As a games developer you can work in design, programming, art or animation and are likely to progress quickly in this fast-paced industry
Working in games development you'll be involved in the creation and production of games for personal computers, games consoles, social/online games, arcade games, tablets, mobile phones and other hand-held devices. Your work will usually be concerned with either design (including art and animation) or programming.
The making of a game from concept to finished product can take years and involve teams of professionals. There are several stages, including creating and designing a game's look and how it plays, animating characters and objects, creating audio, programming, localisation, testing and producing.
The games developer job title covers a broad area of work and there are many specialisms within the industry. These include:
The exact work you carry out will vary depending on your specialist area but it may include:
Salaries vary depending on your specialism, as well as the company type, size and location of the employer. Some companies offer bonuses or a profit-sharing scheme.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are usually flexible, meaning you won't necessarily have to work 9am to 5pm but this can vary depending on your employer. Developers often work a 40-hour week but it can be longer when games completion deadlines have to be met. On these occasions you may be expected to work over the weekend and into evenings.
You can become a games developer with any qualification but a relevant degree, HND or foundation degree in one of the following subjects may increase your chances:
Entry without a degree, HND or foundation degree is sometimes possible particularly if you have relevant experience, although most people who work in games are graduates.
An alternative route into games development is as a quality assurance technician or tester. Although you don't need to have an HND or degree for this role, some programming experience is desirable, as well as extensive experience of game playing, an understanding of different styles, and platforms and database skills.
A relevant postgraduate qualification, while not essential, may be useful, especially if your first degree or HND doesn't involve a games specialism element. Search for postgraduate courses in computer game design.
With the increasing popularity of games and advances in technology, the industry offers a range of opportunities, but competition is intense at all levels and you'll need to demonstrate a high level of commitment and achievement.
You will need to show:
You may also need to demonstrate skills in cinematography or story writing as games become even closer to film in terms of technological advances. It's also important to have a good level of cultural awareness to make sure games are appropriate to international markets.
It's essential that you create a portfolio (for artistic roles) or working demo (for programming roles) with examples of work you have created. This gives employers a good idea of your talent and creativity. The ability to code in programming languages such as C++, scripting experience and knowledge of specific software tools are also useful skills.
Relevant work experience gained, for example, through an industrial placement during your degree, is also valuable and may help you to network and build contacts.
A strong interest in games and a knowledge of the industry is vital. Get involved in online forums to increase your knowledge of current industry hot topics and read relevant games development magazines, such as:
Employers are largely games developers or games publishers. Development studios can be owned by a publisher or may be independent (known as indies) and business can be done internationally, nationally or regionally.
Games production companies and studios vary in size from small companies employing fewer than five people to multinational studios employing hundreds.
Games are created in a variety of different forms and as well as being used for PCs and games consoles, they can be commissioned by such diverse clients as:
Project work accounts for a considerable proportion of employment in this field. Fixed-term contracts or freelance work may be available and you may need to consider working on a self-employed basis.
Look for job vacancies at:
Specialist recruitment agencies regularly handle vacancies for games development; for example:
Entry-level jobs are rarely advertised so it's important to build up contacts in the industry. Approach companies speculatively, making sure you do your research first and target your application accordingly. For lists of UK games developer/video games companies and publishers see The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE).
Advice on how to get into digital careers and case studies of people working in digital jobs can be found at Bubble Digital Career Portal.
You will typically begin at a junior level and will be managed by a more experienced lead developer, who'll give training on the job.
The games development industry is fast-moving, with changing technology, software packages and working methods, so an ability to manage your own learning and keep up to date with technological developments is essential. Some companies develop their own software, specific to their needs. Much of the training for this is done in-house and on the job.
If you've started as a quality assurance tester within games development, you can take the BCS Professional Certification in Software Testing at Foundation, Intermediate or Higher level to increase your knowledge and employability. A range of other accredited courses for IT professionals are also provided by The BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) and continuing professional development (CPD) in the sector is supported by Tech Partnership.
You may decide to take a Masters while working in order to specialise in a certain area. Courses in subjects such as games programming, software development and game engineering are available. For details see Creative Skillset Courses.
A common entry route into games development is to begin as a quality assurance tester. You can then progress to a lead tester role within a few years and potentially move on to the design or production side or into management.
Entry is also possible straight into programming and design or artist roles, although previous experience is usually preferred.
Career progression within games development is relatively fast. Many who enter the industry at junior level end up at lead level within five to seven years and can reach senior level within their first ten years. Senior-level positions include technical directors, developers, producers and team managers.
There are also opportunities to develop your career overseas. Games development jobs can be found in several other countries including Japan, the USA, Canada, Germany, France and Scandinavia.
Freelance work is possible and, with experience, you may choose to build up your own business and set up your own development studio or similar. There is also the option to specialise in the developing areas of the industry such as wireless platforms, interactive game applications and online gaming.