Preparing for a career in the games industry

Generally I only receive questions from college students or older adults asking how to get into the videogames industry but recently a sixteen year old asked me for some advice. This is basically the e-mail I sent back and I’m wondering what other advice those of you reading this might give as well.

Hi! You have plenty of time to figure out which things you like doing but its great you are thinking about this now. I believe having basic programming skills helps anybody in any facet of game development from art to design to leading teams. You don’t have to be a pro but knowing at least the basics is great.

If you are having troubles getting started I’d suggest learning to program by creating things you need.

Growing up I wrote programming tools to organize my comics, to build simple games, automate boring tasks, help me with math problems (I suck at math) and stuff like that.

I’d suggest trying to build a couple small games… go through some HTML5 tutorials on building games or flash tutorials and try to mimic a game that exists. Just grab some tutorials (http://www.emanueleferonato.com/2010/09/14/html5-game-creation-prototype/ is one) and get it working. Then start changing things. That’s how I made my first RPGs… just started renaming things and then figured out how to add to them.

Make it fun for yourself.

From there you might want to try to build something bigger with friends, maybe trying out different roles… build a bit of art, take over some management duties, stuff like that. That said don’t worry too much about not knowing exactly what you want to do. I changed my mind about what I wanted to do several times during college/university. Writing and ‘something game related’ were always at the core but I got into programming purely because it seemed a safe bet… insurance if I couldn’t get a more enjoyable job.

The world will always need programmers.

I’d also suggest if you have the opportunity to do short-term contract quality assurance testing for a game you might want to explore that. Just being near game developers and being able to talk to them might help you figure out which aspects of game development you enjoy more over others.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes.