My name is Mark, and I'm brand new to the GameDev.net forums, and after lurking around a bit I decided it was best to make an account. I am a Junior in High School, and I'm interested in pursuing a future in the game industry. Up until about a year ago, I wasn't even considering pursuing a field based around developing software.
I was, and still am, fascinated with Architecture, albeit to a slightly lesser extent, because Architecture seems to consistently rank as one of the worst degrees to go into, primarily due to the high unemployment rate after undergraduate or graduate studies (http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/Unemployment.Final.update1.pdf - Page 7). I also looked into civil engineering, as it's closely related to architecture, but it didn't grasp my interest the same way Architecture did. At that point, I started to look into things I was passionate about. You may be thinking, "this kid's only 16, he has his whole life ahead of him, and he's worried about finding the right career," but I'm just the type of person who likes to plan ahead, and pursuing an education for a career that's both a passion of mine and has a fairly decent amount of job security is what seems to be the next step after high school, and choosing the right degree is a big deal in that sense. I am an avid gamer, both on PC and consoles, so I decided to look into the possibility of pursuing a job in the games industry. So while I began to educate myself on the topic, such as the types of jobs within the industry, as well as the work culture, and game industry news in general, I began to take a real liking to pursuing an education that would someday allow me to be a game designer.
Recently, in my spare time, I've begun to study programming, which for me seemed to be a good fit, since I enjoy finding creative solutions to problems, and both my dad and my brother have extensive programming experience, so if I need help or don't understand a topic, they could help me get a better grasp of what I'm trying to understand. Of course, when it comes to programming, I'm still a "n00b," but I've also began to read books and articles on the theory and logic behind game design and what makes games "fun."
Now that I've given you a hefty chunk of background, I was hoping to ask a few questions about the industry, and breaking into the industry.
1. I've been reading over Tom Sloper's Lessons/FAQ on pursuing a career in Game Design, and it's come to my understanding that in order to break into the industry you need a degree and a portfolio, among other things, such as work experience, and networking. I'm hoping that while I'm at a University, I can begin to work on a few projects of my own to show in my portfolio, as well as hopefully find an internship so that I can gain some real-world experience. I wanted to ask, I have this nagging feeling that I won't have enough spare time, outside of classes and being in college in general, to work on something truly spectacular to "wow" whoever is interviewing me, or that I won't be able to find a team/group to work with. For those of you in college, is that the case, or am I making myself feel a bit more worried than I should be. Also, relating to those who majored in Computer Science, I understand the answer to this question probably depends on whoever your professor was, but are there projects within the curriculum (both group and individual), and did you consider those worth adding to your portfolio?
**Sorry about the long-winded question. I promise the others will be more concise.
2. I've heard things about the hiring climate in the industry, and I'm confused as to whether it's better to have knowledge in a wide variety of areas or to specialize in something, such as UI Design or Network Systems. I was wondering which would not only appeal more to the interviewer, as well as what would aid me better in the working environment. Would it be a middle ground, such as having specialized experience but still have working knowledge of other jobs within the industry?
3. Exactly how much creative content is contributed to the game, say, by a programmer, to the game, in terms of gameplay ideas? What is the creative climate within the industry? The reason I'm asking is that I'm actually a creative type, and for me, a programming job is something that I would enjoy, but is a means to an end, which in this case is becoming a designer.
4. Is it better to look for an unlisted internship (such as what is written here: http://www.gamedev.net/page/resources/_/business/breaking-into-the-industry/techniques-for-finding-unlisted-game-internships-r3130) or apply for an internship program, such as one at Riot Games or Blizzard? Which would provide a more honest experience as to what life is like in the industry?
5. Just for future reference (chances are an opportunity to apply the answer to this wont come for several years), if my goal is to become a game designer, through a programming job, when applying for an internship, if there is a game design internship available, do I apply for that, or would it be better to focus on the job at hand, which would be building skills in programming?
For those of you who read through this lengthy introduction/series of questions, thank you for taking your time with my first post. I really appreciate it and look forward to your answers.
- Mark Yampolsky