How Do You Become A Video Game Developer?

Christopher McHale
by Christopher McHale on Oct 5, 2016 2:00:00 PM

We get asked questions like this at every show we attend. Here it is in 12 easy steps! And after the last step we'll give you a magic key.


A studio like Streamline needs people. Needs all sorts of people. Over the next several months we’ll be looking at various ‘How to’ answers. Like ‘How to become a game designer.’ ‘How to become a game programmer.’ And ‘How to to become rich and influence people.’ Well, maybe we’ll skip that last one. If we knew the answer, we’d be running our vid game company from Kauai.

So, exactly how do you become a video game developer? That’s a pretty big question, maybe the biggest of them all. A video game developer is more a goal than a first step, but when we thought about it several ideas occurred to us, and the first one was obvious.


1. Be ready to work.

I mean a lot of work. There’s always a ton of things to do in development. Organizing and keeping track of it all becomes a major part of your skill set. You might be thinking 'I got that.' I mean compared to coding it’s a walk in the park to keep a to-do list. But you’re wrong to think that. Game dev is massively collaborative, all sort of people working toward a single goal and you don’t ever want to be the person who crashed the team. Understanding Agile and other productivity methods get you ready to be a team member. Become familiar with Jira and Trello, Slack and complex productivity platforms like Streamframe.

2. Get along.


At our studios, we speak dozens of languages. Our team has a diverse cultural background. Being able to get along with all types of people is a critical job requirement. You won’t last long on any game development team if you turn into the ’squeaky wheel.’

3. Have skills.

Programming and art are what most people think of when they think of developing games, but there're other parts of the job that quickly become large tasks, like community management, promotion, marketing. It’s not enough to make the game; you need to sell the game too! There’s more than one game plan to bring to a video game company. Keep your focus broad. A background in computer skills can help you, yes, and everybody should have at least a passing knowledge of basic code, no matter what discipline you chose to follow. But if you have your path set on game dev, broaden your skills in as many areas as you can. Writing, music, art, programming, design, character dev. Sit back, look at your favorite game and figure out every component - how did they do that, how can YOU do that, what works and what doesn’t?

And go beyond game production. How did the tiny indie market the massive hit game? Brand the game? Get players and build a community? Make yourself valuable in as many areas as you can.


4. Climb the right ladder.

This is kind of the first thing you should ask yourself know matter what job you’re considering. I always tell folks to make sure you're climbing the right ladder. No use working your way to the top and then finding out you didn’t want to be a game developer after all. And believe me, a lot of people do that.

It’s an insanely competitive industry and the only way to the top is through consistent, focused, hard work. Hard work will pay off. But nothing will work if you heart is not really into it. Before you begin, ask yourself this and wait for an entirely honest answer: Do you really want to be a video game developer?

5. The secret.


Do you want to know the secret to becoming a great game developer? Put in the time. There are no shortcuts.

6. Carpe diem, dude.

Windows open and shut fast in this business. Be ready to jump through the first one you can. Take any opportunity you can to get in the door and go from there.

7. Lead.

Find the technology edge of the industry and go three steps forward. I heard about this guy who once learned the ins and outs of SSL mixing boards. He had a gig at an industry trade show helping set up, but he got one of the techs to teach him things about this new technology they were displaying. When it came to the city, he was the only punk around who knew how to plug it in. Got an excellent job out of that in an industry impossible to get a job in. He was just a little ahead of the technology curve.

8. Have a killer CV.

Be honest about the skills on your CV and bolster any holes in your skill set. If something looks a little thin, beef it up. For instance, get some familiarity with Cry Engine, Radiant, Source, and Unreal. It ain’t going to hurt. And knowledge of C++ is going help you get taken seriously.


9. Practice.

Practice makes perfect (a hoary cliche if ever there was one. ) The best artists and programmers never settle for just knowing language and techniques. Master it.


10. Make your own game.

What I mean is the best way of learning is by doing. Set your expectations to reasonable mode. Street Fighter V is not coming out of your bedroom, but basic fundamental game making skills are something you can get started on today. Why not go for it?

11. Network.


Every single great opportunity I’ve ever had came from people introducing me to other people. Get out there.

12. Play a lot of games.

Yay! This is the best part, right? Become a game ninja. If you play games, you know games.

So if you want to become a video game developer, what are you waiting for?
Press play and go!


Thanks for reading. And below is that magic key we promised! Just click and get in touch with us.



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