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Tronboy

Game Programmer = $64K!?!?!

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I was watching that new G4 video game channel (on Comcast Cable), and on their news show, they said that the AVERAGE Salary for a game programmer is $64,000. That''s a little bit higher than I envisioned. Would those who actually are Proffesional Game Programmers care to confirm or deny this? I know that the programmers were the backbone of a game, but I always envisioned them as the overworked, underpaid and underappriciated gurus, who wrote code because they loved thier work. Do you really get paid near that amount? As an aside, would any of you Professionals care to sound of on how you got into the business... from your first Hello World to working on X Box games. Did you learn C++ or assembly on your own, put together some games, and use them as your resume? Or did you spend four years in college taking Basic, Cobal, Physics, and Trig? And now that you are Pro''s, do you all pretty much move into some office building and spend 16 hours a day putting the game together, only returning home on the weekend? Is your working environment a laid-back one, where your programming one minute, and shooting suction darts at each other the next? (I remeber back when "id" released Quake, this is how they described their work environ) Or are you stuck in sterile cubicle, tapping away at the keyboard like mindless automatons... I myself no longer have a desire to be in the game business, but a gentleman that I work with is looking into programming as a hobby, and possibly as a career move. I know it takes tremendous amounts of time, dedication, and with so many wanting to make games, the possibility of getting into the business must be slim. I would like to hear from someone whose traveled that road though...

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In this months game developer magazine, they had a salary survey. I dont have it with me to quote numbers from, but as I recall, the average response was something around that number. However, I also recall it saying that 67% of programmers get no compensation other than salary. I would take that to mean no paid vacation time, no medial/dental/life insurance, no retirement plan or 401K, etc.

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That number would be the average for a LEAD programmer, according to the Game Developer Magazine salary survey. For a programmer it''s around 49-56K average (depending on experience). The numbers do increase exponentially though, once you reach the 6 years (of experience) mark. And no I don''t work in the industry, I''ve got one year of college left

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Eek, I''d have to take a modest pay cut to enter the game industry at 56K , not that I make a much more than that at my current job.

Working for a prime defense contractor, I have iron-clad job security, reasonable pay and reasonable benefits. But I still yearn to be a game programmer/designer. I am truly torn.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Well, if there is no compensation beyond pay the wise thing to do for people just entering that industry is to take a paycut to try and bargain for those things.

The benefits would outweight the costs in the long run.

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I don''t have it in front of me, but it seems like the number in the GDMag survey said the average for *all* (i.e. irregardless of junior, senior, lead, etc.) programmers was around $64K. That''s probably pretty accurate, though the number is somewhat inflated, I think, due to the large number of game developers in California, where the salaries for programmers are typically around $10-20K higher simply because the cost of living is so much higher.
quote:
Original post by LordKronos
However, I also recall it saying that 67% of programmers get no compensation other than salary. I would take that to mean no paid vacation time, no medial/dental/life insurance, no retirement plan or 401K, etc.

That''s not what they were talking about. They meant that 67% percent don''t receive additional compensation in the form of royalties, bonuses, and the like. The benefits you mention are pretty standard - I''ve interviewed with about a dozen game studios, and every one of them offered good benefits packages.

quote:
Original post by Tronboy
As an aside, would any of you Professionals care to sound of on how you got into the business... from your first Hello World to working on X Box games. Did you learn C++ or assembly on your own, put together some games, and use them as your resume? Or did you spend four years in college taking Basic, Cobal, Physics, and Trig?

I started teaching myself to program when I was 10, but after about 6 years, moved away from it. When I turned 25, I decided to get back into it, so I returned to college. 2 years later, I got my first programming job (doing wireless stuff). When I was 29, I finished my CS degree. By then I''d put together a few nice games and graphics demos, so I applied with some of the local game studios and got a couple of offers. The company I went with said they hired me because I obviously had a passion for making games, and knew what I was doing.
quote:
Original post by Tronboy
And now that you are Pro''s, do you all pretty much move into some office building and spend 16 hours a day putting the game together, only returning home on the weekend?

Actually, no. I typically work 8 hour days, and I''ve never worked more than 10. I haven''t had to work on the weekend yet either. Don''t get me wrong, if I had to, I would, and there are people here who spend a lot more time at the office than I do. But I try to manage my time well to finish things early.
quote:
Original post by Tronboy
Is your working environment a laid-back one, where your programming one minute, and shooting suction darts at each other the next?

It''s laid back, but people are also very dedicated. Typically, people stay very focused on their assignments all day, and then when 5 pm rolls around, the game ports on the network are opened, and the games of Ghost Recon, RtCW, Age of Empires, etc., begin - and almost everyone, including the CEO and CFO, participates.

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$64k was a salary I dreamed about making when in high school.
(actually I thought $50k would have been great)

$64k sure doesn''t go far these days. I don''t know how people get by on anything less than $50k.

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Keep in mind the cost of living in the area you''d work in. California''s (where most game companies are) costs of living are substantially higher than here in Michigan. Making 56K here gives you a comfortable life style. The same amount in California, in some areas, would barely get you by.

At least, that''s what I''ve heard.

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quote:
Original post by FenixDown
That number would be the average for a LEAD programmer

OK this time I have the issue in front of me. Avg salary for <2/2-5/6+ years of experience is $49k/$56k/$81k for programmers, $64k/$63k/$78k for lead prorammers. Average for ALL programmers was $66K for male, $54 for female

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quote:
Original post by Myopic Rhino
That''s not what they were talking about. They meant that 67% percent don''t receive additional compensation in the form of royalties, bonuses, and the like. The benefits you mention are pretty standard - I''ve interviewed with about a dozen game studios, and every one of them offered good benefits packages.



You are correct Myopic... this is what they meant.

I too have interviewed with several game companies, and I''ve been offered salaries ranging from $50K to a bit more than $80K in the Raleigh, NC area. (That $80K is rare .) And I am sort of at the lead/senior developer/architect level.

quote:
Original post by Myopic Rhino Actually, no. I typically work 8 hour days, and I''ve never worked more than 10. I haven''t had to work on the weekend yet either. Don''t get me wrong, if I had to, I would, and there are people here who spend a lot more time at the office than I do. But I try to manage my time well to finish things early.


I''m typically about the same as this, although my main focus is not game development (game development is a new venture here that we are taking slow----doing lots of preproduction stuff and technology development to begin with). My longest week, though, was about 70-80 hours...done while sick with the flu (no kidding). I think they key in game development is to do as much preproduction as possible before going to implementation.

Graham Rhodes
Senior Scientist
Applied Research Associates, Inc.

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