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Myths around the Game Development Industry

by Terry Wilson on 08/22/13 11:45:00 am

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

 

Out of most high end and high grossing industries it seems game development tends to get a bad or good rap that most of the time result from heavy misconceptions and myths in that industry. Some of these myth debunks have become more well known, but quite a few are still left without anyone mentioning much about it, even those deep into the industry. But for the most part these are myths that people outside the industry (and possibly looking to join it) have about game development, game degrees, and getting a job in the gaming industry.

You Get to Play Games All Day

I think this is probably one of the biggest areas that people get wrong, yes you are making games, but that process of making the game results in very little play of the game. It can be put best as ‘playing the game you made isn’t quite the same as playing a game someone else made’. The reason this myth mostly comes about is not just because these are people making games, but also because one of the most well-known jobs in the industry is a ‘game tester’ or more appropriately Quality Assurance. These testers do play games, but generally this means playing the same areas over and over, possibly in a heavily broken game, purposely trying to find all those bugs. And did I mention this is usually before even the ‘friends and family alpha’ or beta if there are those included.

On the bright side, there is one area of the game development industry this is appropriate. Most gaming companies often have break rooms and areas for their employees to unwind from making games, by playing the games they love, and that isn’t much of a thing we see outside of the gaming industry.

The Game Design or Program Degree

There are all kinds of ideas, both inside and outside the game industry, around game design and game programming degrees. Some people suggest just getting a ‘traditional’ degree, others will tell you to not even bother with a degree, and even more will say they only want people getting a game specific degree. Overall there seems to be a lot of disagreement around this but here are the main claims and myths around this area.

A game company prefers graduates from traditional fields

In most cases, a game company won’t care whether your degree says ‘game programming’ or ‘computer programming’ so long as you are applying for the programming area. The only time this really applies is if the hiring manager has a particular preference or sway, which is then personal.

You don’t need a degree to make games

When it comes down to it, you don’t need a game-specific degree to be hired to make games. A degree of any kind will give you an edge with getting that kind of job (though experience on making a game seems to weigh more). If you expect to start making games without a degree at all, be prepared to work hard, by yourself, and starting your own company for game making. You can do it all without a degree, but it’s unlikely you would be hired by someone else without that degree. The degree proves you have what it takes, because you’ve gone through it. But if you can show an equivalent (such as your own made game) that can have just as much power if not more and can arguably take longer than the degree.

Your Game Degree will just result in a Quality Assurance Job

Back when the game industry was just kicking off, entry level was often the testing department. These days that isn’t always the case, in fact most quality assurance ends up staying in the quality assurance areas with the occasional one jumping to design or, if they have the know-how, programming. Companies are often hiring for game designers and programmers straight up and if you have a degree in game programming chances are they aren’t going to just throw you to quality assurance.

You Shouldn’t Get a Game Specific Degree

I think this is the biggest one seen within the gaming industry; in fact there was a previous Gamasutra article that is a good read on this. There are completely valid points there, but in practical applications game specific degrees in say design and animation don’t have any trouble transferring to solely animation areas. There is a catch though, making sure the place where you are getting this game specific degree is from an accredited source, like MIT who offers a game specific degree. No one can argue that your game program degree from MIT is completely invalid if you are trying to get a programming job with a basic computer software company (You’ll learn many of the same things like C++). As for whether you should go to MIT and still get a game specific degree and not a basic one in programming or something, that is entirely your choice.

There are No Jobs in the Game Industry

No jobs, or few jobs are both around the same thing when spoken. Generally it means there are no jobs that the particular person wants or is looking for in the industry, which makes sense if that person is looking to be the head of their own personal game but hired by a company that is hiring specifically for games they already have set in motion.

Really there always seems to be a cry from some people about how there just aren’t any jobs, but there are always jobs if you are looking for them. Just glancing over Arena Net and Blizzard for a brief moment, you can quickly discover many jobs open and being sought for, and yes, there will be a little competition for them (but mostly that isn’t often the case) more often than not game companies will be hiring for the same job for many months before they even find one applicant fitting for the job. And this goes back to how people think they can just get into the game industry without any game experience and no degree or work to show fitting to the game job they aim for.

Do you have another game industry myth to debunk? Mention it!

About the Author: In between contract work as a game editor and occasional designer, Terry Wilson is part of Game Design Schools, a resource for those aspiring towards game design degrees.


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