[In this reprinted #altdevblogaday-opinion piece, TidalWare head Daniel Sefton shares how he started his game company while in college, and suggests that other students take advantage of their university's resources to do the same.]
Looking at many successful entrepreneurs, there is a trend – they did not attend or drop out of university. Therefore it is a common misconception that university is not necessary, or a waste of time for those who already have the skills, a rad business idea, and entrepreneurial spirit.
There's nothing wrong with skipping university and going into the big wide world on your own – the way I see it, life is about diving head first and running with whatever you are passionate about. Anything is possible.
But if there's one thing I learned about running a company, it's that you NEED help, people, and contacts. It's not just about rattling some lines of code and art, and calling it a business; it's a huge range of skills required from all corners of everything.
Get this: University is one big ass games company!
Fields of study at my university include business studies, music tech, game design, art, management, finance, programming, law. It's all here. I've got all the help I could ever ask for on my doorstep.
If I need any art, no problem, we have game designers and artists – hundreds of them. If I need sound, no problem, I'm living in a house with fourmusicians who study at the university. If I need business help, we have a business school.
The university also runs an internal games studio – they have hands-on experience. We have expensive dev kits out of reach for most indies. We have software licenses for everything you could want.
I've become a better person by being at university – meeting people, attending events, entering competitions, making games in teams, improving my course by attending university board meetings, and much more.
Last but not least, I get training. I could have been complacent with what I knew – I started programming C++ four years before I even began university. But there are always things I'm learning that I never knew before – theories, maths, low-level programming, shaders, and so on.
How I Started My Company
About mid-way through my first year I finally decided that I wanted to start a business. I knew the basics, since I did business studies for a few years at school, but nothing about filing a company for real. I asked my head of department, and he gave me a leaflet about some business events run by an initiative at the university. Luckily one of them started a few hours after I asked.
So I went to it, and with a room full of student entrepreneurs, they were discussing issues surrounding intellectual property. I was amazed that it was my first time there and already I was learning something useful that applies to games.
I inquired about starting a company after a couple more events, and they helped me file all the documents. A week later, I was incorporated. Not only that, but bundled for a year I got free office space and meeting rooms, free advice and support, and access to business events in the region.
If you are at university and considering doing the same, only do so if you really need it, if you have serious product(s) that require incorporation. I worked on mine for years before I incorporated.
Don't let it get in the way of your studies. Although it's great that you're taking advantage of university in ways that most don't, realize that running a company is not just a case of filing a few documents and sitting on your arse all day; you need to work damn hard and balance it with university work.
If you are the entrepreneurial type, want to start a games company, and have the chance of going to university, I totally recommend that you think twice.
I leave you with an analogy.
University is like a cheesecake. The degree you get is the biscuit at the bottom, and you have to fill in the cream and toppings yourself. With no cream or toppings, it's a dry experience with a cog-in-the-works outcome.
Disclaimer: I can only speak from the experience of attending one university. The points I make may be different for others, but every university has resources that you can take advantage of.
[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]