One of the great things about Eurogamer Expo is that it’s not just a place you can play the latest games before they come out, it’s also a place you can meet and chat with people in the Game industry! In particular, BAFTA run a Career Surgery where you can book 20 minutes of time with an industry expert to talk about how they got into games and get advice on how you can do it as well!
This year, I was very honoured to be asked to take part and so I found myself chatting for two lively hours to groups of 5-6 young developers, coming from all disciplines – programming, game design, art, game audio and even PR! Some had just finished a university degree, some were just starting and one very enterprising fellow had started his own business. What united them all was their passion for creating games!
People asked me if it was required to have a degree, or if it was worthwhile. I would always answer Yes to this. The game and tech industry in general is always changing and you will have to constantly be learning new things and solving new problems. A degree is proof that you’re good at learning ‘stuff’ and self-organised enough to finish things you’ve started. After all, it’s not like there aren’t other distractions at university.
Even though it’s a tough economy right now, I argue its still a great time to be a game developer. There are more opportunities than ever to create amazing games and get them into the hands of players directly – via the web, on Mac/PC or mobile phones. Incredible game engines are now free to use or available at very reasonable prices (such as the excellent Unity3d which we use at Mind Candy, but others are available). Kickstarter and its ilk offer an alternative to working with a Publisher from day one.
So that’s why the main piece of advice I gave to budding game developers was simply this: make games now! Don’t wait to be given a job, you can start your career right now by making a game. It can be by yourself or with friends, or even other job-hunters. Making a game is great experience – you will be solving the same problems and hitting many of the same issues that you would if you were doing it for a job. You can then use the game as part of your portfolio, or if it’s good enough, self-publish it and make your millions that way! (Just ask Notch)
Of course this is a simplification to some extent – it’s not easy to make anything of value and it’s not easy to get a job in games – but you have to start somewhere and employers value people who have the passion to go for it! Happily, Valve’s Chet Faliszek made much the same point the next day, so evidently I’m not alone in giving that advice.
If you want to find people to collaborate with, then I highly recommend ‘Game Jams’ that have real-world meet-ups (like ludum dare or what would molydeux), your local IGDA chapter or the monthly London Indie Game Meet up.
People learn best from experience, so start building yours today!
(Oh, and check out the current vacancies here at Mind Candy too, of course! Don’t forget to bring in your game when you come in for an interview…)