Video Game Programming Courses

Game programming is a great field for those who have always wanted a career in the gaming industry.

Depending on your area of expertise, you’ll be able to write code that controls the movements of non-playable characters, sound effects, special effects, and even the artificial intelligence in the game itself.

Education & Training

In the past, programmers could break into the field with no formal education or background, but with a growing list of schools that offer specialized studies, many companies now require some type of formal training.

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Educational Requirements

Most jobs require at least some form of post-secondary education in a computer science-related field, with some schools now offering a game programming degree outright.

Companies also look for internships and volunteer work in the field, so candidates can show they have some level of experience.

Certifications

Many types of certifications are available online for those looking to build their resume and skillset. Certificates in areas such as C++ and other coding languages are available through various universities and trade schools, as well as certain classes for free online.

Completing these can help improve your knowledge on the subject matter and show employers your dedication.

Degrees

With the tech field growing, it’s much easier to find Bachelor’s programs suited to this type of work than in the past.

A video game development and programming degree gives job seekers a distinct advantage when applying for work in this competitive field.

Most game programmer jobs typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or software engineering. In some cases, a degree in a related field, such as mathematics or physics, may also be acceptable.

What Qualifications Do Game Programmer Jobs Require?

Programming Languages

Whether you attend a school with a game design program or not, employers prefer candidates who can demonstrate experience with relevant programming languages, such as C++ and Java, as well as knowledge of game engines and other industry tools.

Other Skills

In addition to formal education and experience, game programmers should also have strong problem-solving and communication skills, as well as a passion for video games and development.

Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations, including game programmers, is about $97,430.

However, game programmers at large studios or companies in major cities may earn significantly more than those working at smaller studios or in less expensive areas.

It is worth noting a game programmer’s salary can also vary depending on their specific role and whether they work as a full-time employee, contractor, or freelancer.

Career Overview

What Is a Game Programmer?

A game programmer is a type of software engineer who develops and writes code for games, whether that be on a traditional console, computer, or smartphone.

Sometimes confused for a game designer, a game programmer’s job involves bringing the ideas of the designer and the rest of the creative team to life through code.

Though they don’t decide on the game structure, the play style, or the rules, programmers play an integral role in its creation.

Junior Programmer

While there are many specialties under the umbrella of a game programmer, most individuals begin their career as a junior programmer. These workers often shift between projects and systems, writing code for games on everything from computers to cell phones and gaming consoles.

Developing a Specialty

As they continue to grow, a game programmer can choose to specialize in a particular area and platform, such as artificial intelligence on one of the major consoles.

Once a programmer has gained enough experience, they can apply for a position as a lead programmer, which comes with management responsibilities.

Job Duties

Game programmers perform various tasks, which can vary depending on their responsibilities within a team or to a freelance client.

Everyday game programmer job duties can include:

  • Writing code for video games using the appropriate programming languages
  • Working with designers to implement game mechanics and features
  • Optimizing game performance and troubleshooting technical issues
  • Collaborating with other developers to ensure a cohesive and enjoyable gaming experience
  • Using game engines and other tools to create and test games
  • Staying up to date with the latest game development technologies and techniques
  • Participating in code reviews and contributing to the design and development of games

What Types of Skills Should Game Programmers Possess?

Game programmers often have a strong computer science background with knowledge in areas such as artificial intelligence, physics, and networking.

Writing Code

Writing code is the main requirement of being a game programmer. Without code, a player wouldn’t be able to make the character or game function properly.

Code also serves to tell other facets of the game, such as the NPCs, what to do. If a person doesn’t know how to write code, the game would be unplayable.

They use programming languages such as C++, Java, and Python to write code and may also use game engines and other tools to create and test their games.

  • Strong programming skills: Proficiency in one or more programming languages, such as C++, Java, or Python, and a solid understanding of computer science concepts and algorithms is ideal.
  • Knowledge of game development tools and technologies: Familiarity with game engines, like Unity and Unreal, as well as other industry tools and technologies, give prospective students an advantage.
  • Problem-solving skills: Game programmers must be able to troubleshoot technical issues and find creative solutions to challenges that arise during development.
  • Attention to detail: Being detail-oriented and able to write clean, efficient, and well-documented code is a crucial part of this career.
  • Collaboration skills: Game programmers often work in teams and must communicate effectively with designers, artists, and developers to ensure a cohesive and entertaining gaming experience.
  • Creativity: A passion for video games and the ability to think creatively is essential for fostering new game development ideas.
  • Ability to learn and adapt: The game development industry is constantly evolving, and game programmers must continuously learn and adapt to new technologies and techniques.
  • Understand complex data
  • Multitasking: Be comfortable with working on multiple projects at once
  • The desire to continue learning in a constantly changing field

Where Do Game Programmers Work?

Game programmers typically work for studios or companies that create video games. Some game programmers are freelancers or contractors and work on a project-by-project basis for various clients.

Game programmers may also work for software companies, consulting firms, government agencies, and other organizations that create interactive multimedia products or use video game technology for training or simulation purposes.

Other places to work include:

  • AAA Game Studios
  • Indie Developers
  • Software Companies
  • Media Companies
  • Schools and Universities

Work Environment

Hours

A heavy workload and long hours are some of the major challenges when it comes to game programmer jobs. Workers can expect to work long days when a major project deadline is near.

It’s not uncommon for people in this field to work 60-70 hours in a single week to meet the demands needed to complete a game.

Is Being a Game Programmer Hard?

Being a game programmer can be challenging. This career requires a strong foundation in computer science and complex technical problem-solving skills.

Game programmers must know several programming languages, write efficient, well-documented code, work effectively in teams, communicate with designers and artists, and meet tight deadlines.

How to Get Work as a Game Programmer

When you’re starting a career in the field of game programming, companies like to see finished projects or demos. A portfolio can show potential employers that you understand the program languages needed for a job within the company.

You can do this by creating your own projects, or it’s possible to volunteer on “mod” projects, which are modifications of existing games.

There are a few ways you can find game programmer jobs:

  • Online job boards: Many studios and companies post job openings on online job boards. Search these sites using keywords like “game programmer” or “game developer” to find relevant job openings.
  • Company websites: Many game development companies have career or job sections on their websites.
  • Professional organizations: Professional organizations, such as the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and the Game Developers Conference (GDC), often have job boards or career resources for game developers.
  • Networking: Networking can be a powerful tool for finding job opportunities. Attend events, join professional organizations, and connect with other game developers on social media or online forums to learn more about the field and chat with peers and mentors.
  • Recruitment agencies: Recruitment agencies specialize in helping job seekers find employment in a specific field. Consider working with a recruitment agency focusing on the game development industry to help you find job opportunities.

Can You Work Remotely?

Game programmers can work from home, either as employees or as freelancers. Many game development studios allow their employees to work remotely and usually have systems in place for remote collaboration.

Additionally, some video game programmers choose to work as freelancers or contractors, allowing them to work anywhere with a stable internet connection. However, not all game programming jobs allow for remote work, and it may be more difficult to find freelancing roles if you are just starting out in the field.

Other Career Options for Game Programmers

Because of their extensive knowledge of writing code and learning different programs, there are several career paths a programmer can take.

If you get tired of being in the gaming industry, several other fields like security, blockchain, and cloud computing need people with the ability to code.

Here are a few alternative careers to consider:

  • Software engineer: Software engineers design, develop, test, and maintain software systems and may work on various projects, including desktop applications, mobile apps, and web applications.
  • Digital Arts: Those who are more artistically inclined may prefer to learn illustration software and create characters, backgrounds, and other assets for games instead.
  • Artificial intelligence engineer: Artificial intelligence (AI) engineers develop and apply AI technologies, such as machine learning and natural language processing, to solve real-world problems.
  • DevOps engineer: DevOps engineers work at the intersection of software development and IT operations and are responsible for deploying software applications.
  • Technical project manager: Technical project managers plan and coordinate technological ventures and may work in software development, engineering, construction, or other industries.

Game programming careers can be both demanding and fulfilling for the right person.

For those with a love of programming languages, troubleshooting and collaborative work, attending a school with a game design degree program is a significant first step toward a challenging yet rewarding future.

Career Outlook

While the gaming industry ebbs and flows through the years, there is always a demand for good game programmers. Without anyone to write code, developers and artists wouldn’t be able to see their ideas come to life. Because of this, game developers and software companies are always on the lookout.

Are Game Programmers Still in Demand?

The video game industry is a rapidly growing and dynamic field with a constant need for skilled programmers to create new and innovative games. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry generates billions of dollars annually. As a result, experts predict game programming jobs will be in high demand for the foreseeable future.