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Career

Thoughts on Video Game Programming jobs

What inspires new students to pursue computer science education? Previously, I have mentioned that “Drawing and animating is the instant gratification of computer science learning.” I remember thinking, back in high school, of getting into the video game programming business, and I’m sure that many students started out with the same thoughts for a future career.

Recently, Reuters has published an article, reflecting on just such a career choice.

David Hodgson, an author of “Paid to Play: An Insider’s Guide to Video Games Careers,” says the hours are long, deadlines strict, the work can be monotonous and, in the case of programmers, the pay starts at around $50,000 a year — below that of other high-tech industries.

Indeed, one might have noticed “video game programming” colleges popping up all over the place in the last few years. The influx of such specialized graduates would certainly lower the starting salary. In fact, this whole situation makes me recall a certain VG Cats comic on EA’s game programmers.
VG Cats - EA Programmer

So do video games make a poor choice for the aspiring programmers? Absolutely not. Though it helps to consider the trends involved.

My personal benchmark for the ultimate video game programmer position was always Blizzard Entertainment. And while your ‘bonus points’ would change from a game to a project, Blizzard’s requirements for a game programmer essentially stayed the same:

  • Strong C/C++ and PC programming skills.
  • Minimum of 2 years experience programming at least one title that has already shipped.
  • A passion for games and game development.
  • Good communication skills.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or a related field.

The marked points are of greater emphasis – one can crunch through those “video game programming” institutes and programs, and even get their name on some game title… The top of the line game studios are still looking for formal University education in Computer Science.

A somewhat paradoxical point remains – if every game studio required 2 years of experience, where would a new graduate get it? Everyone has to start somewhere.

Many people make their start in testing but the work can be grinding. It’s low paid — around the same as donning a headset and working the window at a fast-food establishment. It can also be mind-numbing as it is not unusual to play the same game or even the same level for months until it’s bug free.

But it can be a stepping stone.

So there you have it – a career developing video games has more competition, requirements, and less starting pay. Thought not to discourage anyone, such work does offer creativity, and more room for passion than most IT careers. Ultimately it’s still every kids dream to play video games for a living.

So lets hear it – have you ever thought of making video games as a career? What about now? What’s your plan to distinguish yourself from everyone else? I’d love to hear what others think!

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Discussion

  1. Posted by Ilya Grigorik | December 14, 2006, 12:28 am

    Spot on. Over the years at UWaterloo I got a chance to talk to a lot of Microsoft / Amazon / etc. recruiters. First thing they always recommend to have on your resume – open source experience. However, it’s not open source for the sake of having done open source. Rather, participating in open source tells them something about you – you’re passionate about that area, you enjoy contributing, you went out of your way and accommodated your busy schedule to get this done.

    There are plenty of guys with great marks, and then there are some guys who might not have the best marks, but have done some amazing things in the background. That’s what they want to see. I imagine this is no different for the gaming industry. If you’re serious about it, then get the ball rolling, start plugging away at it! Microsoft’s XNA project looks very interesting – that maybe one route. If not, find an online project, contribute; start something of your own! Heck, it can even be a blog on the subject, it doesn’t have to be code! They want to see passion, simple as that.

    Reply to comment

  2. Posted by John | January 26, 2007, 3:47 pm

    I’ve currently been in the game industry for over 8 years now and I think now there is a new sort of opportunity besides strict game programming that a Comp. Sci. grad could think about.

    If you have any artistic ability and are into shaders, particle systems , etc, you can go into the Technical Artist field.

    From what I see, many game companies are DESPERATE to find someone with a blend of these skillsets.

    I’ve been a World Building/Environment Artist for most of my career but I’m currently starting to get into scripting (MEL, Python) and then step up to C, C++, C# for shader creation and tools.

    THAT will be what sets you out from the crowd and maybe will get your foot in the door.

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    Anthony replied on: January 29th, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    What colleges do you know of to learn all these codes? I’m currently attending Collins College, and recently found out I will not be writing code, which is why I am going to college. Since I have found this information I wish to find and switch to a college that will teach me code. I’m in Arizona and will definitely transfer around Arizona to find the college that will teach me all these languages of code. If you could direct me to a college I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks,

    Anthony

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    Tony replied on: January 30th, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Your best bet would be to read the detailed descriptions of the programs offered, something along the lines of http://compsci.ca/blog/choosing-between-computer-science-and-computer-engineering/, to have a good idea of what you are getting into. Talking to existing students at colleges/universities of choice is also helpful.

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  3. Posted by Striker | March 18, 2007, 12:12 pm

    As many of you have heard day in and day out from countless other kids I am a lover of games. I read about it and there seems to always be severe bashings on EA. I actually went to Florida to check out Full Sail Real World Education. A School dedicated to Game Design Film and the sorts. I come to find out the drop out/ fail out rate is insane. I had met many people while down there and all hoped to graduate and land a job at EA who seems to be the number 1 provider of jobs for this school. It so happens my friend started with a class of around 35 and he is the last one left from the original class. Kinda makes you think, is it worth the risk?

    I began to question my own abilities to compete at such a school when I came across a notebook from my childhood. I opened it and it read page after page “When I grow up me and my friends all are going to be game designers.” Mind you I was a child and we all thought that way. I am the last one left LOL. They all gave up without even looking into the field believing they couldn’t do it. I however have not given up, and do not plan to. I realized when I read my notebook that certain people have a passion. Succeed or fail no one should ever be denied the chance to chase that dream.

    Realizing this I of course went against the schools advice of just joining blindly. The kept saying things like “You don’t need programming experience just a passion.” Even so, I believe it is a serious venture to attend any school and chase any dream. Thus for
    about a year now I have been studying at home learning more of computer software hardware and languages like Java and C . I am an amateur by far, and this exp I am giving myself does not count to companies, but I will be well prepared to chase that dream. Passion I do not lack, so when reading this article I say Yes I will continue chasing my dream. Small pay, fine. Long hours, it will be tough. But the day I release a game that everyone I see in a game store says, this game is a masterpiece, and I was apart of making that game, I expect that will be an amazing feeling much greater than $$$$.

    Plus it doesn’t hurt to have my kids when I have some say at bring your father to school day, “My dad is the coolest he makes your favorite games!” Sure beats my dad the Burger Maker.

    Thats my reaction to this article, I appreciate your thoughts. LATES!

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    C.J. replied on: April 3rd, 2009 at 7:48 am

    Hey dude straight up I’m only 17 and I have a passion to learn more about the gaming industry. Like you I want to make a game that people look at and say it is a “master piece” I know I have a lot to do to get where I need to go and it will be tough, but it will be worth it in the long run.

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    manu replied on: October 30th, 2009 at 3:20 am

    Holy jesus! im also 17 and i also want to be a game programer. but im scared, what if i don’t find a job, what if i have to wash my hair with rain water. i just hope im making the right decision. Im soo nervous of what will happen with my life.

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  4. Posted by Tony | March 18, 2007, 4:15 pm

    @Striker – yeah, I hear a lot of those “35 class down to five / two / one person” stories. It’s pretty amazing how you knew exactly what you wanted to do, and chased your childhood dream. That’s the kind of passion required to succeed in the industry.

    A little bit off on a tangent, but I recall this one study that found that graduates (not game development, just any) who actually wrote down what they wanted to do, have done better than those who only expressed their goals verbally. And both groups have ended up much more successful than students who were unsure of where they were heading with their education.

    And you are absolutely right, having produced a tangible product that you can be proud of is priceless. Best of luck in your ventures.

    Now if you excuse me, I’m going to go and write down some goals I’d like achieved in my notebook ;)

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  5. Posted by Tim | May 17, 2007, 11:04 pm

    Saw this too late but what the heck.

    I have been in the Sillicon Valley software business for a better part of 25 years spending countless days and hours in little start-ups. Some made it and some did not.

    Why limit your interest or passion to game? If you have the drive to learn C, C and eventually OO Design and Analysis, why not take a real course at a University or starting with a local community college? Why not get a real degree? This will get you in the door to so many jobs that game programming is just one product. Why limit your option if it is to be your livelihood?

    While I remember those days when I felt proud about shipping products, knowing my effort, heart, blood, sweat and code is in this and that product, in the end, as I enter my early 50’s, all that matter no more. It is how much you make, can you pay your children’s college fees, can you retire, can you pay off that mortgage, can you get medical benefits. In the end, it is a job.

    It is good to be enthusiastic and energetic and passionate but eventually, the software engineering world will wear you down if you keep spending long hours meeting countless deadlines at the expense of your personal health and family time.

    So I suggest that you really get a solid education in order to get a solid paying job, as in $85,000 and higher if you are a good engineer. Senior ones get as much as $120K with architects raking in $150K at some larger corporations.

    Good luck!

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  6. Posted by Tony | May 19, 2007, 11:11 pm

    Tim – thank you for your input! Although I did come to a conclusion that top ranking game studios will still be looking for Computer Science degrees. Game development is one of many practical applications of programming. It shouldn’t matter what one programs, or in what language – a competent computer science graduate should perform well in either permutation. I suppose that video game development is just an inspiration to the younger kids – it’s difficult to get excited with “I’m gonna design a new database engine!” until one is well into the field.

    Also, being in early 20s, it’s still difficult to relate to the importance of paying off the mortgage bills. I’m still an idealist who’s after that really cool job (instead of a high paying one).

    Reply to comment

  7. Posted by Sam | July 3, 2007, 10:05 am

    I am worried about my choices and would appreciate any replys.

    I am currently doing a 4-year mathematics degree. I want to go into games programming. So why didn’t I choose Computer Science? Suprisingly I hate computers and hate any educational system for teaching anything that is IT or computer related. However I really enjoy teaching myself C , and will do some CS modules, such as Java and purhapes algorithms. Anyway I look around and see that Computer Science is a prerequisite for games programming, but I have been told this is not entirely true. Some people I know say a good maths degree and a course in Object Oriented programming combined with passion would suffice. So my question is; am I barking up the wrong tree??? Am I now doomed not to program games? Or is my friend right, and as long as I can prove knowledge of C or somthing, I would be ok???

    p.s. I know that I will understand C AND Java to computer science level, however it is all the other stuff thrown into Computer science that I will have little knowledge.

    Reply to comment

  8. Posted by Tony | July 5, 2007, 9:10 am

    @Sam – your friend is right. From the above article the requirement is “Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or a related field.” Math is very much a related field. There is no reason you should not be able to succeed in game programming if you prove your expertise, although the “prove” part might be a bit more challenging. Companies might expect to see more from you to make sure you are up to par.

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  9. Posted by James | September 19, 2007, 1:46 pm

    @Tony

    Hi, I just found this through Google, and you seem to have a good idea of what your on about. Anyways, I just started my Sophomore year of high school (grade 10), and I would like to pursue a CS degree and possibly some form of Math. I have set my mind on attending Berkeley, if I get accepted that is.

    I was wondering you there was a way to self-teach a few languages without spending money. I am currently trying to learn Java but it’s not going so well. I have always wanted to make my own game, even if it isn’t a good one, because from the bad you make the good.

    If you can help me please email me @ jamestheterrible@hotmail.com – I also have a few more questions.

    Thank You — James

    Reply to comment

  10. Posted by Tony | September 19, 2007, 2:39 pm

    James,
    One doesn’t necessary need high school level programming experience, although an early start is beneficial. And there is certainly a lot of advanced free material available online. Though the best I could recommend is to pick up a book to follow, and join forums on a programming community to ask questions.

    Reply to comment

  11. Posted by Leon | September 21, 2007, 3:43 pm

    I was just looking through Google, yet again looking for something or someone to prove what i am aiming for is not useless.
    This is the first webpage to make me think going to university to study a Masters Degree in Computer Games Programming is not pointless.
    I do tend to find that, altough it has always been my childhood dream to be within the computer games business, doing something or other games related, people continually look down on me, for this factor.

    I always say that i dont care what others think… this is what i want to do, if people dont like it, tough.

    I have just finished a National Diploma in Software Development, to be accepted into Staffordshire University (UK) for start in September 2008, but in the meanwhile i have a gap year to take care of. Is there anything i should do within my gap year to help me in my possible future?

    Thanks…

    Reply to comment

  12. Posted by Tony | September 24, 2007, 12:17 am

    Leon,
    There’s often a lot of misconception surrounding video game degrees. Others might look down upon you because they don’t understand the complexities involved, but game programming is not about playing games.

    If you’re going to have a lot of spare time, you should probably take advantage of it, and start working on some personal projects. It definitely sounds like you have the passion for the field, but you’d also need to have a portfolio to show for yourself. Taking a small game from a concept to finish, and blogging about the process, will teach you a lot, and present you as an aspiring video game developer.

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  13. Posted by sam | September 25, 2007, 10:33 am

    First thanks to tony for answering questions.

    What sort of projects are a good idea for a portfolio? While learning C I wrote a program, which solved tic tac toe (trivial I know), so I was wondering whether solving a more complicated game like connect 4 would impress at all? I was also wondering whether improving/using existing free source code to create programs is more impressive than writing things from scratch?

    cheers

    Reply to comment

  14. Posted by Tony | September 25, 2007, 1:09 pm

    I think that working on open source projects is ideal for building up experience. You’ll get to work on projects that are much larger than trivially small programs. You’ll get to work with a group of other people. And if you’re an active contributor, you could even try using project leaders as your references (assuming they are familiar enough with you and your contributions to the project).

    Reply to comment

  15. Posted by Adam | September 27, 2007, 10:00 am

    Hey guys,

    i’m in highschool, grade 12.5 (more credits in math)

    I had a similar experience as Striker did with his notebook. I found a set of duo-tangs with a whole D&D style game i designed on paper when i was about 10 i think. I was concidering taking a “desk job” or so i’d like to call it, rather than a “game job”…But i really can’t imagine myself sitting there working on some busniess’s database for 25 years…it’s honestly depressing, i’m really not interested in that…but it isn’t easy to go the game development road.

    I’ve read everyone’s comments and i’m generally finding my thoughts are the same as everyone’s. I’ve been told it’s hard to get in the industry. That i should get a degree in CS, and if possible with a major in game development. and it’s very confusing.

    i’m very confused at this point. I get some people telling me it’s nearly impossible to get in, and others saying it’s easy enough if you have a passion, and a bit of experience.

    And as someone said earlyer, there’s people with high marks, and people with lower marks who are still doing some great work. I think i definetely fall into this category…I have something like a 65 in calculus, yet i got the highest mark in computer science at my highschool 3 years in a row (99.3% in grade 11). (and not just because nobody likes it XD ).

    Guys i would LOVE to talk to anyone with experience here…I’ll give my MSN name at the end of this, and i hope people add me. I definetly am aware the challenges involving the work. but the reward is far greater than the sacrifice…that, “pricelessness” (sp?)…

    I find it’s very hard to find concrete info on this subject without having ads thrown in your face about “halo 3″, or “get a free xbox!”…and even ads about gaming colledges and such. it’s really quite sad to see all these places trying to steal your money because you have a passion and wish to persue it. I’ve emailed universities to no avail as well…I do have a friend though who WAS working in this field for 8 years or so…he owns his own computer shop, and apparently was a contributor to the quake mod, i forget it’s name…he made the “cliff” map that everyone loved; where one team waits at the bottom, and the other team comes storming down. he told me it was EXTREEMLY hard to get in, and you basically had to know the right people and be top of your classes…which sort of defeats the purpose imo.

    sorry for my horrible spelling, i’m using a computer and i have only a few minutes left, no time for spell checks. I also appologise probably writting WAY to much about something i don’t know much about, i’m sure there are plenty of people who know a TON more than me on this site. But whatever knowledge i have is simply being derived from the lack of info regarding this field.

    MSN Messenger & Email: xpertsword@hotmail.com

    thanks for reading.

    Reply to comment

  16. Posted by Rob | September 28, 2007, 3:54 am

    I found reading this very helpful as am currently in year 13 at sixth form studying Maths, computing and media (having done physics but dropped it at the end of year 12). I have always wanted to become a computer games programmer eventhough I know about the long hours, little pay etc.

    I was just wondering if anyone could help me as I am thinking to do computer games programming at university in the UK. Will places like EA, Blizzard or anyone care about me having this qualification? Or is it pretty pointless.

    I am also taking a GAP year and am trying to find something useful that will help me later on either studying at university or trying to find a job, anyone got any suggestions as to what I could do? I did find this website: http://www.gameinstitute.com/
    But am unsure if it would be worth spending the money on.

    Thanks in advance for any help

    Reply to comment

  17. Posted by Tony | October 2, 2007, 12:29 am

    Adam – you’re right, there’s a lot of hype and a lot of people trying to make money by selling the idea of “game dev colleges”. It makes finding legitimate information harder. I can’t give you an expert advice – I am not in the gaming field. Though when a lot of people are looking to this very specific type of work, it should be clear that you do have to be the top of your class, in order to end up where you want to be.

    Rob – high end studios appear to be looking for Computer Science degrees, though they are open to similar experiences. Obviously education is just one of the ways to demonstrate your abilities. If possible, it might be a good idea to track down some alumni of the program of interest, and see where they’ve ended up.

    It’s been mentioned above that it’s a pretty good idea to get involved with some applicable open source project during gap periods of time.

    Reply to comment

  18. Posted by Chris | October 14, 2007, 6:13 am

    I found this somewhat interesting so i’ll throw in my 2 cents as well. If you are going to college to get a degree in CS then get a degree in CS NOT game programming. So many people come into college as a freshman thinking programming is all about games and in reality it is 0% about games.

    Things involved in CS Degree:

    1. You will probably start off learning c and or java (once you know C the rest of the high level languages are cake)

    2. Computer Architecture – how does a computer work?
    – this involves history of computers, design, implementation, and general know- how

    3. Quite a bit of high level math is involved (almost enough for a 2nd degree/minor)

    I assure you that in a REAL CS degree program you will not do any game programming whatsoever unless there is some form of an elective offered which may teach a little bit of design. The main focus is to learn to program and be efficient in what you do.

    so to some up a little…

    PLEASE do not go into college thinking a programming degree is about gaming!

    For the HS kids posting in here let me give you some tips on things to start studying on if you really want to be ahead.

    1. Learn assembly language

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  19. Posted by Frankie | November 13, 2007, 9:04 am

    I’m currently a high school with a great interest in video game programming and design. In my business and marketing class here at school, we’re currently doing projects on the career of our choice so i went right into video game programming and design. I’ve been looking online a lot for information on what i should do in college, what degrees i’ll need, and where i should go to college but mostly i’m seeing adds for different online colleges. I’m currently in FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) and i’ve been set up in this program using “Alice” (some object oriented programing) with college students who are in classes like computer sciences and the such…

    Any advice on this would be great!

    Reply to comment

  20. Posted by Travis | January 8, 2008, 8:18 pm

    I have just started in the gaming industry but I have been programming for 22 years. I first thought I wanted to program business applications. Boy, was I wrong. Spitting out business apps or web forms is some major boring stuff. I would not take any money in the world to do it anymore. That is why I have gotten into the gaming industry. The money is there and I don’t have to worry about boring material. Everything is top of the line and cutting edge. If it’s not, it won’t compete. There are other software engineering jobs that could offer the same results, but like most people have stated, it’s every boy’s dream.

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  21. Posted by Carl | January 23, 2008, 12:45 am

    hey guys.
    im 17, and i really want to go into the video programming field, i have read what everyone else has said about it ( long hours, low pay etc.) but i still want to pursue this career.any advice on how i should start? im going to be going to DeVry in 4 months, but what do i need to know? do i need to know any languages before the college? or do i learn everything i need to know in the college? and anyone know any websites or anything i can start studying languages and programming?

    -Carl

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  22. Posted by Tony | January 23, 2008, 1:13 am

    @Carl: I’m sure that a college will start off with basic enough stuff to allow one to catch up. Though if you haven’t done any programming before then you might be in for a surprise — it might or might not turn out to be your thing. Programming clicks in quickly for some people, but is more challenging for others. Though then again there’s more to games than just pure software logic, so one downfall doesn’t have to break the career in game development.

    Either way, it might be a good idea to pick up an interesting book and join the forums — it’s mostly students interested in programming, so it’s a good community of peers to learn with.

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  23. Posted by Carl | January 23, 2008, 2:51 am

    yea i dont know too much about programming but ive been studying all day, and i can finally do basic programming in the language C, but i hope by time i attend DeVry i will be fluent in both C and C . the way i am learning now is somewhat difficult because, its not hands on, and its somewhat confusing.i cant wait to attend DeVry so i can get some hands on learning, and get my career rolling. is learning C online easier or better than a book? i dont have any books but im going to get some so when im not home i can study.

    -Carl

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  24. Posted by Carl | January 23, 2008, 3:06 am

    one question, i hear that starting with C is bad and that its better to start with ruby or python, is that true? i have to admit that C is confusing, but i want to learn a language that will help me the most and C is used the most, what do u think i should do?

    Reply to comment

  25. Posted by Tony | January 23, 2008, 10:25 am

    I see you’ve made your way to the forums with the same question, and McKenzie has left you an excellent reply.

    My personal take is that C’s power comes from it’s low level abilities, but you don’t get to use any of that when you first start learning, so it might as well be any other language.

    Reply to comment

  26. Posted by Adam | January 23, 2008, 11:29 am

    Hey guys, I wrote a lenghty piece in here a whole ago. I just saw a whole pile of updates in my email so I thought I’d drop a line. I’ve decided that I’m getting a degree in computer science. That way, as soon as I graduate I could land a job easily enough. Once I get stable, I think I would work towards getting into the game field. I’m finished highschool now, and applied to university, just awaiting a reply now.

    I chose carelton university (ontario), not only because waterloo is far to difficult to get into, but because of the new program they have. It’s a major in computer science, but with a minor in game developement…Or however that terminology works. This way I would get both sides of the fence at once. A coop is also in line. Also, I noticed some universities require biology and chemistry, which is a bit odd to me; having 0 experience in that field. The most biology & chemistry I’ve encountered with computers is the crumbs in my keyboard, and the compressed-air can I use to get rid of them.

    Though I still am struggling through math. I seem to get 2/3 or 5/7 on every question on tests. Which leads my average to about 60-75 on tests. I was good at vectors and stuff though, I got 85 on the mid tern exam (we did vectors then calculus for the other half of semester). It’s just weird, everyone keeps saying there’s tons of math involved, but I’m still not seeing it.

    But back to the job topic here. There seems to be 2 sides of the fence to jump on. 1 side being more software oriented, and the other more game oriented. $50,000 a year is ALOT for a starting job. I mean, I have heard of private “places”, for lack of a better word atm, that will offer $100,000 to graduates. My cousin works there, though he isn’t a programmer I don’t think. Like that’s alot of money, but I still think I would get bored. Sure later you look for stability, but for right now, I’m not too concerned about it. Maybe once I get a better grasp of programming, I’ll be able to decide which side of the fence I lie on.

    For now, I’m just sticking to flash games until university times arives. Gotta keep your feet in the water so to speak. But as I seem to be discovering, there’s an entire lake full water, and just putting your feet in doesn’t cut it.

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  27. Posted by Tony | January 23, 2008, 11:44 am

    Hey Adam, thx for the update!

    I was looking over Carleton University, and it appears to be a decent choice for Computer Science. And you are absolutely right, they do have a Computer Game Development program, so you could major, minor, or just pick up some interesting courses from the program.

    And just to note — Biology/Chemistry are required as a general science credit, a foundation course for the scientific process.

    Reply to comment

  28. Posted by Paul | February 6, 2008, 11:21 am

    Request for Advice from a Parent,

    My son is 12 years old and has a passion for video/computer games….but who doesn’t at that age? I am an IT person and started my son on computers at 18 months old. By the age of 5 he was installing his own software, and by the age of 10 he learned how to set up his own Jedi Knight Academy server. He often helps me swap out defective devices from our PCs at home or perform upgrades. He is well on his way to becoming a computer geek, is quite tech-savvy and does well in science at school.

    After high school he wants to study Video Game Development. I am concerned though because he does not have strong drawing skills or math skills and that affects his self-esteem. Drawing skills are either something that comes naturally at an early age or it is something that can be learned over time with a lot of practice. Math skills can also be learned over time with a lot of practice.

    Is it realistic to think that he could succeed in post-secondary school if he was to pursue video game development? If so, then what can I do to help him prepare for it now? Are strong drawing and math skills essential to get through the program and eventually into the workforce?

    Any thoughts are appreciated.

    Reply to comment

  29. Posted by Tony | February 6, 2008, 12:05 pm

    Paul, your son seems very tech-savvy for his age, so if he’s interested in the field and has some self-motivation to do well, there shouldn’t be a reason for him not to succeed.

    Drawing skills are not critical to video game development — in any project involving at least a few people there will usually be a dedicated artist to cover the artwork. Small indy-sized games usually rely on simple computer generated shapes for graphics, certainly not hand artwork or complex 3D models.

    Math is somewhat of a different story. Clayton has touched onto the subject, but there’s a mixed response. Math is critical for Computer Science part — development of a new physics or graphics engines for example. On the other hand there are many other areas of game development that don’t require heavy math, and simply use software packaged/libraries developed by someone else (for example developing games on top of existing engines like Unreal’s or Half-Life’s).

    So either might be required, to a certain extend, to complete a demanding program. Though neither has to be critical to succeed in a career.

    Reply to comment

  30. Posted by sam | February 6, 2008, 1:50 pm

    @Paul, Tony is right, you dont need math skills for game dev. However for most programming it is desired and maths will help understanding of programming concepts.

    The following is a bit of a ramble, but as a maths enthusiast I am sure it may help.

    I am doing a degree in maths. I hated it up to age 12, even then I have only really enjoyed maths at degree level, but always done well at it. My skill in maths however is not down to some born ability or even practice. It is the teacher. The number one rule in maths is you wont understand it if your teacher cant teach it. Hypothetically EVERYONE can be good at maths, some might be born slightly better than others.

    So if your son wants to get into the programming/CS side, maths skills can be gained in hardley any time given the right teacher or book. You can either get your son private tutoring if your rich or teach it to him yourself. Best just ensure the teacher at school is good at teaching maths.

    Practice makes perfect, however it doesn’t help understanding. So my best bit of advice is buy a good book. Good books start right at the begging, never assuming the reader knows anything. Do you remember a teacher telling you at school what the axioms of the real numbers are? I guess the answer is no. I will give an analogy to describe the way school teachs maths; imagine picking up a book and reading the last chapter, you might know the conclusion, but you probably wont understand it, AND find it boring. A book on its own might just seem heavy, but a good book with a good teacher and mastering maths is anyones game. School teaches the stuff you need to know, and a good book will explain it, and tell you why its true. An understanding of maths at a basic level, enables an understanding at any level. I am going to buy a book tommorrow, I will look for somthing suitable as I want to buy a back to basics book for my younger brothers, I will post the names here soon.

    Sorry I rambled, (1) Anyone can be good at maths, (2) Good teacher, (3) Good books. (4) never assume anything in maths (5) as a teacher, assume your pupil knows nothing.

    Sam

    p.s. I can not emphasis enough that NO one is bad at maths, they have just been taught badly.

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  31. Posted by Paul | February 6, 2008, 2:19 pm

    Thanks Tony and Sam for your responses. It makes me feel more at ease with the situation. I was thinking about getting this book for him. What do you think? This is not a programming book.

    Game Design: Principles, Practice, And Techniques – The Ultimate Guide For The Aspiring Game Designer
    Author: Jim Thompson
    Publisher: Wiley (March 9, 2007)
    ISBN-10: 0471968943
    ISBN-13: 978-0471968948

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  32. Posted by Erin Hoffman | February 8, 2008, 10:11 pm

    Paul, in looking for a book on breaking into the game industry you might try Ernest Adams’s: http://www.designersnotebook.com/Books/Break_Into_The_Game_Industry/break_into_the_game_industry.htm . For a book on game design, Raph Koster’s _A Theory of Fun_ is a good place to start for a younger student. I’m not sure who that Jim Thompson guy is, but he sure writes a lot of books on game development for not having that many credits. He may or may not know what he’s talking about — I haven’t read the book — but I would say for a book on game design it’s best to go to someone who’s an expert in the field. The very best book on game design that I’ve seen is Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman’s _The Game Design Reader_ — it’s a compendium of some of the most interesting work written about games to date, and VERY thorough. I’m not sure how helpful it would be for your son at his age, but for my money it’s the best game design book out there. I’ve been a game designer for about eight years now, and found this blog while researching the University of Waterloo for an upcoming article on the Escapist. Hello, all. Great blog.

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  33. Posted by Paul | February 9, 2008, 1:21 pm

    Thanks Eric. I had not considered that the author of one of these books may not even have the credit to back up their information. It is good to hear from someone who works directly in the industry. I will definitely check out the titles that you have listed.

    Paul

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  34. Posted by Davi | February 13, 2008, 11:32 am

    I think becoming a professional in gaming industry is a good idea considering the fact that every week we have a new game release. There is also a great demand for games now a days. I have completed that book and i would reccomend it to anyone interested in gaming. Incase if you dont know what that book includes here are few points

    – Learn how a game is built and published
    – Understand and acquire the skills you need to get into the industry
    – Discover the inner workings of the game business
    – Get your foot in the door as a game tester, or with other entry-level jobs
    – Exercise your creativity as a game designer, artist, producer, or programmer
    – Get the right education for the job you want
    – Gain insightful advice from more than 20 industry professionals
    – Includes hundreds of useful resources for job-seekers

    Davi

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  35. Posted by John | February 20, 2008, 3:45 pm

    Hello. I am a sophmore in high school and I am interested in the video game industry. I really want to start a career in it but I have a couple of questions. I know coding is a big part of video games for movement of characters and other effects. So, I wanted to learn a programming language early mostly so that I get experience before college and I also want to make games using Microsoft’s XNA game studio 2.0. I know it uses C# but I want to know what language should I start off with before I get to C# (such as JAVA, C, C , etc.). Also, is drafting and design used in developing video games or are video games made just from code?

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  36. Posted by Tony | February 20, 2008, 11:34 pm

    @John – Java and C# are arguably very similar.. definitely in the same category. I would recommend against C or C-plus-plus — they are very difficult to get started with, and you don’t get to their strong points until much later anyway. Personally I have a strong preference towards the languages such as Ruby or Python.

    Video games also use a lot of media — from simple sprite graphics to complicated 3D models and textures. Coding is just one of the parts of the game development process.

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  37. Posted by sam | February 21, 2008, 1:44 pm

    “Coding is just one of the parts of the game development process.”
    Indeed, I really enjoy programming, thats why I want to get into it. However you should only bother learning C plus plus if you enjoy it and want to be a programmer (as a pose to animator or modeler etc).

    How different is C# from C plus plus? I am currently learning C plus plus, it would be pretty devestating if it becomes obselete. But if it is nearly the same then I will carry on learning C plus plus.

    Thanks

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  38. Posted by Tony | February 21, 2008, 1:58 pm

    Most programming concepts are language independent, so it should be simple to switch between different languages, especially if they are similar. That is why I recommend starting out with programming languages that are less syntactically complex than C-plus-plus.

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  39. Posted by Matt | February 29, 2008, 9:11 pm

    I’m glad to see i’m not the only one in the boat with worries about whether I’ll do well or not in the game industry. I’m a junior in HS and am learning C at GAMEINSTITUTE.COM (which I highly recommend) and doing fairly well for now. I want to keep learning and be able to go into college with some small game already made. I sometimes see on other forums how there are 10 year old kids that know tons about programming and can do some pretty cool stuff already, when I see this I would like to say I might become slightly dis-heartend because if there are kids way younger than me that can already do this stuff and still have many more years until college then where does this leave me; will I have any chance in the programming industry? I’m happy for the kids that can do this stuff but hope that I can do it myself as well. Either way I’m still going to work hard and get where I can go and do what I can do and hopefully make something of myself!

    I saw above there is a lot of great advice and I took alot to heart. I’m going to write down my ‘game programming goals’ as mentioned above and start moving towards them.

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  40. Posted by Web Proxy | March 16, 2008, 1:21 am

    Hmm I am not so sure about the gaming job prospects. Games that come from US are mainly likely to succeed and stay long time out there in the market. There are also games that are imo far better than the games that are produced in the US but yet these games die down in my country and they dont last long simply because they are local and can’t keep up with the cost.

    Therefore in countries like mine and SE-Asia, studying gaming development does not have a good career prospect unless one flies over to the US and work.

    Reply to comment

  41. Posted by Tony | March 17, 2008, 9:34 am

    I think you might have gotten it backwards. The cost of development should be the highest in the US, than elsewhere. Developers demand higher wages to match higher living expenses company expenses. A lot of development is often outsourced to foreign countries, specifically for this reason.

    And with the global distribution via the internet, the gamer never has to know where the developer is. You can very well be self-employed and release small games from your own home. Though I suppose there’s more risk involved if the venture fails.

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  42. Posted by Gustavo Barrancos | March 19, 2008, 10:16 pm

    Great Article!

    “have you ever thought of making video games as a career?”

    That’s a question i’ve been asking myself for 2 years and still haven’t found the definite answer. I have a BS in Information Systems and when i was halfway through the course, i got interested in Computer Science topics and Game Development. I didn’t drop IS to study CS, but kept digging these topics.In the end, my graduation paper was a simple rpg engine for mobile devices.

    I still have this dream of someday be part of talented and creative teams like iD Software and Epic(John Carmack and Tim Sweeney are my top programmer idols in the field).
    Actually i work as a Java Web Applications developer and i like my work, but i still have this idea : Someday have some piece of my code running in thousands of machines around the globe and bringing fun to people the way i’ve had so many times.

    I’m aware of the bitter side of the Game Programming World too : Crunch Mode, Tight Schedules , doing grunt work with code sometimes etc. But i think it’s worth a try… if it works for me, great! If don’t, i still have lots of computer related areas i would love to try.

    One aspect that makes me lose some interest is the space for technological innovation in the Game Programming Field and how conservative the softhouses are in therms of their technology stack.
    I don’t know why i have this dreamy vision in my mind where i see game programmers bashing their heads on that delusional C template metaprogramming madness and being called a dinosaur just because i said that a solution based on lisp macros would solve the problem in the double.

    Well, for now i’ll keep working on my small projects, improving my skills as a developer and eventually working on open source games and software. If the seas of serendipity lead me to a game programming job, i’ll catch it with tooth and nail.

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  43. Posted by Ryan | April 16, 2008, 2:32 am

    I work for a game software company.

    Game programming is not all what most people think it is. At first it is the greatest thing, you get to make video games! BUT, after a while it starts to take a toll on you and you start to lose your interest in video games all together.

    Playing the video games is something fun and exciting and makes you want the night not to end because you are almost at the next level. But you don’t seen all the long hours and hard work there is put into the game. Even more nowadays where video games are in more demand than ever before and to keep up with the competition, you have to put 150% into it, or you’ll find yourself out of a job. That means long hours to meet deadlines and new innovative algorithms and techniques to surpass your competition. It comes down to what the consumer wants, and most of the time what the consumer wants is something they’ve never seen before. This takes alot of work.

    My advice is this, if you enjoy to program ,3d modeling or physics&math or a related field, you will enjoy game programming as much as you would any other job doing something similar (and probably pays higher). But if you want to do game programming because you like video , I suggest you dont. Still to just playing them, you’ll be happier.

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  44. Posted by Dane | April 16, 2008, 7:50 pm

    I’m currently a Gr.11 student who programs in his spare time (in java). I’ve decided to make it my career and have so far looked through most colleges and universities throughout Ontario. My final 3 have come down to Carleton, Waterloo and Ryerson. For Gr.12 I took calculus/Advanced Functions (im in a non-semestered school, so the program is semestered (math every day instead of every other day)) Chemistry, Physics, Gym and English (ugh.. mandatory). I am not that good at chemistry and was wondering if I could replace this course and still make it into a CS course at a university.

    Reply to comment

  45. Posted by Tony | April 16, 2008, 8:43 pm

    @Dane — this was actually already addressed in this thread above. The required courses often differ from University to University. You should look up some information on each of your choices, and perhaps check out the Student Life forums for more details.

    Reply to comment

  46. Posted by Colin | May 29, 2008, 3:04 pm

    Hi!

    I’m just finishing up my sophomore year and am in the process of doing college research. What are some of the best video game programming colleges? It seems like most of them focus on the art & design rather than the programming aspect. I took Programming I this year (java) and I loved it. I find coding challenging, but a lot of fun. I’m taking Programming II next year.

    I’ve too have aspired to go in to the video game development field since a very young age. I LOVE Final Fantasy, I also wanted to design games just like it. In the third grade I tried to “make” a video game but at that point I had no idea where you even had to start. I didn’t really understand what programming was at that point. So I just started writing out the plot and developing a cast of characters, detailing their different abilities and whatnot.

    I knew what they all looked like but I can’t draw at all. That also worries me a little… it seems like, no matter what you do in the video game industry, you’re required to have a little artistic ability. There are a lot of things in the field I’m interested in, like music and plot and structure. Drawing just isn’t one of them.

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  47. Posted by machotoys | June 5, 2008, 9:38 pm

    Help!! looking to you guys for help. I have been reading alot here and its making my head explode. I am also looking to get into the video game feild. can someone tell me what coursed you should start with and what you need to get your foot in the door. to make things harder I am a single parent with not too much time so i will be taking part time studies for now. I hope to get some information from you guys and go to the local collage and pick up some textbooks and start there as well. I am a big time gamer and a novice computer user all your imput would be greatfull thanks everyone. And yes i know its a big question lol …. later :)

    Reply to comment

  48. Posted by Tony | June 8, 2008, 9:23 pm

    @machotoys — novice computer user? You might be in over your head. Game development is a lot of very hard work. I don’t mean to discourage you, and there’s no reason one shouldn’t be able to succeed with enough effort… but perhaps some general purpose programming and a really simple (snake, tetris, etc) game project should be your initial goal, before committing to the studies.

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  49. Posted by Matthew | June 21, 2008, 10:38 pm

    I’m actually seriously considering making my CS concentration games programming. I’ve always had some crazy fantasy that one day I could make games – but i do have worries about the hours, pay, and job security. I have time to choose of course, I’m not quite IN college yet…

    Reply to comment

  50. Posted by Tony | June 23, 2008, 1:46 am

    You could always live out your fantasy by making your own small scale games as a hobby, or even a microISV. Having a CS degree would make you more than qualified to do so. And then if you like what you do, Computer Science is always an excellent choice for a career in game development.

    Reply to comment

  51. Posted by Lynn Marentette | July 19, 2008, 8:29 am

    I discovered this blog today, sorry for this late comment.

    I wanted to mention that there is a need for programmers who are interested in creating serious games. These are video games that are used for health, mental health treatment, corporate training, team-building, education, including computer science eduction, emergency preparedness, and so forth.

    I recently presented at the 2008 Games for Health conference and was impressed by the diversity of the participants. There is a convergence of several different fields that form the emerging serious games arena: Virtual Reality, 3D Virtual Worlds – (think Second Life), Interactive Multimedia, Information Visualization, e-Learning, mobile computing, and educational technology, to name a few.

    (My presentation topic was about accessibility and universal design for learning considerations for games for health in K-12 settings.)

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  52. Posted by Mmorpg | July 26, 2008, 1:15 am

    Everyone thinks video game programming jobs are like the ultimate form of employment for a gaming enthusiast, but they’re up for a rude awakening if they think its fun. Programming is all math and numbers, and a WHOLE lot of them. There really aren’t a lot of bragging rights either for making a “sick game” because to make a “sick game” you need to work with a team of 50 people, so no one person really gets the credit, except the director guy, and odds are, as a programmer, you’re not that person. It’s still a solid job if you love programming though. Don’t expect it to be a lot of fun if you’re a gamer.

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  53. Posted by Teknopsis the gadget blog | July 30, 2008, 4:34 pm

    As I’ve gotten older my taste for programming has evolved from games to internet startups. Having a job as a programmer or artist at Blizz would be awesome though.

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  54. Posted by Neel | August 1, 2008, 10:59 am

    hey…i’m into my second year of Bachelor’s of Engineering in Computers, and we’ve covered C, C , Java… i really like programming and games, so im looking at video game programing as a career… after i finish my B.E. in two years i’m thinking of doing an MS in computer science… with these two degrees will it be possible to get into the gaming industry… or do i have to get a degree in video game development???

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  55. Posted by InGames | August 4, 2008, 1:27 am

    I am a programmer at a major game development company. Don’t forget that a good 2/3rd’s of the jobs at game development companies have nothing to do with programming. I’m talking about artists, producers, and designers. Programming is very mathematical, if you don’t like math, you probably wont like programming. Don’t try to force yourself into getting a CS degree if you don’t already love math and any amount of programming you’ve been exposed to. There are definitely many other ways into the biz for other fields. Even for programmers, I’ve seen that the most important thing to develop is your (professional) social network. Hey, it got me my dream job that I never expected to get. :)

    /my 2 cents

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    david allen replied on: April 8th, 2009 at 10:31 am

    please email me back with any input you can offer, now i dont care for programming or math, but im about 2 months away from going to ringling and game art will be my forteau, ive done alot of different things in my life and i have always made atleast 50k a year now i want to something i believe i would enjoy doing and not for money, anyway if you could tell me the odds of getting a job in the industry from the artistic side im interested in level design and enviroment design thanks

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    Tony replied on: April 8th, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    If I pull out some random statistic, like “42%”, that would be describing an average, not necessary how well you’ll fare. Games are gonna be made; someone will need to design those levels. If you are good at what you do, the chances will be in your favour.

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  56. Posted by InGames | August 4, 2008, 1:34 am

    I forgot to mention – for those of you that decide to be programmers, don’t just say “I want to make games”. These people are a dime a dozen. Instead go find a niche. Become a bada$$ in that niche, own it, be the guru of that niche. Figure out how that niche would work for developing games. Go sell yourself to the game industry, it is a young industry, there are MANY areas to be improved. And last thing but most important… do NOT take a pay cut. Make them want you so much they will pay you more than the industry for that niche. That is your goal.

    Sprinkle some well developed social contacts in the game industry (that’s yours to figure out how to do) and you’ll get a sweet job and awesome salary doing what you love.

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  57. Posted by Girlsgamer | August 15, 2008, 4:13 am

    Heres the thing. None of these guys ever get paid that well. It is cool working for blizzard though, thats gotta be awesome. 3>

    Reply to comment

  58. Posted by Tom | August 17, 2008, 4:55 am

    Hi,

    I’ve been in the industry for 2 years now and I must say that while it’s rewarding to work on AAA titles, the fun factor of actually doing things the way YOU want and YOU like goes away, because you just can’t.

    From my perspective it’s probably best to get a normal job (with higher pay, oh so much higher…) for 30-or-so hours a week and spend the remaining 10 doing your own project for XNA ;)

    Just for thoughts

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  59. Posted by Tom | August 17, 2008, 4:58 am

    To Neel: degree doesn’t matter too much as long as you’re a good programmer or can become one.

    To InGames: programming can be not mathematical at all depending on what you do. For example technology programmers spend 20x less time doing maths than for example physics programmers.

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  60. Posted by Garret | September 15, 2008, 7:23 pm

    Hello,

    I’m a junior in high school, and i’m currently working on my own projects with a program called Game Maker (sounds kinda cheesy i know, but it seems to give a good gradient for simple drag-and-drop programming to actually creating code). I am getting better and better with my programming skills and I am loving it. I plan to drop Game Maker soon and start fooling around with something a bit more legit.
    I noticed Tony mentioned way up there that C++ is a bit of an awkward place to start, but after some experience with the Game Maker Language (GML) i feel like i could learn it.
    I figure the more prowess i show with programming and the more completed projects i have in my portfolio will help me break into the business, and i would like to know what the people out there with a bit of experience think.

    Reply to comment

    Tony replied on: September 15th, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    The thing about C++ is that it’s an unbalanced tradeoff between power and ease-of-use. And that power doesn’t kick in until well pass the basics. That is, to take advantage of the optimized compiler (on today’s hardware) you will need a very power demanding project — demanding graphics, or realistic physics, or raw quantity of objects in action.

    That is to say — if you’ve got a large scale game project on hand and you know you’ll need something computationally intensive optimized (not so much make, as make it run fast), then C++ might offer something for you, at that level. Anything less, and it will just hold you back (that is, you get all the trade-offs and not yet getting to the benefits). If you are looking to put together some (complete!) mini-games (or even full games that don’t require hardware graphics acceleration), there are better options.

    Reply to comment

    Garret replied on: September 17th, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Thanks for the advice, that makes sense now. You mentioned Ruby and Python languages earlier…if that’s a good place to start then i will look into it.

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    Pat replied on: October 23rd, 2008 at 12:59 am

    I started with c++ (in highschool) and I have to agree with Tony, it’s not the best place to start. I’m a junior comp sci major in college now, my main programming language is java. Java isn’t used for major games but it’s a fairly easy language to pick up (at least compared to c++) and since java is based off of c++ it could be a good stepping stone. Alternatively you could also look into c#, microsoft’s answer to java, this would also provide a good stepping stone into c++ as you’ll eventually want to learn that (I’m pretty sure most major games are still written in c/c++).
    As far as python is concerned it’s a pretty good scripting language, Learning Python by Mark Lutz and David Ascher is a pretty good book. As far as scripting languages go you might want to check out ruby as well, I haven’t used it yet but I fully intend to learn it. It’s a relatively new language that is pretty good from what I’ve heard.
    Also I would take at least a few compTia exams (networking+ and A+ seem to be pretty standard) even though they don’t really apply to game programming I hear that those are big things companies look at and it shows a desire to learn and knowledge outside of your field can never hurt.

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  61. Posted by Camaron | November 29, 2008, 11:04 pm

    Hi I just found this on google and I have been looking forever on how to start a career in game programming i am not to good at math and some people tell me that is not a problem and others say your never going to make it is this true or is it just one field of game programming that you have to be good at math like i know you would have to be good at math to make the physics but what about all the other things like A.I and what makes the objects move i no nothing about coding or anything of that matter but i am trying my hardest to learn can any one tell me where is a good starting point to learn how to code and where to get the right programs to do so how do people start doing this at home i have no idea i have also been wondering what exactly does a game designer do there are alot of schools that offer this but i am not sure where this will really get me does a game deisigner just come up with the ideas of the games and all of the dialogue and if this is what they do how hard is it to get a job doing this because that sounds like a job everyone would want and i dont want to get a degree in something like a music producer or something like that because the odds of you getting a job like that are slim to none because i dont want to spend 60,000 $$$ plus and not get anything for it i am looking into a school called uat and it is a interesting place so far i am starting to really like it but i dont know if it sucks or if is a good school so can some one please answer some of thease ??? because i am lost right now and all i want to do is make games that i have in my head and cant get out yet because i lack the skills and tools to do so thanks for reading i hope some one can help

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  62. Posted by Adam | January 30, 2009, 2:36 pm

    Hey.

    I’ve been here at Carleton for a term and a bit now. I originally started in the game development stream but I’m switching to internet security next year. The game dev stream here is alright I guess, it doesn’t have any real structure though. If you choose Carleton, I suggest taking the first year game dev course as a free elective…Something to dip your feet in the water with.

    You may recall my previous worries about math…I’m finding that you don’t really need to worry too much. First year calculus was all review from high school + integration, linear algebra is actually fun, it’s all matrices, vectors and stuff! Discrete is the only really hard math you’ll run into, luckily we have an amazing prof for that course here.

    I think it helps too because they have math courses reserved for computer science students. The math profs relate the material to computers which helps alot. Also, tests are designed differently in university I found out, I’m actually doing quite well.

    PS: We have a gaming lab where people congregate to play dota, warcraft, cod, left 4 dead…etc….There’s a Wii, xbox and ps3 :D I recomend Carleton.

    Reply to comment

    David replied on: December 14th, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Hello,

    I am currently in grade 12, and I am looking at attending university next year and taking a computer science course. Like almost everyone else here, I love games and I want to be a video game programmer. I am in a grade 12 programming course right now and I have been trying to learn C# for a bit.

    Anyway, I have been looking at Carleton, Toronto, Ryerson, Waterloo and Western but I am not sure where I want to go, they all sound pretty good. I was wondering if you could tell me what the deciding factors were for you and if you are happy with your choice. I am scared that I will pick a university and then regret it later.
    How are the residences at Carleton, I went on a tour but it was during exams so I didn’t get to see them.

    Also, I am not sure whether it would be better to take a comp sci course or a software engineer course or others. What have you found?

    Sorry about bombarding you with questions, I am really worried, but thanks so much in advance for responding.

    David

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  63. Posted by Gene Saika | February 7, 2009, 2:27 am

    Hello I recently found this and thought I would add in my ideas aswell.

    I am a programmer and I jumped right into it with C-plus-plus. For my this wasn’t too hard to do, I am a fast learner.

    My opinion on how to best learn programming would be simply to read over someone else’s code and compile it to see what it does. After you get an idea as to what the code does play with it, find out what works and what doesn’t.

    My passion is programming as i mentioned, but I simply don’t like the idea of making any old programs… that is why I picked games. Games are fun to work with, you type in tons of lines of code and BAM you have yourself a program that you made and may or may not have graphics.

    A note for all those people wanting to go into the field saying ” I love games !” programming probable isn’t for you. Infact I’d say anyone who is simply wanting to go into the game dev biz cuz they love games would have a better chance as a designer then a programmer.

    Programmers spend long hours infront of a computer typing up code that to most people is meaningless. During those crunch times, msot programmers will end up spending nights at their desks. I have heard of programmers keeping sleeping bags and pillows under their desks even.

    Now a designer seems, to me, like the job for a person who simply loves games. Designers come up with ideas for the game, they make the whole idea for the game and then pass it on to the programmers/artists. In my opinion a designer might be the most creative person in the whole team, of course the artists might be more so.

    Programming doesn’t NEED to have much math in it, but I would say learn all the maths you can. when you type up something simple using random numbers wouldn’t you liek to atleast know how it’s doing what it’s doing?

    Here is what I have heard to be the single most important thing for you to have to get that dream job in game dev ……. an amazing portfolio/real. For your degree I say go with a BA(or better) of CS take some game programming classes if you have the option.

    I say taking some game programming classes will help you alot, VERY much so if you are like me and are not sure which kinda of programming you want to do. Your CS classes should deal with physics and AI and things liek that, BUT what if you wana do graphics programming?

    Anyways, to sum it up:
    CS = good
    game programming class = good
    math = good

    Oh and also before you spend your money do some research on what it is exactly you want to do in the game industry. If you aren’t sure then find a good forum and ask someone to tell you about them. While you wait for those slow people to find/answer you go to wikipedia and look for game dev careers, they should have a page on most of the options. Wiki should give you an idea as to what each does, but, hopefully, the forum will give you an idea of what the work is actually like.

    hm I think I am done now ….

    yup :D

    Hope this rant helps someone.

    Regards,
    Gene Saika

    Reply to comment

  64. Posted by Media | March 18, 2009, 1:18 pm

    I’m a senior in HS and going to get a CS degree, i want to get into the programming of video games, but would i need to take a class in game development or would just having the CS courses work just as well.

    Reply to comment

    Tony replied on: March 19th, 2009 at 11:50 pm

    There’s a lot of good information in the comments above, and on related articles, linked to at the bottom of this blog post.

    In short — having some sort of a portfolio is crucial. Though if you have to take a class to force yourself to make that only game via assignments, then perhaps the video game industry might not be the right choice.

    Reply to comment

  65. Posted by Nick | March 30, 2009, 10:51 am

    Hey Guys,

    some really interesting information here that was really enjoyable to read. I am currently on an industrial placement year after two years on a computer games programming course in the UK. I have had a chance to dip my feet in Java/C/C++/C#.

    My only problem is that my university seems to have an obsession with XNA over industry API’s such as (Direct X/Open GL) I haven’t had much of a chance to work with Direct X and only getting a simple object into Open GL and animating it with push and pop matrixes. I’m a very strong maths student and relatively competent at the languages.

    So my question is finally, If I wanted to do my Final Year with an emphasis on unmanaged Direct X, How have peoples experiences been with trying to learn this in a small timeframe and what our the best practices for someone with not a lot of graphical programming experience. Basically any advice will be great :)

    Thanks in advance.

    Reply to comment

    Tony replied on: March 31st, 2009 at 1:29 am

    I can’t comment on picking up a new technology in a short time-frame; everybody’s experience would be different.

    Though a warning to keep in mind: if your University’s curriculum assumes you to have all the advantages of a managed environment, and you start reinventing all of XNA from scratch, you might be putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation with a much heavier workload.

    Keep in mind that XNA is more than just graphics. It also takes care of your network stack, input controls, sound, etc. You are right — you could probably write a really impressive ray tracing rendering engine yourself. But, that’s a dedicated course at my university. There’s much more than just graphics, in making a game; and some sacrifices might have to be made, to end up with a working demo at the end of the school year.

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  66. Posted by Jonathan | April 7, 2009, 1:13 pm

    I found the sober tone of your article to be spot on with everything I have ever uncovered in my search for information on video game development.

    My measuring stick of success is to work for a studio such as Blizzard – one with high quality products, and high demands of its potential employees…

    I’m 26, and finishing my enlistment in the Air Force. I have been sure of my heart’s desire to be a programmer of video games for as long as I remember, but could neither afford college, nor break family tradition of military service. I already have an Associates of Computer Science, but plan to attend school for a Bachelors of Computer Science.

    My question is if you or anyone reading has an opinion regarding DigiPen’s RTIS program [http://www.digipen.edu] as a choice for earning my Bachelors of CS. I want to be competitive to any potential employer right at graduation, and was hoping someone out there either attended the program there, or has heard something about it.

    I have already invested a fair amount of time in finding the right school, and they appear to be far more than just another “tech-school”.

    Students of DigiPen created titles such as Portals (part of the Half-life Orange Box), and Rumblox (for the Wii) as their senior projects, and were purchased/hired on merit of those projects alone. Those aren’t isolated cases, there are quite a few.

    Reply to comment

  67. Posted by Christian | November 17, 2009, 2:38 pm

    Hey Guys,

    I’ve read alot of the comments and in most of the comments, almost all want to recieve a degree in computer science. Well, to me, its kinda too broad. I’m currently in grade 12 and Its that time of the year where I have to decide what course I am to take for university. I seriously love games and I plan on being a game programmer too. I took the grade 11 computer programming and got a great mark, and I’m taking the grade 12 computer programming next semester.

    Anyways, I took co-op this semester and I’m a QC for 3 hours every day :D I plan on studying in U of Waterloo. There’s this new course double degree in computer science and business. Uhmm, I’m thinking of taking this but I kinda want to take the Software Engineering as well.

    Uhmm, guys, would software engineering degree give me an advantage in landing me a game programming position? Also, in terms of learning, would I learn more in software engineering than computer science in becoming a game programmer?

    thanks alot guys :D

    Reply to comment

    Tony replied on: November 17th, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    This is the place for you to visit — CompSci.ca Forums: Student Life; lots of discussion on admission to and studying at UW. You’d probably find some insightful information posted there already, or create a new topic if you can’t find what you are looking for.

    Reply to comment

  68. Posted by Andrew | December 19, 2009, 1:15 pm

    Can anyone explain the difference between a Software Engineering and a Computer Science Degree. My top pick for a school I want to go to only offers Software Engineering.

    Reply to comment

    Tony replied on: December 26th, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Have you seen http://compsci.ca/blog/6-degrees-of-computer-science/ ? It could give you an idea to get started, but typically Computer Science and Software Engineering comes with a lot of overlap. Since “Engineering” is not a licensed profession in United States (as oppose to Canada), the difference might be even further blurred.

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