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I Wanna Make Games When I Grow Up!
by Adam Saltsman on 05/06/09 02:41:00 pm   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Isn't it awesome that we get to make the kinds of games we like to play?

If you work in the games industry, even on the very periphery, you probably have a nephew or cousin-in-law or other absurdly-distanced aquaintance, usually male, usually under the age of 15, who is REALLY passionate about making games.  Maybe they haven't worked out what that even means yet, they just know you make games, and THEY want to make games, and that's awesome.

It can be really hard to make the jump from youthful enthusiasm to the nuts and bolts of real life and the games industry.  I have talked to a lot of local kids about getting into the game industry, and the talk usually ranges from mildly interesting description of my varied responsibilities to relatively depressing assessment of normal industry work practices.  Neither of these things I think are particularly practical, either for the younglings or for their parents.

In the interest of being able to actually provide them with some kind of vaguely useful set of data to guide their high school years and beyond, I started putting together a kind of game training cheat sheet.  If this cheat sheet was a piece of software, this would be the alpha version.  I am hoping that through this new blog thingy I might be able to get some more input and be able to turn this into some sort of actual resource.


Basics & Fundamentals

Understanding Games Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

The Game Career Guide (loads of helpful FAQs and articles about the industry)


Game Design Schools

These are schools that that employ actual industry professionals and have direct connections to game companies and events.

The Guild Hall



USC Interactive Media

USC GamePipe


NOTE: Most of these schools are pretty expensive.  Some suitable alternatives include Full Sail, Art Institute of Wherever, and any school that doesn't assign too much homework (non-Ivy League!).


Great Industry Advice

These are web pages that give sane answers to hard questions from students and other people looking to get into the industry.

Kiel Figgins' Student FAQ (updated, TONS of great stuff here)

Rob Jagnow (Cogs) on starting your own company


Great Art

Arne's Art Tutorial

Game Artisans (3D Modeling)


Pixelation (I moderate here, it is a really amazing community!)


Concept Art

Concept Ships (A little specific/topical, but this is a GREAT blog)


Great Programming

NeHe OpenGL Tutorials (Personally I find it a little hardcore/obtuse, but a pretty amazing resource still)

Derek Yu's Game Maker Tutorial Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3


Great Design Writing

Lost Garden

Wolfire Blog


Great Communities


Ludum Dare




NOTE TO PARENTS: Not all of these websites are guaranteed to be PG-rated, so if you are worried about that sort of thing I would take some time to check them out beforehand and get a feel for the kinds of content they have.  A lot of the art sites especially do occasionally feature boobies, on account of women having them.


Game Creation Applications

These are kind of "one size fits all" applications that are generally pretty cheap or free. They are focused around the premise of making game development more accessible and easier.  The tradeoff is that they can feel fairly limited sometimes, and they do still require some learning/experimentation.  I am not going to promise that all of these applications are super high quality, but they have all developed a following of both professionals and amateur developers.

Unity (Extremely powerful IDE + 3D/Physics engine, pretty amazing)

Flixel (free set of game-related flash files, use with MXMLC or FlashDevelop) 

Game Maker (Generic 2D game production)

MMF2 (Generic 2D game production, generally considered inferior to Game Maker)

Scratch ("building blocks" style game design setup, best for very young) 

RPG Maker (for making Japanese-style RPGs)


Cheap or Free 3D Modelers That Are Pretty Great

For a lot of artists 3D modeling is really exciting, but getting your hands on "real" 3D modelers involves either thousands of dollars or a trip to the Pirate Bay.  However, there are some competitive, well-supported alternatives that can help in the learning process, make it much easier to adapt to "official" industry modelers, and are pretty powerful in their own right.

Blender (Industrial strength but intimidating)

Milkshape 3D (OK this one is pretty bad but it is VERY easy for beginners)

Wings3D (My favorite modeler, but some folks are allergic to it)



SketchUp (This app is awesome, I actually modified Wings to incorporate some features from it)

Softimage Mod Tool (formerly XSI)

NOTE: DO NOT USE POSER OR BRYCE EVER OR YOU ARE FIRED FROM GAMES.  Also, you can get a student license of 3D Studio Max (one of the "standard" industry packages) for a relatively affordable price with a student ID.


Competitions & Activities

These tend to be limited to the "independent" game industry, but are wonderful for developing new skills, meeting new people, or showcasing the efforts of a small team.  The importance of these things cannot be underestimated!

Independent Games Festival


Retro Remakes






Thanks to Mike Kasprzak, Josh Larson, Raigan Burns and Kees Rijnen for their contributions!

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An Dang
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I am downloading Game Maker as we speak. Since my English degree is not doing me much good and the recession is making it near impossible to get into the industry with no experience (and they aren't offering beginning programming classes at my local community college this quarter), I'll play with GM.

Kumar Daryanani
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A great compilation of resources, not just for 15 year-olds, but for anyone with an interest in making games: I'm familiar with some of them, but there's a lot of links there that catch my eye. Thankyou for taking the time to compile this!

Ryan Erato
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Thanks for the resources from somebody who knows. I'm starting a small group of coworkers (we're student software engineers) and I'd really like to make a game and get into game development. I know people are a bit weary, not fully understanding what goes into making a game, but I think this list will make everybody more comfortable with my ideas.

Rodain Joubert
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It's nice to see Game Maker in that list. I'm all for more people using accessible tools and focusing on game design rather than simply hacking out the nuts and bolts of coding, and that tool has carried quite a lot of developers to prominence.

A very comprehensive piece. I'm going to investigate a few of the links that I haven't seen before.

Bob McIntyre
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That picture is awesome. I love the barbell in the background.

Reynaldo Lor
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Thanks for getting this topic rolling Adam. I am in the middle of a career change and I too want to make games. LOL, that frame still from that crappy commercial kills me.

I'm applying at a few schools, but i'm seriously considering Full Sail. They seem to be one of the most affordable around.

I'll be following this thread and who knows, maybe I can throw in some first hand experience later on.

Elliot Pinkus
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Very interesting list Adam. I hope it helps prospective game developers. A few comments:

First off, the "prestigious, formidable MIT-group" is the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab (, incorporating students from a variety of departments. The Education Arcade ( also does great work with regards to games in the educational setting.

As far as game creation applications, I've been working on-and-off with Torque Game Builder (Torque 2D). It combines a graphical editor and a fully featured scripting language. While useful, it still has it share of quirks where certain pieces are much more difficult than they should be.

Also it's worth mentioning some of the fascinating books about games, from both theoretical and development standpoints. Raph Koster's Theory of Fun is short, entertaining, and a must-read. Rules of Play by Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen is a massive tome that is filled with useful information. Half-Real by Jesper Juul covers the balance between rules and fiction in games.

Adam Saltsman
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Ah yea, GAMBIT is the one I was thinking of. I'm still on the fence about including books in this list, though I agree that Rules of Play has some wonderful stuff in it.

Andre La Barre
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I'm biased since I've been doing volunteer work on a segment of the site, but I'd also suggest BYOND ( as a game creation application. It features a loosely typed object-oriented language, a tile-based engine, integrated network capabilities, and a subscription passport system for those who wish to charge for their work. It should at least help people learn some design basics.

Dylan Woodbury
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Finally! The answer to my prayers!!!

Thanks for the great links.