How to Become a Video Game Programmer

How to Become a Video Game ProgrammerIf you’ve been dreaming about being a video game programmer for a long time, you may be surprised to know that it’s actually a quickly growing industry. A video game programmer usually needs to have the same education that any other programmer does, but also a passion for the industry. Video game programmers also have the advantage of being highly mobile, as they can easily transition into many different fields of programming.

What is a Video Game Programmer?

Bachelor's Degree
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

A video game programmer is a programmer that specializes in the development of a video game. Most video game programmers will work with Java or C++, and many of them will need to be proficient with various game development kits. Video games are extraordinarily complex applications, and many video game programmers are required to be more skilled than programmers of any other type. Video game programmers are considered computer programmers and have a mean annual wage of $78,260 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are many types of video game that a programmer might specialize in. Video games can be made in 2D for casual game platforms such as Android or iOS devices, or they can be made in 3D for consoles and personal computers. There are also web-based game applications that require an entirely different type of programming. Video game programmers usually need to be very diverse in their skills and need to be able to take on extraordinarily complex projects on their own.

What Does a Video Game Programmer Do?

A programmer is usually given specific directions on what they will do. For most video games, different programmers will work on different portions of the game. A programmer may work on a specific module or level of the game, or a programmer might work on an entire game if they are working with a smaller team or on a smaller game. Programmers usually work very closely with art asset teams to create a cohesive look and performance for their game.

Video game programmers often need to work within the constraints of a specific development system. Most programmers will use C++ or Java, but other programmers will need to learn a specific coding language unique to the video game development system. Programmers that work with consoles may need to learn about the platform they are working on, and they may also need to port their games from platform to platform.

How Do You Become a Video Game Programmer?

Becoming a video game programmer usually starts with obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science or computer programming. However, a degree isn’t always necessary if the programmer can demonstrate their knowledge and their ability to develop a game. Many video game programmers obtain positions in the industry by creating their own video games independently or by creating modules in other game systems. A video game programmer will often need a portfolio of work if they are to apply to a larger video game studio.

There are courses online for those that want to become a video game programmer without any prior knowledge or an already developed portfolio. Aspiring video game programmers can also teach themselves about a variety of programming languages and develop their skills through the development of their own personal projects.

How Does a Video Game Programmer Advance?

Video game programmers have extremely high levels of mobility within the industry. A video game programmer can acquire higher rates of pay by working for larger studios or by being associated with very successful projects. Otherwise, a video game programmer could move into other industries such as systems programming or applications programming. Computer programmers overall have a very bright industry outlook according to O*Net Online, and make a median income of $74,280.

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