But have you ever thought about becoming one of the people who design a game like NBA2K? With an estimated value of $336 billion, the video game industry is larger than television, movies, and music combined. And From game designers and software engineers who program games to graphic designers or electrical engineers who design game consoles, careers in the video game industry are endless.
But much like the NBA itself, the path to the video game industry is filled with stiff competition. As a former head of graphics for a major video game company—and head of the Learning Interactive Visualization Experience—or LIVE Lab—at Texas A&M University, I know firsthand what it takes.
1. Design your games
Fortunately, game engines, which are the core technology for games, are freely available and allow you to create your own game. Unreal and Unity are two you might want to try.
If it’s too daunting to create a game from scratch, you can always “modify” — short for “modify” — an existing game like Portal 2, Civilization, or Minecraft.
2. Participate in game jams
Many jams feature representatives from video game companies. These company representatives serve as mentors, judges, and, coaches. They can give you tips and tricks to break into the industry.
Some game jams focus on specific topics, such as health, conservation, or science, and provide resources for teachers and students to participate in, such as the Games for Change student challenge. Other game jams are open to anyone including professionals, such as the Global Game Jam.
3. Participate in gaming conferences
In Europe, the annual Gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany attracted over 370,000 attendees. Several PAX conferences are held throughout the year at various locations in the US. PAX began as a Penny Arcade Expo before evolving into a full convention and expo. These conferences allow attendees to learn about new games, meet game industry professionals, play games and attend seminars and workshops on topics related to game design and development.
Conferences like PAX East also provide an opportunity for indie developers to showcase their games and get feedback from the public. Most conferences will be held in person in 2022 and require a fee to attend or exhibit. The price of tickets can range from 50 to several hundred dollars.
4. Take game design courses
Many high schools, community colleges, and universities now offer courses in game design.
In addition to these classes, it helps to take math, physics, art, and technology classes starting in high school if you can. Game balancing requires the designer to use mathematics and statistics to ensure that no particular gameplay element—such as a particular character or strategy—overwhelms any other element.
Even if you don’t think you’ll be using math or doing any art, a basic understanding of both and the ability to talk about these subjects with colleagues goes a long way.
5. Play away
This means that you should also play games that you wouldn’t usually play, and even games that you don’t like. Not all people like all games. There are many different types of games, from fun to educational, health, science, and many more. Being able to look at games critically and determine which elements work well, which elements could be improved, and which elements you could use for your games will help you become a great game designer.
Breaking into the gaming industry is possible with a little work. It can also be very rewarding. Just imagine if the game you helped create teaches players new knowledge or helps players heal faster, supports scientists in discovering new proteins, or entertains players for hours.