger than that of Hollywood, studios are pouring more and more money into blockbuster titles. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6% increase in video game designer and developer jobs over the next eight years. Advancements in virtual reality or similar technology may cause a massive boom for an already promising industry. Though a love for video games is not sufficient for a career in the gaming industry, Coleman University’s Game Design and Development degree program can equip you with the tools and knowledge to pursue your passion for the world of video games.