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10 Things You Need to Know Before Starting at a Game School

28 Apr , 2014  

So you’re interested in enrolling, or have already enrolled in a game development program – maybe at one of the big schools like Digipen or Fullsail, maybe a local option in your hometown, or maybe you are moving to attend school in one of the big game development hubs, such as San Francisco, LA, Seattle, Austin, Vancouver or Montreal.

There are hundreds of game development programs in North America alone, each graduating up to 150 students per year. That is a lot of competition. I aim to help you stand out from the crowd.

point1_topthree1. Aim to be in the top 3 students

After attending several years of ‘Industry Nights’ at schools, I can tell you a harsh truth: Most veterans and recruiters will go straight to the top 2 or 3 students. On more than one occasion and at more than one school, I’ve had the dean of the program just tell me straight up which students were worth my time.

Don’t let this dissuade you from signing up – many of the best graduates were not the strongest at the start, and, in fact, some of the strongest starters falter or drop out before the program is over. Learning to make games takes a lot of hard work, so use this goal to push yourself further. Be honest with yourself; if others in your class are better than you are, put in the extra effort, ask for additional feedback or advice, and aim for the top. Let me be clear – your standing within your social hierarchy means nothing – there is no need for petty politics and being overly competitive. In the end, it’s all about your work.

2. Commit to game development

It is shocking how often students will disqualify themselves by displaying a general lack of interest in game development. This is a very passionate industry, and there are few things in a candidate that will turn a potential employer off faster than apathy.

‘But I love games! I would never do that!’.

It isn’t enough to commit to games – you have to commit to game development. I’ve known students that flubbed a $30,000 game development program because they spent the whole year playing WOW instead of working on their assignments.

Commit that this is what you want to do, commit to the work required, and commit to both the medium and the craft.

 3. Determine the specific field you want to get into

Many students falsely equate ‘game design’ with ‘game development’, and think that it covers art, programming or even project management. These are all significantly different jobs, and need different skills to succeed!

Given how short and focused most game courses are, narrowing down your targeted field before school will help immensely. If you have a hard time deciding, don’t fret – enroll in a course that is at least 2 years long. These programs often have an introductory semester or two where you can try different fields, and then narrow down from there.

Here are some options for starting points you might want to consider:

Art:

  • Environment artist
  • Character artist
  • Technical artist
  • Animator
  • UI artist
  • Concept Art

Design:

  • Game play designer
  • Narrative designer
  • Systems designer
  • Level designer

Programming:

  • AI programmer
  • Game play programmer
  • 3D programmer
  • Network programmer

Other:

  • Project Manager
  • Audio designer

4. Open your mind

Most students that enter Game School are very passionate gamers and fans, and have particular ideas about which games or consoles are better than others. There is real danger in being too narrow-minded – if you aren’t open to new ideas, you aren’t going to learn very much.

Seek out teachers or other students who have different points of view to you, and engage them in conversation. Don’t start an argument, but instead ask them to explain their point of view. Have healthy discussions and debate ideas, but make sure you aren’t doing it to ‘win points’. We all like to be right, so this is far more difficult than it sounds – it takes a lot of patience and maturity, but it will enhance your capacity to learn like almost nothing else.

5. Understand the risks

While it is important to follow your passion, it is also important to have all of the facts when making decisions. The distribution of skills coming out of game schools is nowhere near a good alignment with the distribution of skills that the game industry actually needs.

Grads tend to choose the fields they think are the sexiest – flashy jobs like concept art, character artist or narrative designer. The reality is, these are some of the most competitive fields in the industry!

Some examples:

  • Most studios will have 1 or 2 concept artists for every hundred employees, and the market is filled with amazingly talented artists from the declining comic book and classical animation industries
  • Environment Artists generally outnumber Character Artists at least 4 to 1 at most game studios, but many students tailor their portfolio to character art.
  • I’ve spent months trying to hire technical artists, and I think I could count on one hand the number of grads I have met that chose to specialize in this field.

Do some research! Look up your favorite studios and look at what roles they are hiring for. Big studios like EA or Ubisoft are great for this – the point of this exercise is not to actually apply, just to determine demand. Look at the list of fields from point 3 above, and narrow it down to 3 or 4 that sound the most interesting to you, then open up a few of these links in new tabs (CTRL-click in most browsers):

Search for each job field that you’re interested in, and look for positions that will take junior applicants (1-3 years of experience). This will give you some indication of what the competition is going to be like for the field you are considering once you are out of school.

If you’re really passionate about concept art or narrative design you should pursue your dream – my intent is not to dissuade you from your passion, but to help you make informed choices. It is possible to break in to these fields; you just need to be aware that the competition is going to be stiff.

6. Showcase the skills you are there to learn

Many game schools feature a ‘final project’, which usually involves the students forming groups and working together to make a small game or animation together. Don’t get trapped doing something on the project that will not help you get hired!

Your final project can be a significant portfolio piece and tool to get employers to notice you, and I’ve seen many students suffer by spending most of their time on audio or art when they were going to school for game design. Recruiters will ask how you contributed to the project, and if your main contribution was not in the field that you trained in, they have no way to evaluate your skills in that field and will move on to someone else.

Sometimes you have little control over the specific role you are assigned on the team – aim for a ‘lead design’ (if in a design school) type role if possible, but even if you wind up in a support role, make sure you take on some meaty work that is specifically relevant to your field.

7. Play nice

This is an important addendum to point 6 above: as Wil Wheaton says,Don’t be a dick’. While it is important to get a good role on a strong team for the final project, this should be done by earning the respect of your peers, not clawing your way past others.

The points mentioned above about opening your mind and being committed will work wonders here, but be careful that you aren’t being manipulative or political.

This doesn’t only apply for the final project – in fact, if you wait until that moment it will be too late and you’ll be stuck with the slackers and stoners working on a game about Robot Ninjas from Mars. You need to be thinking about being a good team player even when you aren’t specifically on a team – offer help to others in your class, don’t put people down, ask your peers for feedback, and learn from those that are better than you.

One of the most important resources for getting jobs is your professional network, and, at this early point in your career, your classmates will form the core of your network. Nurture those relationships, and they will continue to pay off for years.

point8_target8. Target the sector you’d like to work in

Keep in mind that each studio has specific requirements that you need to satisfy in order for them to hire you. Given a limited amount of time in school, you won’t be able to please everyone, so it is important that you set your target for the specific type of studio you want to work for.

Make a shortlist of the kind of games you like to play, and the kind of games you’d like to work on. Try to figure out the broader category that applies to most of them – realistic AAA games, online games like League of Legends, or maybe mobile games like Angry Birds.

Once you have a specific idea of the kind of game you’d like to work on, make a list of all of the studios that do that kind of work. Check out their websites, look at job listings, and make detailed notes of their requirements. Try to find presentations they’ve done describing their pipeline or workflow, and ask questions on forums like Polycount or Gamedev.net. Once you know what they are looking for, tailor the work you do fit the list of requirements.

Make it easy for studios in your target sector to hire you – show them high quality work in the format they expect, made with the tools they use, and which works within the technical guidelines they use internally.

9. Make Something Before Starting School

I once heard Sims creator Will Wright tell a story about a pottery instructor. The instructor had two classes, and he told the first that their grade would be entirely based on the quality of one final pot. He told the second class that their grade would be based only on the number of pots they were able to make – he wouldn’t even inspect them, just count them up and give them the grade. Lo and behold, by the end of the class the second group, who were only focusing on quantity, had significantly better quality pots!

How could this be? You learn more from mistakes and failed attempts than you do from trying to create something perfect. There is incredible value in actually finishing something, and it might be easier than you’d expect.

  1. Set realistic expectations. Don’t start off by attempting to make an epic JRPG with an 80-hour storyline. Make a simple arcade game, or join the masses and make a Flappy Bird clone. The point of this exercise is not to make your dream project, just to make something.
  2. Get some tools. Good (and free!) places to start are:
    1. Twine – Very easy to use tool for creating ‘choose your own adventure’ text games. This is a great place to start, and you could finish your first game in the next 2 hours (get going!)
    2. Scratch – Easy to create simple games with graphics, and a good introduction to programming logic.
    3. Gamemaker: Studio – Getting more advanced, but if you’re up for the challenge this is a particularly powerful engine for making 2D games.
    4. Unity 3D – 3D game engine that is rapidly growing in popularity – in fact, it had one of the biggest booths at GDC this year. It is powerful, but there is a steep learning curve – you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and tackle some scripting.
    5. Art tools: Blender 3D, Gimp 2D, free trials of Photoshop, 3DS Max and Maya.
  3. Go through a couple of the highly rated tutorials for your chosen tool. Complete them in full, making sure to pay attention and go step by step. Google is your friend here – just search ‘best twine tutorials’ or ‘unity 3D arcade game tutorial’ and you’ll be on your way.
  4. Make something! This shouldn’t take more than 1-2 days if you’ve scoped your game/asset right, even if you are starting from nothing.
  5. Get feedback: Write a simple questionnaire and have new testers fill it out. Keep it as unbiased as possible – don’t ask leading questions and don’t get upset if people don’t like it or don’t understand something – this is exactly the kind of info you are looking for.
  6. Iterate: Collect the feedback, try to find common issues, and fix them. Find the things that people liked best, and expand on those features.
  7. Don’t get too precious about it – give yourself a tight deadline (a week is good), and then call it done and move on to the next one. Resist the temptation to just endlessly polish – as the old saying goes ‘It is never done, you just run out of time’.

10. Ask for Advice

Our mission here at Game School Prep is to provide you with as much advice and information as we can, but this is still no replacement from talking to people who have been through this already face to face.

Try to meet professional game developers face to face to get feedback on your work, and advice on what you should focus on next. This may sound intimidating, but it really isn’t as scary as it sounds, and your chance of getting through is higher than you think – I’ve been contacted by several students asking for advice, and I’ve met every one.

Here are 3 simple steps to make it happen.

1. First, find a contact. If possible, you will get much better feedback if you can find someone in the specific field you would like to work in. Lots of good ways to do this:

  • Go to industry meetups. Look up events from your local IGDA Chapter or check for a Meetup Group. Note – some of these events are at drinking establishments, so if you’re not of legal drinking age, double check that it is an ‘all ages’ event.
  • Volunteer at conferences like GDC or Siggraph – you don’t necessarily have to travel far for this, there are nearly 50 such conferences in 2014, broken down here.
  • If you’re up for the challenge (and have finished 9. Make Something), a Game Jam is a great way to meet developers, and you will learn a lot (and have a fun!) by participating. There are excellent resources for finding local Game Jams here: http://www.gamejamcentral.com/, here: http://globalgamejam.org/ and here: http://compohub.net/.
  • Call nearby studios. This may not work with all of them, but give them a call (mornings are often best for this), and ask if they could help you out by connecting you to someone in the field that you are interested in.

2. Meet your contact face to face. Email is okay, but you will get much better results in person. You need to make it as easy as possible for the developer. Look up a decent coffee shop around their studio, and send them a short email, reminding them of how you met and who you are, and asking if they would be available to meet there next Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday (pick one) at 3PM. Let them know that you’ll only take 15 minutes of their time.

3. Be professional. This is critical – screw this up and they will regret meeting you, but do a good job and you’ll make an important ally. Some of this may seem obvious, but the vast majority of students fail on most of these points. Take them seriously.

  • Shower, shave (if necessary), and dress in clean, nice clothes. No need to wear a suit, but ripped jeans and a hoodie isn’t a great choice either.
  • Shake their hand, look them in the eyes when talking, and speak clearly and with confidence.
  • Offer to buy them a coffee
  • Show that you’ve done some research – let them know that you are specifically interested into getting into their field, and that you really admire their studio and the last game they shipped.
  • Prepare a short list of four or five written questions and assure them that it should only take a few minutes.
  • Ask each question, and give them time to answer – don’t interrupt, and focus on what they are saying. Take notes, and ask a follow-up if necessary.
  • Thank them for taking time out of their busy day to meet with you.
  • Send a follow-up email thanking them again, and specifically mention the points that you felt were most helpful.

If you’ve read this far, congratulations! Following these steps will put you ahead of much of your competition, and start you off on what will be a rewarding journey towards being a professional game developer.

Now, get started right away! Leave a comment below and let me know what information would be most helpful in your personal journey to going to Game School and breaking into the industry.

Matt

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105 Responses

  1. leon costelloe says:

    Hi matt,
    It’s leon thx for all the info, I wasn’t that interested in making games but this definitely has made me, so I’m gonna try it out 😀
    (btw do u play wow and if so what realm?)

    • Matt says:

      Great to hear Leon! Making games is tons of fun and very rewarding. I’d highly recommend starting out with Twine, especially if you are into games with a lot of narrative like WoW.

      Somewhat strangely I’ve never actually played WoW – I’ve played a couple of other MMOs (Warhammer Online and The Old Republic), but have never stuck with them.

  2. Lucas says:

    This article has come with impeccable timing – just yesterday my brother asked me what the best way to get into the industry was, and despite my answers I’ve forwarded this onto him as a more comprehensive guide. 🙂

    One thing you briefly touched on, but may need some elaboration, is the importance of choosing to focus on a field with some practical application. As indie development is taking off, industry newcomers will often find themselves on small teams wearing many hats, and one of those hats needs to be a practical skill. I have a hard time recommending any specialisation with “design” in the title as students tend to end up spread too thin in their skillsets. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Matt says:

      Great comment Lucas – I hope your brother find the article useful.

      As for your question, I would disagree, but my disagreement is to do with the interpretation of what a ‘designer’ does. The designers I work with at the moment, whether Level designers or Game Designers have some of the most practical skills of anyone on the team – they are expert scripters, extremely familiar with the engines, and can prototype features or objectives, and make them fun without any assistance from other departments. In an indie company or smaller studio, this kind of employee is invaluable, and if you are going into design I would certainly recommend you don’t shy away from learning scripting.

      Where I would agree is that it is generally not a good idea to focus solely on designing/idea generation – your ideas might be great, but they aren’t worth much until you can execute on them. Additionally, you won’t really know if they were good ideas in the first place until you can try them out – a lot of things sound fun on paper.

      All things being even, if the goal was to get a job in games I would say ‘Design’ jobs aren’t the easiest, but they are far from the most difficult fields to break into. The important thing is to follow your passion – if you love design, go for it.

    • Lucas says:

      Thanks for your reply, Matt!

      Your interpretation of designer seems to describe someone with a lot of experience in a senior role, and that’s the problem really; no degree can adequately prepare you for a senior role. You might get there some day, but it won’t be on the merits of having done a game design degree first.

      I guess to clarify, I’d say that someone exiting a degree in game design would be a jack of all trades, but master of none, and when I say you need practical skills, I mean proficient practical skills. When you do a game design major, you’re missing the animation major, or the programming major, etc. Is it really due diligence to study a degree where you’re lacking the skills to compete for the junior position that would lead to your desired career path?

    • Matt says:

      It depends on the company, the school, but I’ve seen plenty of junior game design grads get AAA jobs straight out of school; there was a number of junior Level Designers on Splinter Cell Blacklist, and I have some junior designers on my current team as well.

      While working at Relic Entertainment, I was on the selection committee for the Brian Woods Memorial Internship, which was awarded to Game Design graduates, and we saw lots of the candidates getting good jobs. As mentioned in the article, probably the top 2-3 of each class would get a AAA job, and maybe half of the rest of the class would get jobs shortly after school finished, many in mobile or smaller studios.

      Good Game Design programs may not teach you animation or programming, but they should teach a good amount of scripting, thorough knowledge of game engines, practical level design skills etc. – plenty of skills to compete for a junior position.

  3. Ryan says:

    Very nice site, article, and resource Matt. Kudos. Looking forward to future pieces and comments from other interested gamers.

    I’m curious what kind of advice you have for someone who has been a lifelong gamer who has no education in the industry. Having worked in finance (quality assurance) for years, I’d very much like to get into the game industry but I’m worried about my age, 30, and lack of experience being my major roadblock regardless of any education I might pursue.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Ryan, glad you like the site!

      I certainly wouldn’t worry about your age; I’ve seen lots of people enter the industry at far older ages than 30, and from industries more separated than finance.

      What you should focus on is figuring out what kind of profession you’d like in games. What are your hobbies? Do you like to draw, are you good at math, a good storyteller etc. Try making a couple of small games – board/card games are an excellent place to start, or maybe making a Twine game (link in article). Do a couple of quick tutorials, and try to get an idea of what interests you. There may even be some fields in games that are closely related to what you’re doing now – Games Tester/QC, Project Managers etc.

      The important thing is to start; don’t worry about lack of experience or age – you’d be amazed at how much of your experience from finance will translate once you have a couple of practical game development skills.

  4. Chris says:

    Hi Matt I really enjoyed your article. I am looking to pursue a career in game but I went to school for communication. I am more interested on creating new games.

    • Matt says:

      Glad you enjoyed the article Chris. Communication skills are extremely valuable for a career in video games. Most major studios (including ours) have a Communications team, but in addition to that many developers underestimate how important their soft skills, especially communication skills are for their career. When paired with some ‘hard skills’ – art, design, programming etc., you have the potential to be an extremely effective employee. I would recommend you start by exploring and trying to figure out which aspect of game development you are most interested in – try some of the programs and tutorials suggested in step 9, and see what you are drawn to.

  5. BRIAN ZULETA says:

    Hey Matt, This article its great. I love reading all things informative about the industry and this really helps clear up some questions I had. May I also mention you remind me of a wise mentor I have at a small private school in toronto :o.

  6. Thanks for this detailed, comprehensive, and realistic list of suggestions.

    • Matt says:

      Glad you enjoyed the article Nicholas!

      Also, everyone should check out Brian’s portfolio, and someone should give him a job; he is very talented.

  7. Great 10 Steps. Will be promoting this.

  8. Grayson Scott Garrett says:

    Dear Matt,

    This is an amazing article. I read it straight through! I’m kind of on the fence of what field I should go into. I mainly draw people… like constantly. I also draw features of people (eyes, nose, mouth, hands, etc.) all the time. So I was thinking about being a character artist. But I also want my work to be part of the final product that everyone will see, so I thought maybe I should be an animator. But I’ve worked only on 2D animation in flash. What should I do?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Grayson,
      Glad you liked the article.
      Lots of avenues you might want to explore: character art, animation, concept art or maybe even a rigger. Character art is certainly part of the final product that everyone will see – just to clarify, generally a Character Artist generally makes 3D models, and a Concept Artist is the one that draws the character design first. Try out some 3D modelling and animation to start – you can get free trials of 3DS Max or Maya (links in the article), and there are lots of excellent tutorials out there.

  9. Pamela Grace says:

    Hi Matt, this article was pretty helpful. I’m a few weeks away from my first Game Development course and it’s a four year course as it’s a bachelor’s degree. I’m hoping to be a game programmer. I know that most people say that becoming a game tester is the best way to break into the industry but there are a lot of people who want to become game testers. What would you recommend to make employers pick you and how does one promote from game tester to any other field in the industry?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Pamela,
      Starting out as a game tester can be useful to break into certain fields – I’ve seen quite a few testers move up through a Lead Tester role and into Project Coordinator or Assistant Producer. It is less common for testers to move into other development roles though – I’ve seen a few people transition to junior Level Design, Game Design or 3D Art positions, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone switch from Tester to Programmer (though I’m sure it has happened a fair bit).
      As a programmer, I would recommend you specialize (focus on network programming, 3D programming, engine programming etc.), and then make a good portfolio of projects that show your skill. Learn C++, which is the standard, and participate in some Game Jams to build up your network and get some experience working with a team.

  10. Jake says:

    Hey there, I just a learned a few new things by reading this. Is there any similar information you can offer to someone who’s already graduated from college?

    I graduated a couple of years ago at a school that did not offer much in terms of gaming…none in fact. I’d like to get into the industry as a writer/narrative designer but had no clue it’d be this difficult. Right now I’m an editor for a gaming website and it’s a nice resume builder but I’m still searching for jobs in the field.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Jake,
      I’ll be posting more info over the next few weeks specifically for people who have already graduated. Writer/Narrative Designer is a very tough field to crack – one of the most competitive out there. The editor role will help (would love a mention for the blog ;)), as it is a solid credit, but I would try to build up a portfolio of game writing – make some levels for RPGs with nice level editors, make some Twine games etc.

      Also, you should check out the Level Design role and take a look at some tutorials – Level Designers have a lot of control over the pacing and storytelling of their Level, but it is also an excellent way to break in and then transition to a Narrative Design role as companies tend to hire way more Level Designers. Also, many smaller studios don’t even have Narrative Design roles – they rely on Level Designers to write the dialog for their level as well.

  11. Hi Matt, first thanks for this amazing initiative and for your starting suggestions!

    I’m studing Multimedia Engineering (video games path) in Spain and in my case I’m pretty interested in Game Design and Level Design.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Vicente,
      Glad you enjoyed the article! Game Design and Level Design are solid choices – good luck with your Multimedia Engineering program!

  12. Katt Ross says:

    Hey Matt,

    I’m about to head into my third and final year of a Game Development program this fall. The program covers everything from environment design to AI programming. With such a wide variety of classes it’s been hard to just focus on one specific area of interest that I would want to specialize in. I feel that after these three years are over I’ll only have a basic skill set when going to apply for positions rather than something I would be confident with. I’ve been debating whether to go ahead and take another program, which is another four years and focuses just on game art and design concepts (which is where my interest is) or to just do some online learning myself.

    I really appreciate you taking the time to make this website and respond to all of us.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Katt,

      As I mentioned in point 3 of the article, I think this is a big trap that a lot of students and schools fall into – while a generalist program gives you a good foundation and knowledge of the industry, it is tough to get one skill up to a point that will get you into the industry. The good news is, once you focus on one discipline, you will end up ahead of the competition as your broad knowledge of how to work with other disciplines will be very valuable in the industry.

      As to whether to go to school for Art and Design or learn on your own, I’m afraid that isn’t a question that I can answer for you – I’ve known a lot of people who have succeeded doing both, and it really comes down to your level of discipline and how well you can keep yourself driven and motivated outside of a school program. Be honest with yourself about this, as I’ve seen too many people trick themselves into thinking they will be able to do serious study at home but end up distracted by other things. If you are going to continue to study at home, sign up for a forum like Polycount and use it to get feedback and ask questions.

  13. Vincent says:

    Hi Matt,

    Good to find that article!

    I’ve done my Computer programming and told myself that i would never work in the Video Game industry, don’t know why because last year i’ve started to enhance a 2D video game (RunUo Ultima Online) and since that time i’ve started to look for something better.

    Thank you for the hints, will look toward them !

    Vincent

  14. Marco says:

    Awesome article!

    I’m trying to decide which game school to enroll in for my master’s, I’d really like to get into gameplay design.

    Problem is I’m finishing up my undergrad next year with a degree in Business Admin and only a minor in Computer Science.

    I’ve done some work in GameMaker and I have a working knowledge of C++, do you have any general advice for what steps I should be taking next?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Marco,

      I’ll be posting a new article tomorrow which might give some more info on at least which city you might want to consider studying in, but in the meantime you should check out Princeton Review’s list of the top graduate schools for game design. Additionally, I would keep plugging away at GameMaker, and maybe try out Unity as well. Also, once you’ve picked up a couple of tools, go participate in a Game Jam! This is an excellent way to start to build a network and learn a ton about how to make games.

  15. Andreas Lopez says:

    Hey Matt,

    enjoyed the article and the details and insight you prepared. As every reader here I intend to go into Game Design and actually already spoke with men on the field. Especially the new rising star behavior Entertainment which is working on Wh40k Eternal Crusade.

    A tip I can give: Not to be shy to PM, send e-mails or contact in any form Game Designers or even ‘just’ the Studio people as the head or such. Just do not overdo it. They are hard working and got a lot of stuff to attend.

    Nonetheless I came here to say: Books are a good start as well! I read Raph Kosters ‘Theory of Fun for Game Design’ and am working on ‘Challenges for Game Designers’ from Brenda Brathwaite.

    Anyway – Looking forwards to more articles! Keep it up Matt!

    Sincerely,

    Andreas

    • Matt says:

      Hi Andreas,

      Thanks a lot for the comment – some great tips in there. In particular, I would highly recommend A Theory of Fun to all aspiring Game Designers.

      Next article will be posted tomorrow!

  16. Joel Lee says:

    Hi Matt!

    I loved and enjoyed your article! ( From Malaysia )
    I started playing games when I was 11 years old . Then , 16 , I interested to join a game industry . Im still in High School .Is kinda hard to find game school at here ( or just doesn’t exist ) . Maybe you can give online classes – like tutorials ? Haha .

    • Matt says:

      Hi Joel,

      So glad you enjoyed the article – lots more to come soon! It is often tough to find good game schools in smaller countries. Fortunately, there are lots of excellent resources online – I’m going to be posting as many links as I can over the coming weeks and hopefully my articles will help point you in the right direction. Stay tuned!

  17. Hugo says:

    Hi Matt !
    Very nice read ! Just subscribed 🙂

    School is behind me now (I guess)… I just graduated from my computer science school this year ! I’ve been aiming for video games ever since I was 8… yet I was told that writing (my true passion) for games was too hazardous, so I went for computer science.
    But now, I’m not sure this was a good idea… as I really don’t want to work in programming. Still this seems to be the only open door for me to get into the industry, even though I’ve been writing and building projects for over ten years…
    My dream is to become a game writer (and later a narrative designer), I do have a portfolio with quite a few stories (http://shelter-d.wix.com/portfolio) but that doesn’t seem to enough !

    In your opinion, what should I focus on to get into the field ?
    Are publications in “related” fields (like comics, novels) considered as valuable as studies ?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Hugo – thank you so much for subscribing!

      Congratulations on graduating from Computer Science! Don’t worry about not wanting to necessarily pursue programming – being able to program/script is incredibly valuable for almost every position in the Games Industry – most Narrative Designers I know are incredibly technical and have to work with and make complex tools to keep track of all of the dialog in a AAA game.

      Writing for other fields, like comics and novels is absolutely valuable and is considered in applications – I would also consider writing for pen & paper or tabletop games, as well as TV, where there is more work available, to start building up your resume. Also, keep working on your portfolio of interactive storytelling. Focus on mods where you don’t have to reinvent the wheel but can just focus on storytelling. There is a big community for Twine, where you can bang out story games as fast as you can write, or create quests for RPGs that contain level editors like Dragon Age: Origins.

      Hope that helps!

  18. Troy Barrett says:

    Hi Matt. Really great article, the information is great ! I’m from South Africa and have currentyl been offered a place to do a BSc in Game Development in the United Kingdom. Do you have any advice on any extra things I can do to ensure a successful career as a developer?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Troy,

      Congratulations on your offer to study a BSc in Game Development! I have lots of advice on extra things you can do to ensure a successful career, but I’m not sure which specifics I can give you right now – I’d recommend you subscribe to the blog, and I’ll be posting new articles every week to help you out : )

  19. JC says:

    Narrative Designer doesn’t seem to be something that a lot of companies are looking for. 🙁 I personally would love to do that.

    • Matt says:

      Hi JC! Narrative Designer is a tough field to crack – most companies I’ve worked for have had two or three, but generally it is a rare field.

      That having been said, Level Designers have a lot of the same skills, have a lot of storytelling responsibilities, and are quite in-demand. I’d suggest tackling this first.

      If you are really serious about Narrative Design, try making some levels for games like Neverwinter Nights – it is a bit old, but their editor is really easy to use to build simple RPG missions and you’ll get a good sense of what a Narrative Designer does all day.

  20. Jesús Gonzalez says:

    Hi, since I was a little boy I always be interested in the game development, I am not an artist but I always want to be part on making some games… I need help because

    1) I’m from Venezuela, we don’t have school that teach about games development or simple as we don’t school that teach about programing (is the field that I would like to study)

    2) if you can advise me on how to start programming what books can yo recommend me to start, I kind lost about how start in this field

    And thanks for this list of suggestion .

    • Matt says:

      Hi Jesus,

      There are a lot of excellent resources both online and in books to teach yourself game programming. While C++ is the industry standard, I would recommend you start with C# – it is a bit more accessible, and you’ll be able to get something up and running really quickly which can be very satisfying.

      I would recommend that you start with programming some simple Unity tutorials from their site.

      Once you’re ready to go a bit deeper into the language, there are some great free online resources here:
      MSDN Visual C# Developer Center
      C# Essentials
      Rob Miles’ C# Yellow Book

      As you get more familiar with C#, you’ll be able to build some really cool little prototypes and games in Unity, and then you can start to dig into C++ as well.

      Hope that helps!

  21. mswolfee says:

    hey matt!

    however im already at a school and some points of this article were already clear to me. it is a very good reminder of the harsh nature of the game industry, doing good at it is not an easy job. i think there is one point you could have made clearer wich is networking. it was mentioned in your article a few times but it deserves more attention since its one of the most important factors on getting a job.

    • Matt says:

      Hi mswolfee, thanks for commenting! Networking is very important, but I do want to make it clear that it will only be effective if you can also deliver – I’ve met a lot of students who focus too much on networking, but don’t get jobs as their portfolios aren’t strong enough. That having been said, there is a lot to expand on, and I will be writing an article specifically about networking strategies for students in the near future.

  22. Kevin says:

    Hi Matt. Great article.

    I’m a South African half way through my matric year and have a great love for programing. I try to play around in Unity when I get the chance and have a decent understanding of java. I feel I definitely have the potential. What steps should I take after school where a game school is not an option?
    Keep in mind I don’t have time to make a ‘demo project’ to show off my skills and I need to study locally after school.

    The release of BroForce has brought my hopes up but I would like to work with a big team and not go indie.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Kevin! Glad you enjoyed the article.
      I think you should reevaluate not having time to make a ‘demo project’ – I’ve seen amazing projects that have been made start to finish in one or two days, and this experience is invaluable and incredibly powerful in breaking into the industry. Once you’ve made a couple of little projects on your own, try going to a Game Jam – I’m not sure where you are in South Africa (btw, my mother is from South Africa, and I absolutely loved visiting), but there are Game Jams in Joburg and Capetown.

      Also, you don’t need to go to a ‘game school’ to learn game development – any good Computer Science course at a local University will get you far for programming, especially if it includes C++.

  23. Cian says:

    Hi! I’ve been learning game programming using c# and unity for about a year now and really enjoy it. But I also enjoy 3d modelling. I love the creativity and visual feedback of the art side but also love the feeling of creating something with programming. I don’t know which to choose when going into the industry do you have any tips?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Cian,

      You might want to seriously consider a Technical Artist role – they create tools and tech to help other artists accomplish things that they never would have been able to on their own, and it is a great combination of 3D and programming.

  24. Nelly says:

    Hi Matt,

    I really enjoyed this article. It was very informative! I graduated from film school 2 years ago, but I’ve always been into gaming, and now the idea of working the gaming industry has become more and more appealing.

    I have no animation or programming skills, but interests me the most about games is storytelling and sound design. I dont know anything about the industry in those regards, especially if they are practical skills. I wonder if I should go back to school to learn new practical skills in order to work in games.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Nelly,
      So glad you enjoyed the article. Film school training will be a big asset when going into games. There are quite a few jobs in Sound Design, but unfortunately tons of competition in that field as well. As mentioned in the article, Narrative Design is also extremely competitive.
      You might want to look into Level Design. Level Designers are also involved in storytelling, as they have to create the pacing of the game levels; while they usually don’t directly write dialogue, they have a lot of influence on how the story of a level plays out, how it is framed and paced etc.

  25. Louis says:

    Hi Matt!
    What a great thing that you have decided to start this blog. This first article was very interesting and inspiring!
    I am writing you from Italy, a country where if you say that you want to make videogames for a living, nobody usually takes you seriously.
    Maybe it’s because of this that I ended up studying and getting my degree in Physics (where I’ve learnt C and C++), but lately I’ve been considering about giving it a try.
    I’ve had this idea in mind for a game for quite some time, and now I am trying to make it real by studying and learning Unity through its tutorials. I’ve almost completed all of them and it’s being very interesting and fun.
    Fact is that next year I’ll be turning 30, and I also want to be realistic, so I wanted to ask you If you think that a person of my age is still in time to start a career as a game developer.
    Thanks for reading this, I’m looking forward to read your next articles!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Louis,

      Thanks for visiting, and I’m so glad you like the blog! Honestly your age should not be a deterrent at all from pursuing a career in game development – I’ve known people much older than you start successful careers at major developers. In fact, at many studios your age will be an asset – I’ve worked at several studios where the average age of employees is over 30, and you’d fit in much better at that age than if you were 20.

      Sounds like you’re taking a great approach – the degree in physics and past programming experience will really come in handy, and learning Unity will enable you to make some prototypes and start to build a portfolio.

      Feel free to contact me if you have any questions (email address is on the ‘Who’s Matt‘ page), and I wish you the best of luck going forward.

  26. akash says:

    WOW,man…this was my biggest dream ,to make a game..since i was 4….how does it feel when you complete a game…what games have you made?

    • Matt says:

      Hi akash! Wow, you started on this path early! It is a great feeling finishing a game, and it doesn’t really get old. I’ve finished over a dozen games, including Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Space Marine and entries in the FIFA, Madden, NBA Live, Need for Speed and Medal of Honor series’.

  27. Harrison Groarke says:

    Hi Matt, I live in Australia and i do two IT courses and i’m year 11, and i’m nearly 17, i decided i want to go to AIE in Canberra, and i want to do character design do you have any tips? also if i get good enough i would love to work at Ubisoft because it has my favorite song from ray man origins livid dead level. Keep up the good work.

    From your fan, regards:
    Harrison Groarke =)

    • Matt says:

      Hi Harrison,
      I’d take a close look at related roles – ‘character design’ can mean a lot of different things, but I would generally interpret it as Concept Art, which requires very advanced art skills, and is quite tough to break into. Other fields that may be interesting are 3D character art, 3D animation, or even technical artist/rigger.
      Hope that helps – more articles coming soon!

  28. Carl says:

    HI Matt,

    love your site so keep up the great work… Im probably too old (31) to drop my current career and try to make it designing games plus i live in the UK which has a significantly smaller pool of opportunities but i do have a strong passion for games and tech.

    Ive always wanted to try and build my own game for PC or console (xbox/Playstation) and learn to code in my spare time and was wondering if you have any thoughts or recommendations on which programming language’s i should look at as a starting off point?

    Thanks
    Carl

    • Matt says:

      Hey Carl,
      As I’ve mentioned to a couple of other people, I’ve known a lot of people that have started in the games industry much later than 30 (including the Associate Producer on my project). Honestly age will not be a barrier. Also, as you will see in my next article which will be posted shortly, there is still a strong games industry in the UK, and there are lots of opportunities around.
      I would consider starting with C# for learning programming. It is easier to get into than C++, and will let you make games using XNA studio or Unity and get results quickly. There are lots of quality resources available on the web to learn it (I posted several in my reply to Jesus).
      Hope that helps!

  29. Andre says:

    Hi Matt!

    This Blog is really a great idea and this article has already so much information and advices, I can hardly imagine what else you can tell us in future articles. Thanks for that!

    I am basically in the same position as Cian stated above. I cannot really decide if I should go for programming or for art and I really love to do both. I’ve been working for almost 5 years now as a C# programmer in the industry, so I kind of feel bad on dropping this completely. Do you really think that a technical artist is a good choice? It seems that the job description is not very clear and different depending on the company.

    Cheers!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Andre,
      Glad you like the blog. The Technical Artist role does vary from company to company, but probably has more in common than you’d think. Working in Tech Art was one of my favourite jobs in the industry – I loved the interesting problems to solve, and being able to multiply the output from a group of artists was very gratifying. If you already have some experience doing programming, and like 3D art, I think it would be an excellent choice.

  30. André says:

    When I was 10 years old I used to play a lot a game. But then, at the third installment of the series, I discovered there was no more 🙁 It was then that I decided: “I’m gonna make the fourth installment of this series” xD. Anyways, since then I wanted to make games, and last year I managed to enter a Computer Science course at university to follow that dream (I love programming, seeing how to make things do things for you, it’s just lots of fun haha). Once I entered here I went to a lecture about AI, and I decided that I would work in that area.
    When I was 14 years old I actually decided to aim only to Ubisoft Montreal Studio :), so I’m glad to hear from someone who worked at Ubisoft about this industry. Thank you!

    • Matt says:

      Hi André,
      So glad you enjoyed the article, and I wish you the best of luck getting into Ubisoft Montreal (it is a very cool studio!), and eventually in making the fourth installment you never had. AI is a great specific field to focus on.

  31. Carl Farra says:

    What a good read and what an awesome website! I’m starting my MFA in Game Design at NYU in a few months and I still have soooo many questions regarding what to expect and how to get ready.

    Based on local game jams and competitions lately I think I work best in a lead designer or producer role, where I describe my vision/idea for a game and make sure the team is working efficiently towards implementing it. That said, I’m really worried about my lack of technical skill and how much I can actually contribute to a team. I’m currently taking some javascript and illustration classes and getting to know Unity. Any advice on what I should focus on once I start school?

    Thanks and great job again with this project!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Carl,
      What you’re describing is generally two different roles: the Lead Designer/Creative Director generally has the idea/vision for the game, and the Producer works to make sure the team is working efficiently towards implementing it. I find the Producer role is very rewarding, but you need to be able to give up quite a bit of control over the creative aspect of development, and trust in your team to make the right decisions. All of that having been said, it sounds like you’re taking some good early steps to boost your chances. Keep working, and follow the advice in the article (and in future articles – coming soon!).

  32. Fong says:

    Hi Matt . Nice article and i found it is usefull me . This kind of info is quite hard to find at my country ,Malaysia . I have a question here , aside from the 10 thing you mention above , if there any thing is require to be a game programmer ?

    • Joel Lee says:

      Hi Fong!

      I’m from Malaysia too ! True , is kinda hard . Taking course about game are mostly in Private university . Is there any government Uni ?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Fong,
      Lots of things are required to be a game programmer, but in general I would focus on learning C++, and make some impressive tech demos to start to build up a portfolio. Check out white papers from GDC or Siggraph talks and try to recreate the effects or use them in a practical application. If you are new to programming, start with a language like C# to get used to it, and start building some small prototypes. Additionally, ‘game programming’ is too generic – try to determine a specific field that you are most interested in (network programmer, gameplay programmer, engine programmer etc.) and focus on that.

    • Fong says:

      @JOEL LEE
      I currently study at KDU College . It is a four year course . As far as i know there are no any government University that provide this course .

      @MATT
      Thanks! Hope to see more from you soon .

  33. Peyton says:

    Hey Matt! This site was so insightful. I know that i have wanted to go into the game industry as a career. But I was discouraged because I didn’t know where to start. What would be some classed that I could take to prepare for this career? And where would someone start if they wanted to become a game tester? Or is that even a good idea for a career choice in general?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Peyton,
      Glad you enjoyed the article. Useful classes to take are dependent on your starting point, age, and available schools. There are a lot of quality schools across North America and Western Europe focusing on specific game development skills to learn, and I’ll be posting a lot more info about them over the coming weeks (next post coming very soon should help with this).
      As for Game Tester, it is a good entry-level job in the industry. Some people are in it for the long haul, but many use it as a way to break in, in order to move into a different position. Generally it is very difficult work, with long hours and not very high pay, but it can also be fun and rewarding. Keep in mind it is nothing like playing games at home – people who come in expecting to have fun playing games all day won’t last very long.

  34. Andrew says:

    I (currently in high school) really am interested in a career as narrative designer, but I don’t think I quite have what it takes for the more artsy side of it ( creating cinematics, modeling). Any advice for me about the job of narrative designer in general?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Andrew,
      Narrative Design is an extremely tough field to break into. It doesn’t have any art/animation requirements, but has heavy requirements on excellent writing skills; generally you will need a number of published works (short stories, novels) or experience working on writing for TV or other related industries.
      You might want to consider a Level Design role. Most companies hire far more Level Designers than Narrative Designers, and there are some excellent college courses to teach it. Level Designers also have quite a lot of impact on how the story of the game plays out – the pacing, the encounters, and exactly how the story of a particular mission will play out for players. It is also a good field to target first to break into Narrative Design later.

  35. Luz says:

    Hi Matt!
    First, thank you very much for the article.
    I’ve studied Fine Arts, I have a Masters degree in Visuals for Video Games and I’ve been working as TechArtist in a company that makes mobile games for over a year. Still, I feel like I have a lot to learn from very diverse subjects, and I’m willing to travel and study for a few more years in an school if I have to in order to become a better professional.
    I always feel like I don’t know enough things to apply for a job anywhere (I was very lucky in my company! but it’s time to move forward).
    I was wondering if you think that I should look for more specific studies (and if so, could you recommend me any Technical Artist focused center?) or if I should throw my fears away and send my CV, even as Junior or for an Internship.
    Thank you for any answer and for taking the time to read all of our questions 😀
    Best regards!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Luz,
      Congratulations on your degree and career thus far – you’re off to a great start. I’d also like to point out the terrible conundrum that ‘the more you know, the more you know you don’t know’. I’ve been in this industry for 10 years, but would love to go back to school; there are always so many exciting things to learn! That having been said, I would recommend you build up enough experience to get into a larger studio, as you will learn much more on the job at a strong studio than you will in most schools. Take a junior or internship role if you need to, but focus on finding a job where you can get support to learn and grow.

    • Luz says:

      Thank you for your words, it’s nice to have someone to talk to about this kind of stuff, specially someone as experienced as you are.
      I’m really looking forward to read your articles as you post them, and congratulations for your new adventure with this site!

  36. Matt, First, thanks for this information is very useful on your part to do this, I found very interesting the 10 points. I am currently starting a course of game design in my country (ARG), so any advice like this is very useful, I’ll keep your advice in paragraph 9 and will start doing something!
    I hope one day, have the opportunity to meet you in person and to thank this great help you give to new video game designers.

    Best regards Max.

    Ps: I would be interested to know a little more about level design

    • Matt says:

      Hi Max,
      So happy you found the article helpful. Good luck on the Game Design course – these courses tend to fly by, so really focus and make the most of it. If you’re ever in Toronto, shoot me an email (address is on the ‘Who’s Matt’ page) and I’d be happy to meet up. Also, it is a small industry, so I’m sure we’ll meet sometime in the future once you’re working for a major studio.
      I’ll be posting more info and interviews about specific fields in the industry soon, and I’ll be sure to include Level Design.

  37. Aaron ward says:

    Hi man, read all of the article and it has some great advice. I’m 18 and starting college next year for computer science. I wanted to continue into game dev afterwards but never knew the different fields of it. I’m going to try make my own game with the program’s you listed and see how they go, would you suggest gamemaker:studio for my first try? What are the best computer languages for game dev or is there no specific language that’s the best? Haha. Also I am from Ireland and there is not a lot of opportunities here for game dev, any advice?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Aaron,
      If you’re going into Computer Science/programming, I would really consider learning C# and starting with Unity. There are so many great tutorials out there, and you’ll be up and running in no time.
      As far as Ireland goes, it is not a huge industry over there, but it definitely exists – there is a good list of Irish studios here. Also, there is still quite a strong industry in the UK, and London recently made #3 on my list of the best cities for game school.

  38. Vince Parker says:

    Your article help me out a ton. I was staring to question myself on how would I get into the gaming industry then I read your article. This article gave me the inspiration to keep going. I just have one question Matt. Is it hard to get into studios being a game programmer?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Vince,
      So glad you found the article helpful. There will be lots more coming, and I’m aiming to have a new one up each Monday.
      It is tough to answer your question, as ‘hard’ is a very relative term.

      One of the best things about the Game Industry is that it is generally a meritocracy; those who do well, succeed. If you are a good game programmer, it will be easy to get a job.
      That having been said, becoming a good game programmer is very difficult, and will require a lot of focus, commitment and hard work. I tend to prefer schools to help schedule and commit to getting the work done, but it is absolutely possible to study and learn on your own – it just takes a lot of discipline.

  39. Hey Matt! First of all: BRAVO! For the article for taking time to help others and to answer EACH AND EVERY post and question. Over 70 comments! I have read everything and you don’t give copy paste answers, but legitimate and valuable answers.

    I have finished two years ago my grad in Animation directing and development, and as you know, in this world you need a Demo Reel or portfolio with your work to show on animation or game studios. Here’s my problem:
    I hadn’t the tools to be doing it at home (powerful computer) and I haven’t got the economic aid to carry on with new courses helping me upgrade my experience. (Now I have just recieved a computer I can work with! YAY!) But getting started with my Demo Reel is hard when I have been 2 years stopped. I’m in love with 3D animation and modelling since I saw Monster’s Inc., so since then, my goal has always been PIXAR! Then I saw how awesome 3D looks when Assassin’s Creed arrieved…
    My question is: how and what should I do with my focus? What type of jobs would be for modelling and 3D animation? I have a short film made, but it was made solely in Flash in traditional animation. Any tips on how I should advance?

    (Sorry for the long message, but I needed to put you in my situation 😛 )

    • PS: I live in Spain (Europe), so I don’t have the schools or Movie/Game Industry that I would love to have. I have been told to leave the country to USA or Canada, but I have no money to do that…
      Thanks again!

    • Matt says:

      As I mentioned in one of the comments on the top 10 cities article, Spain actually has quite a strong and growing industry, particularly in Barcelona – in fact, Ubisoft has two studios there. That having been said, I’m sure you would have more employment opportunities in North America, but that is a big move, visas can be tricky, and it can be expensive. Best of luck!

    • Matt says:

      Hi César,

      Thanks for the great comment. Sounds like you have taken a lot of the right steps already. I’d advise you to pick either modelling or animation, and focus on that.

      Be as specific as possible – you could focus on cleaning up and combining mocap animation (there is lots of dirty free mocap animation online, and there are often entry level jobs for processing this data), or on character animation for games, including setting up animation trees, or on TV animation etc. Pick a niche and focus your demo-reel on that niche.

      If you have time, volunteer to work as an animator for a couple of mod projects – mods are often looking for animators, and it is great to get some experience, build up your resume a bit, and get some work from an actual project on your reel. Be picky when selecting mod projects to work on – you want something that is actually going to get finished, with a team that is serious about completing their goals.
      If you’re looking to get into games, make sure the work on your reel is relevant – work that loops well, that blends with an animation tree, and that uses a game rig/character. Unity tutorials have some good free assets available, and you could even consider using Unity to make an interactive reel where people can control a character that you have animated – check out the tutorials here.

      Hope that helps!

  40. Doris says:

    Hi Matt!I’m a junior high school student from Taiwan.Your article is very helpful.Thanks for your sharing.I’d like to be a game play programmer,and I started to learn c++ and c# a year ago.Could you give me some other advices ?(like what kinds of programming languages I should learn)Thank You!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Doris,

      Glad you liked the article! C++ and C# are a great place to start for programming languages – I wouldn’t branch out too much from there, although if you are also interested in 3D art you could consider learning Python/MaxScript/MEL and possibly branching out into ‘technical art’ roles, as they are fairly quick languages to learn. Also, languages aside, you should learn a couple of game engines, and how to script/program within them – UDK, Unity and Crytek are all good places to start.

      In general though I would recommend really focusing on becoming very strong at C++, and on making as many interesting prototypes, games and tech demos as you can.

      Hope that helps!

  41. Joao Cesar says:

    Hi Matt!

    Great article! I’m from Brazil and I live in a small town (So, no art schools.) but I could do an Analysis and Development of Systems college and I’m trying to move with my girlfriend for Orlando, CA.

    I got two questions, if I may:

    I’m not an AWESOME artist, actually, i don’t know much about art (At least, I’m not that skilled with designing.). Do you think that with art schools I can get the way for game development?

    I really think I’ll be great as a Project Manager, but I don’t think I’m going to kick Ubisoft’s door and scream: “Sup! I’m the new manager here!”, so I’ll need some experience and time in the industry before I get what I’m really good at. Do you have any advice for someone that aims PM for game development?
    Besides general IT Project Managing stuff, like PMBOK.

    Thanks for the blog, you should know how you are helping guys like me!

    • Matt says:

      Hi Joao,

      1. If you’re more interested in pursuing a career in programming or Project Management, no need to focus on learning art (unless you are particularly interested). Nobody is going to ask for an art portfolio unless you are specifically applying for an art job.

      2. Project Manager is a good place to aim, and is actually one of the clearest entry level paths to get into game development. Get a job as a Game Tester. If you move to a city with a strong industry, and focus on following the advise in this article, this should be very achievable. Second, work really hard and do a great job for a couple of years as a tester, showing that you are really organized and on top of things, and you should be able to move up to a ‘Lead Tester’ position. Then move from Lead Tester to Project Coordinator or Assistant Producer, and you’re well on your way to becoming an Associate Producer or Producer. I know a lot of people who have taken this path.

      Hope that helps!

  42. varun says:

    Great Article ! I ‘d like some advice.
    I want to get into programming. My mathematics is good and I’m a quick learner. I can devote long hours as well. But I haven’t really started doing much yet, only skimmed over tutorials of JAVA and C to know if I can really do it. I think I can, the tough part is where to start and what to start with? The question has been chewing at me for quite a while…

    • Matt says:

      Hi Varun,

      There is a real danger in skimming tutorials/browsing around, as you can convince yourself that you’re doing something concrete but you aren’t really. Set yourself a goal, and focus on that task. Maybe start out by setting a goal to re-build a simple game (Mario, Tetris etc.) in Unity. Complete their tutorials from their website front to back, and then tackle the project. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can make something that is compelling and interactive, and then you can start tweaking and changing it to make it your own.

      The important thing is to start!

  43. Quinn says:

    Hi Matt,

    Thank you for making this site and this article in particular as there isn’t much out there about educational paths for careers in the gaming industry. I look forward to reading many more of your words. I do have a couple questions though if you don’t mind helping me out.

    What can help make the whole process of making games less intimidating? I often get the drive to make a game, downloading programs like Stencyl or Gamemaker, but when I sit there starring at my screen with a blank canvas it all looks really intimidating. Adding on to this what can help with the intimidation of learning to program? I have taken several programming courses and yet there is always this intimidating factor about coding, about not fully understanding a language and seeing others who have a firm grasp of how to use it.

    Also I wanted to get your opinion on journalism in the gaming industry. Do you see it as being a part of gaming or more apart of journalism? I know there is a clear difference between making a game and rating a game, but as someone who has worked on several games how do you see the “gaming news” side of things? Additionally how does it feel going coming from a developer background and adding your thoughts to the journalism side of things?

    Thank you for your time,
    Quinn

    • Matt says:

      Hi Quinn,

      Here’s what I would recommend: start small, and get the satisfaction from actually making something – this will drive you to scale up. Make a board game – grab some dice, draw something out on cardboard, make some cards etc. – try to make something interesting, but set yourself a time limit to get it done over the course of a weekend.

      After the board game, I would set goals to properly complete, step by step, tutorials for Unity. Don’t jump ahead – start with the basic ones, and go from there. Their tutorials are generally well written and easy to follow, and you will quickly get a good grasp on the programming language (I would recommend focusing on C#).

      As for journalism, I’m totally new to the whole blogging world and still trying to figure out what I’m doing, but it seems pretty fun. I certainly wouldn’t consider it journalism though : ). I generally have a lot of respect for the gaming press, and I’ve had both good experiences and bad – it always stings to get a bad review on a game you are proud of, but it is really satisfying when you get a 10/10 or really positive comments, especially when they really ‘get’ what you were trying to accomplish.

      Hope that helps!

  44. Akash Dambal says:

    hello Matt,

    Thanks for the info on game development. I am pursuing a game art course. I am interested in character art and environment art. I wish if I could get any advice on those fields.
    Thanks again.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Akash,

      Glad you liked the article. I’ll be posting up some specific articles for each field over the next few weeks, which will definitely include 3D art. For some quick advise, I would choose to focus your initial energy either on character art or environment art, and get really good at one first.

      Get an account on Polycount, and post your work there – you will get some tough feedback; don’t let it get you down, and filter out the junk/hate, but you will also get a lot of very useful advise to improve.

  45. Chris says:

    Hey Matt, thanks for all the info! I’m coming to the end of my senior year in highschool and am currently headed for a degree in computer science. I opted for computer science as it seemed the “smart” way to go as far as my opportunities down the line. But I also have a strong passion for art, and am quite skilled at design / illustration / etc while I am adequate at 3D. This is where I’m divided, I have strong passions for both programming and art, yet in the industy they are often segregated. I suppose my question is, would it be uncommon for someone with a bachelors in computer science to be hired for an artistic position, and vice versa? Thanks.

    • Matt says:

      As I’ve recommended to a couple of other people, you should really consider a Technical Artist role – this combines the best of both worlds, as you have to be a capable 3D artist, but also need to be able to program new shaders, tools and optimizations to get the game out the door. That having been said, it isn’t super common for an artist to be hired with a Bachelor degree in CompSci, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt – the trick would be that you would also have to put in a few years to get good enough at 3D art.

  46. Maria says:

    Hello Matt,

    I have read the article and I am interested in animation (art has always been my passion) and i would like to know if there are any particular programs tailored to animation or if I can look up any particular forums to speak with people on this field? Anything you can tell me about it would help me a lot

    Thank you for your time

    • Matt says:

      Hi Maria,

      I went to school for Animation myself (both Classical & 3D), and though it never really clicked for me, I have so much respect for talented animators. Generally I would recommend going to a school that has a strong reputation for animation (in the US or International), ; look for classical animation over 3D, at least as a basis, and don’t underestimate the value of figure drawing and fine art skills. Richard Williams’ book ‘The Animator’s Survival Kit‘ is a great place to start.

  47. Maria says:

    Hello Matt,

    Thank you very much for your response. I was also curious about your opinions on online masters degree on animations (if there are any) since I got a suggestion to look into it by a friend but I’m not so sure myself.

    Thank you for your time.

  48. Nico says:

    Hey Matt,
    I just found out about your blog and this is great! Very valuable info. I’m actually forwarding this to my son right now. He’s 18 and finishing his Grade 12 schooling in the Beaches in 2 weeks, heading straight to http://www.uoit.ca/ where he will study programming for video games.
    It’s his passion and I really want to encourage him as much as I can. 🙂
    (We’re actually working together on a game idea for “Game Jam” at UBI – I’ll show you all about it at some point.)

    Thanks.
    Nico.

  49. Joel Lee says:

    Hi Matt ,

    Actually , I’m not sure what field should I take . I loves and want to make games . Should I take computer science so that to see wheather which field is fit for me ?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Joel,

      I wouldn’t recommend taking Computer Science to figure out which field you are interested in, as it will mostly only help for Programming fields (if you know you want to be a programmer this isn’t a bad plan). I would dedicate some evenings and weekends to trying out a few tutorials scattered across a variety of fields and see what you are drawn to.

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  51. Grace Austin says:

    Hey Matt,

    My name is Grace and I’ve been a gamer for as long as I can remember. Just wanted to say well done on the article! I’ll be keeping up to date with it.

    I’m from Australia, so the Indie and AAA scene hasn’t kicked off as much as people think. The gaming industry is here, just… not on par with the rest of the world yet. After talking to many university graduates (and after seeing their amazing projects), they couldn’t get work or ended up making their own companies (which also flopped)… It really put me off wanting to go into a university or diploma courses. However, in knowing this, I’m still very passionate about gaming and the process of development.

    About 10 years ago (when I was 8-9), I decided I wanted to work in games. In the beginning, I was very into drawing and character development. Sadly, my art never got better even though I practiced everyday. Hitting in my mid teens, I got put off and stopped doing it completely, I started looking for other interests. Until recently! I downloaded UDK 3 and did some tutorials. I’ve fallen completely in love with 3D level design. Manipulating a 3D world and fine tweaking everything that the player can interact with is very rewarding. There’s so much more to it then I thought initially.

    To all the people who read this, even if you start being determined in a particular field, you might find your calling in something else.

    Thanks again for the article, Matt!

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