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Careers in Game Development

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So, I have three choices ahead of me, and this is going to decide pretty much where I head, career wise for the next few years. My three choices are as follows: 1) Web designer - I have experiance in web design and programming, mostly HTML and a little PHP with very small graphical work and no flash work at all. I live in a small town (roughly 5,000 people) and we have a ton of small businesses here, all of which don't have a website and I'm sure I could convince them to allow me to make them one, thusly starting my own business. 2) Film Director/Editor - Ever since I was 9 years old I wanted to be a movie director, when I turned around 15 that changed into web programming and whatnot since I spent most my time on the computer. The editor job comes into play since I can do that on the computer and I am good at it (I make movies for my CS team). My uncle and uncle in law both work as grips for Universal, so I have some "in" into the industry if I decide to go this way. 3) Game developer - I have been studying game development, C++, SDL, OpenGL and Direct3D for game programming. If I decide to do this, I could get good at it and apply for jobs at activision, ubisoft, EA, etc since I live within 20 minutes of all those places. No matter what career I choose, I want to make a lot of money doing so, as I intend on owning my own large house and being able to live comfortably. I will have to go to college no matter what career I choose so that's not a matter either. Pretty much my question to you is: What would you advise me to do (not "test them all" cause I can do that, but I dont want to waste time.) but which direction you think I should go based on my location, and current skills (I live near LAX Airport by the way.) Also, here are more questions for you who are already working in this industry: 1 - How much money do you make roughly? Is it fixed income ot pay per job? 2 - How many hours a week do you work and do you have a set schedule or do you just work as much as possible? 3 - What did you major in in college? 4 - How hard is it to get into the game developer industry and where do you see it headed? Any advice is welcome.

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It seems you are confident that in each area you have good chances. Therefore the choice mainly depends on what you want to do most.

Since your goal is obviously getting rich you might want to check the game developers salary survey from Gamasutra. I personally think this is definitely the wrong attitude and prone to becoming a disappointment.

Next to consider for game development is that job availability is generally lower than in other areas. On the other hand you can always become a web developer if this fails (heheheh).

As for the questions:
1 - Just enough to make a nice living. This is fixed but since I own the company I can take as much as I like of the profit. I just thought it best to only take what I need and leave te rest as an investment. From friends in the game industry I get they get normal wages; nothing extraordinary.
2 - Currently only eight hours a week but this will increase to 4-5 days a week any time soon. We follow a broad schedule and in the meantime do what is possible.
3 - Computing Science; Scientific Computing and Visualization.
4 - No idea really though from what I hear around me it is not that easy.

Hope it helps. Greetz,

Illco

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This will help you if you want to find information about salary in various fields.
http://salary.monster.com/

It will give you various "salary" reports for various regions. Depending on what you mean by "live nicely," or exactly how much money you have decided you wish to make you better do some searching around.

Another major thing to consider is the benefits associated with each job. Obviously you wont be paying as many bills if you get more benefits like health care, 401k, and what not.

Along with that you should consider where your going to live. Each area to live has differnet ups and downs, Californias a pretty expensive place to live, not as expensive as New York but not much better. Lots of companies are moving away from California I have heard because of the high cost to live there.

I am not positive how much each of those jobs makes but my guess is don't expect to be rich very quickly. People who make a lot of money work very hard for it, so expect to work just as hard. [wink]

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I read an article recently about what you can expect to make working in the game industry, and me and my-workers all had a good laugh at it. You're not going to be driving around in a Ferarri any time soon like the article suggests, it's as simple as that. That said, it is a good industry to get into, and you will be able to live comfortably. As for your specific questions -

1 - I make less here in Amsterdam than I would in the states, but I do rent a really nice house and live pretty comfortably. :)

2 - I usually work your typical 40 hour / 5 day a week schedule. During crunch time I occasionally work late and work weekends, but usually it's not mandatory. Some campanies have a more unconventional schedule, it really just depends on the company.

3 - I took the much harder route of getting into the industry through experience rather than a degree.

4 - If you're good at what you do, it's not too hard at all to get a job in the game industry these days. Getting good at what you do is the hard part.

Daniel

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I'm getting mixed signals from everyone. In one case, people say it's easy to get into the industry if I am good at what I do but then others say that there isnt a good form of money in it,and I won't be owning my own house or any nice car anytime soon. Can someone clarify this for me, as to around how much average money people make. (Im looking at the 2003 gamasutra salary listings and it states that a programmer after 6 years of experiance can make anywhere from 85K to 120K depending on what they major in (general, lead programmer, director) does this sound right or out dated?

Also, you say that you own your own company and whatnot, is it a major company that's created any games I might've heard of or do you do something small?

My main goal isn't for money, but I do intend on having a family to support and I want to be able to give them the best, not give them whatever we can afford.

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Sure it's easy to get into the industry if you're really good at it. But remember that nearly every child's dream is to make games for a living, so you'll have to beat out all of them for limited positions.

That sounds about right, but most gamedev companies are in high cost of living areas [silicon valley in particular]. Making 80k a year isn't so much when the median house costs $750k. Further, that $80k per year is only the salary. Game dev companies aren't really known for their stability. $80k is a lot less if you need to spend a month or two every few years finding another company.

Another thing to consider is that the industry tends to burn people out. I saw a link that developers only stay in the industry an average of 10 years [it was on these forums, but alas, cannot find it now...]. Focusing on gamedev will create a problem for those other ~30 years of your worklife.


Honestly, it's a bit presumptuous that you can simply choose a career and be guaranteed success in it. If you've not yet attended college, focus on that first. Work at getting into a good school, and succeeding there.

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So, pretty much from what people have told me this industry will make you leave, and make you keep looking for a new job every year... so the chances of making a lot of money in it are slim to none, is this correct?

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You'll have to find a new job every year only if you're bad at your job. I just finished college at DigiPen and got my first job working for Bungie. Granted this isn't a typical company, but about half the employees have been here for 5+ years (since MS bought them out). So, if you're really that good, you will get a good job. I know all my friends did.

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First of all: everyone prefers one job over another, and there is no perfect job, and no job that guarantee's a comfortable life - or else everyone would be doing that job and none of the others. So, no one can tell you what job to work for, ESPECIALLY if you haven't "tried out" any of them yet.

Now then, I've seen lots of places and people saying that the game industry burns you out, and that you'll leave in ~5 years. Well statistics don't mean shit, but if you want to believe in statistics, how about this:

Most people switch employers every 3-4 years, and switch professions every 7-10. These were median time's researched by some official US company/agency. So that's almost the same timeframe as the infamous but sparsely supported "game development burnout in 5 yrs to the day". But how about those people who have been doing the same job for over 10 yrs? Ask them if they love their job - I've found mostly that if they do, the job holds some kind of personal/moral value to the person, or else they're either making way too much money. So, work isn't fun for most people, most people don't like to stay in a job for more than a few years, and people leave the game industry slightly faster than some other industries - meaning that you probably have to like what you do more to be a developer than to work in advertising or web design (which is a terrible profession by the way).

You can ask all the questions you want, you'll never get the answer you're looking for, and if you do you'll most likely end up finding out it's a lie. Most answers will also create more questions. And if you don't try something before running into it full-steam you're taking a big chance (which could pay off big, but could also more than likely screw things up for you). Just an example - I've been running my own web development and IT consulting company for 5 years. I have multiple businesses who have been my clients for the entire 5 years, as well as other smaller clients who come and go with their needs... I used to love web development and working on computers. After 5 years I loathe doing this stuff as work/for other people... but I still enjoy it as my own personal hobbies. So, again, no guarantee's, and trying something is the only way you're going to get the slightest idea of whether it will actually work out for you or not.

On the other hand, if you want to make plenty of money - become a database engineer, they make more than I do - and I make $60/hr (and I'm cheap for what I do in the area).

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. And if it pays a lot, it either sucks, or is very difficult, or both. ;)

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Is it a common thing to need to look for a new job or is it once you get in your there to stay for the rest of your life? Not only do I want a good secure job, but I dont want to go 10 years and go back to college for something else.

Does a Software Engineering degree give you the need knowledge to not only create, program, maintain and develope games, but to also create websites?

Im 19 years old, I love video games and I would love to develope games for a living, but how can I do this and keep a GOOD job making good money?

What are the chances of me starting the next big game? The next big company? What are the chances that I get a job working for someone making more then 100K a year? What are the chances that I cant find a job once Im out of college?

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