The Life of a Game Developer – The Struggle, the Opportunity, and the End Game

The gaming industry is truly massive. It ranges from consoles to PCs to web-based games to mobile games and more. However, behind those first-person shooters, choose-three style games, and all the rest are real people – game developers. They’re responsible for building everything from Doom to Candy Crush. It can be an immensely rewarding career, but it can also be incredibly challenging.

Why Become a Game Developer?

Why would someone choose to go into the world of game development? There are a couple of reasons, but most people start out with a passion for gaming in the first place. Game developers couple that passion with a desire to build something amazing. There’s also at least an interest in and aptitude for coding, as well.

What to Expect as a Game Developer

The game development industry has grown considerably in the last decade or so, and continues to do so. That means several things. First, there is no shortage of jobs for qualified developers, so finding work is not an issue. However, there is also no shortage of applicants, and it’s not uncommon for a developer to move from studio to studio very quickly. The rumors about the industry being rather cutthroat are true.

Most developers find that they eventually need to specialize in a particular platform type if they want to really succeed. As new entrants, though, it’s normal to move back and forth between mobile and console, PC and web-based, but that changes as you climb the ladder to higher-up positions with development studios.

Most game developers also report that you need to be comfortable working long hours for no overtime. In some instances, you might be required to work overnight without any additional pay at all. The entire goal is to get the game out, to spec and on time, whatever it takes, and that’s what you’re paid for.

Game Development Struggles

Game developers face many challenges, despite the growth of the industry. One of those is the need to learn and adapt very quickly as new technology, new game engines, and new trends come to market.

You also need to be nimble when it comes to finding employment – the world is filled with failed gaming development studios, ranging from startups that barely made it off the starting block to megalithic companies that no one thought would ever die. There’s a great deal of churn here, and aspiring game developers need to be prepared for that.

Finally, there’s the possibility of burnout. Long hours for no overtime pay, pulling in less money than you could if you worked for an IT firm, and being just one more cog in the development machine rather than a creative team member can all lead to a sense of frustration and burnout.

What Does Success Look Like?

Success for game developers can come in many different ways. For most, it comes from finally achieving the status of being a key member of a creative team behind a massively successful title – think Mass Effect or Dragon Age, for instance. There’s also the fact that success can be achieved by finally moving high enough up the chain that you’re no longer really a “coder”. You’re a decision maker, and help to shape not only the game on which your team is focused, but what games the studio develops in the first place.

Is It Worth It?

It’s no secret that becoming a game developer can lead to a challenging career with many potential pitfalls. However, if you are prepared for the reality of game development and programming, it can be an immensely rewarding choice.

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