The jobs of tomorrow are the ones that don’t even exist yet. They are also often the ones that sadly aren’t taken seriously, even though they can lead people to highly successful and rewarding careers. The youth of today have so many options available to them that never would have even been dreamed of when their parents were deciding what they wanted to be when they grow up. This divide in understanding of what jobs kids are interested in means kids can be moving through their lives into adulthood with a lack of understanding of what they are actually working towards, making it difficult for them to actually achieve their goals.
At STEM MINDS, we like to take the approach of taking kids seriously when they say they want to be something and give them the opportunity to explore the skills required for success in that job. Today is the first post in many to come of our Career Spotlight Series, where we will break down what you actually need to succeed in the jobs that we hear the most often when kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up. Let’s get started!
Job: Video Game Developer
Not to Be Confused With: Video Game Designer. Game Designers are the ones who focus on the mechanics, gameplay, and storyline of a game. Game Developers are the ones who bring that idea to life through animation and coding (1). Both are needed to make a successful game, but make sure you think carefully about which is your focus.
Average Salary: Starting at about $35,000 and topping off around $100,000 (2) (3)
Competitiveness: High. Canada is actually one of leaders in the video game industry and is continuing to grow, with major companies like Ubisoft, EA, and Bioware calling Canada home. A recent study stated that Canada currently employs about 16,500 people in the gaming industry (3). However, there are a lot of people interested in this industry, which means lots of competition. Be prepared for lots of hard work and competition along the way to your dream job.
Education: There are many pathways into video game design and not all of them require a formal education. Some of the most popular degrees held by Video Game Developers include Computer Science or Software Engineering. The best chance of success is to have both a formal education and an excellent portfolio. It is difficult to develop a great portfolio with little know-how, and a formal education helps you get there. But it’s also no good to have a degree with no examples of your work. You need to develop both.
The Positives: Most people who work in the video game industry do it because they love video games. They love playing them, but they also love learning about how they are made and creating their own. The feeling of having contributed to something in a meaningful way and be in a truly innovative industry is commonly cited as a source of satisfaction in the role. (4)
The Negatives: The Video Game Industry is an exhausting one. When you are working on a project, the days are long and often exhausting. Being in a time crunch is an almost constant reality so make sure you are prepared to work under pressure without it taking over your life. A lot of your personal time will also be spent keeping up with the video game industry itself, or else you risk becoming out of touch with what people want (3).
- Coding: Video games don’t just create themselves. They require coding, and lots of it. Being a Video Game Developer means many hours of sitting in front of a computer trying to make the game look and work just the way you want it to.
- Art: No one wants to play an ugly video game, plain and simple. You need to have a flair for the artistic if you want to succeed in this role.
- Animation & Digital Design: Video games are a form of digital media, which means digital design skills are crucial. You can’t just make a video game with pen and paper; you need to know how to take your creativity into the digital world. Lots of experience with digital design and artistry is critical for success in this role.
- Collaboration: No one (we repeat, NO ONE) makes a video game by themselves. There is a whole team involved from the game Designers to the Developers to the Producers to the Sound Technicians to the Voice Actors to the Marketers to the Playtesters. You will ALWAYS be working as part of a team. You need to be able to get along with others and work together to bring a collective goal to life. This means constantly finding a balance between the confidence to speak your mind and the ability to compromise for the greater good. This means working closely with people who may take a different approach than you. Although the first image of a Video Game Designer that springs to mind may often be a lonely person typing away at a computer, this is not really the case. There will be many people you will need to work with, and you will need to find a way to do it successfully if you want to thrive in this role.
- Communication: The key to successful collaboration is communication. You need to be able to actively listen to others to understand their perspective, wants, and needs. You need to be able to communicate your own thoughts and ideas effectively to your colleagues as well as communicate the gameplay to the player without a direct line of communication with them.
- Self Advocacy: No one is going to hand you a job in the Video Game industry. As we mentioned, it is highly competitive. To be successful in this role you need to be willing to show just what you know and are capable of with confidence. Employers will want to see a portfolio of your work, so develop a great one and be proud of what’s in it so that you are able to speak to your skills with confidence.
- Attention to Detail: The job of a Video Game Developer is one that requires an intense attention to detail. A bug in a game can spell disaster for its sales. A poorly executed rendering can make a game seem out of date. One tiny mistake in a long line of code can cause hours of frustration. As a Video Game Developer, you will need to pay close attention to detail at all times and not let this frustrate you.
I’ve Changed My Mind: So, you’ve decided that maybe you don’t want to be a Video Game Developer after all. That’s okay! Think carefully about what drew you to the profession in the first place. There are lots of roles within the video game industry other than a Game Developer, so there are still lots of other ways to have your passion be your career. Think about what kind of person you are and what you enjoy, and do some research into other areas that might be more fulfilling for you.
Still sound like something you may be interested in? Check out our new course on Game Design & Development to learn more: https://stemminds.com/product/game-and-design-development/
Written & Authored by Nicole Myers, Director of Curriculum & Business Development