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How to become a game developer


Dreaming of a career in gaming? Start here.

The gaming industry is multidisciplinary by nature – where art, storytelling, technology and science all come together in the name of entertainment. To get the perfect look, feel and player experience in a game, developers need to bring together people with a vast range of technical and creative skills to make it happen.

Designers, for example, work out how the game will look and how the user will experience it, while writers develop the story of the game, and artists create everything from the characters’ facial features and clothes, to the forest or cityscape they exist in.

RELATED: Creative maths careers: gaming and digital marketing

But if maths and tech is your thing, becoming a programmer might be the path for you. Game programmers write the code – like invisible instructions – that controls the game. From gameplay to character intelligence and interaction, software management to virtual reality programming, coding is across every single part of development.

Pathways to gaming

Some people come to the games industry from an unexpected direction – for example after going to art school or working as a writer or IT specialist. But for programmer Sam Crisp, it all began when he was 10 years old and started experimenting with online tools.

Sam played and created games throughout school, but it was connecting with like-minded game makers online that encouraged him to take his skills further. “Finding other people to share my creations with was the driver, and being able to be creative,” he says. “Back then it was about all the fantasy and sci-fi stuff that I liked as a kid, but now it’s the problem-solving element that is more appealing.”

If you’re interested in the gaming industry, Sam reckons experimenting with your own games and meeting other people is the best way to start.

In his current role as programmer at Mountains Studio, Sam creates tools using code that help the team’s designers import their work.

Creating new perspectives

After finishing his undergraduate degree in IT, majoring in games and graphics programming, Sam decided to take a slight sidestep and study games from a humanities perspective for his Honours thesis.

“Researching how we talk and think about games and realism in games really helped my creative game making as well,” he says.

But while research opened Sam’s eyes to different gaming perspectives, he always knew he ultimately wanted to make games.

RELATED: Gaming no longer a boys club

In his current role as a programmer at Mountains Studio, Sam is creating tools using code that help the team’s artists and designers import their work into the bigger game framework. It’s Sam’s job to use code to help the art, gameplay, user interface, characters and story all fit together in the game. – Jo Khan

Sam’s study and career pathway:

>> Bachelor of Information Technology (Games and Graphic Programming), RMIT University

>> Media and Communications (Honours), RM

>> Programmer, Mountains Studio

Match your electives to your CS + gaming career:

Keen to be a programmer? Enrol in IT, science and maths.

Wanna be a designer? Stick with IT, art, graphic design, media studies and computer science.

Interested in becoming a story planner? Take english, literature,
design and languages.

Don’t know what to study? Try:

Bachelor of Information Technology (Games and
Graphics Programming), RMIT

Bachelor of Computer Science, University of
New England

Diploma of Digital and Interactive Games,
Box Hill Institute

Bachelor of Design (Visualisation and Immersive
Design), Griffith University

Dreaming of your first gig? Here’s what to expect money-wise*:

Video game programmer:
A$36K–A$77K / NZ$43K–NZ$71K 

Software developer:
A$50K–A$99K / NZ$48K–NZ$91K 

Digital designer:
A$45K–A$82K / NZ$39K–NZ$80K*

*Source: salaries according

Looking for a job RN? Hit up these companies:

PikPok (Wellington)

Grinding Gear Games (Auckland)

Ninja Kiwi (Auckland)

Big Ant studios (Melbourne)

Torus Games (Melbourne)

Krome Studios (Brisbane)

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Code 2019.

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