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Would like to hear some of your stories

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Hey, I have been looking over some of the threads on this forum and have been really interested in what a lot of you guys are talking about. I'm only 19, from the UK. I left High School with C's and B's, went on to College and signed onto a two courses which was A levels in IT and I think it was Media IT or something like that. The Media IT course's curriculum was Programming, 3D Modelling, Game Design, etc. A Levels was more Computer Systems and the technical side of IT and Computing. For some reason, a few months before I had my interview for the courses, they said they had to merge the two courses together and it turned into a BTEC Course, if I were to finish the Course I would get a Diploma. I didn't really have much choice because other College's were jumping on the same bandwagon. They took out a lot of the good stuff like 3D Modelling, they still had Game Design and Programming.

Anyway, I started College and we had 3 separate Module's to study from September till December. It was alright, 1 Module was Business Studies pretty much, learning about different departments, which I hated with a passion. Another Module was Employment and Social Studies, which I also hated with a passion. The Module I enjoyed the most for maybe a month was Computing Systems. We were told it was mainly practical work, opening up a computer, studying it, learning about all the components and how they work. We had like 3 lessons of practical and that was in the first month, after that we were typing up coursework and we had to explain what each component does, what it's called, etc. I didn't really know much and I don't think anyone else did either, so the majority of us were looking through Wikipedia page's trying to understand what these components were. I left College in November because I felt I wasn't learning anything.

I was only 16, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I managed to get onto an online course which was like a 2 month course. Every week they would send us our lesson plan, the stuff we were going to learn and each week we would be designing a game world and adding to it. At the end of the course we had a final project. Obviously this game was already programmed, the engine was already provided and it didn't cost much. I even decided to learn more about computers, components, etc. I think I know an alright amount, I'm no expert. I can build a computer, could probably fix a few problems if something went wrong. Anyway, I didn't learn much from that course.

I was then stuck at what I wanted to do, my enthusiasm was at an all time low. Me and my dad were constantly talking about what I wanted to do and we were both researching a hell of a lot. Looking for courses and my dad managed to stumble across a course which was focused towards game's programming. So I jumped on it as soon as I could. I was 17 at the time, was having trouble understanding the basics of C++. Months went by and I was still getting stuck on every little bit. Managed to finish the first C++ Module and started to slack off quite a bit. It only hit me at like 18 that I was wasting my time by slacking off, not putting enough hours in and skipping days of studying. I had a part time job and I knew at that point I didn't want to be stuck in this mess for the rest of my life. Managed to turn myself around, carried on studying more, weekends were my days off, yeh I would sometimes get desperate to finish a piece of code and spend an hour or two on the weekends because I was really into it.

I still have these books, I still go back to them and when I look at the code I can see how easy it is. I can see I have improved and see it all so differently. To begin with it was as if I was looking at 20 foreign languages all at once and couldn't put it together. I look at it now as if it were my native language. I feel more enthusiastic. I bought a book on ActionScript 3.0 because I wanted to get into designing Flash games. Because I was slacking off before I had to pretty much go through a ton of previous stuff to "catch up". I went onto the DirectX part of the course and that was a completely different language. The book was just hard to understand, it picked you up from C++ and dropped you in the middle of nowhere, with no basic knowledge of DirectX. It had pre-made projects which were very complicated. I even spent like 7 months on this book, whilst studying ActionScript 3.0 and back tracking my C++ books. I thought it over and just threw in the towel on that book. Picked up a different DirectX and it started from the basics of DirectX. I am currently writing some basic programs using the Direct3D API and learned some different techniques.


That is my sort of story so far, the opening chapter of my programming life lol. I just wanted to hear what other people have had to go through to get into this line of work, because at the start it felt tedious and boring, I wanted to learn 3D Modelling, but it's the opposite now. I would find it more interesting Coding a project than Modelling it.

I also wanted to hear your opinions on how to make it in the industry. Either as an independent developer, working for a top developer, etc. I always hear people talking about Portfolios, Degree's, etc. The reason I wanted to know more about this is because I would like to make my own games, even for some little game sites and make a couple of quid if it means I am happy with what I am producing and hopefully get the experience and even criticism from people, but I would also like to experience working on bigger projects, in bigger teams for top developers, if that were to ever happen.

I want to know if people have made it with little experience, no degrees and just learning from books, online courses and experimenting with your own projects. I am like 50/50 on going to Uni, the prices are going up and I hear a lot of people don't even get good jobs when they leave Uni in this country. I even heard a lot of the course's that I want to get on are constantly packed and all they want to do is get your seat on that chair for more money. I also heard the stuff they are teaching people is outdated and come out of Uni having learned something from many years ago that isn't being used in the industry today. I also don't feel I could handle that kind of debt.

Thanks for reading, I know it's quite long, but I'm hoping some of you will read this and comment.

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I have been telling my story a few times recently, but it is a unique one which goes against the grain on a lot of the common misconceptions of getting into the industry.

Age 9. Super Mario Bros. opens my mind to pondering how these games were working internally. Later Mario Paint allowed me to explore the creative side of games, and I explored game music and art thoroughly, which would later ignite my passion for playing piano. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Chrono Trigger, and a few other gems would act to convince myself I wanted to get into game design as a career.

Now the twists and turns. My plan was game design. I spent countless hours designing remakes of games, new games, etc. But the only one getting made were the board games. I knew that if they were going to get done I would need to do them myself.
Age 14: Programming screen turn on. Someone set up the self-taught programming. For…great…programming…

Like you I realized programming could be more fun than 3D modeling (or in my case designing).

I neglected school in favor of playing, studying, and making games.

Grade 10, 11, and 12 in high school were straight F’s.
I was not going to graduate, so I decided at age 17 to get a head start on real life and dropped out.

I knew paperwork would be a big help in getting a job, especially a job overseas, so I took a 2-year technical college class that focused only on programming. Because I had already been teaching myself C++ for many years I got 173% (tons of extra credit) in C++ and 100% in Java.


New twist. Getting a job locally (in America)? No.
I took a 2-month vacation to Thailand where I got the first job for which I applied in game programming. This was my entry position. Japan was always my goal but I felt I had too few skills for a competitive shot, and decided to hold off on my dreams in order to raise my chances of getting there.

I studied Japanese in Thailand and later worked in France.

All along the way I stayed in major cities where I could meet contacts not only through business meetings, but also through tourism etc. Bangkok, Marseilles, etc.
While I made any kind of contacts I could, I put extra emphasis on Japanese ones.

It paid off as one of my contacts invited me to work in Tokyo, Japan (I had just gotten a job in Hong Kong, but they were hung up with the visa paperwork, and it was taking extremely too long) as the head of their iPhone game department.
Now I am an R&D programmer at a major game company in Tokyo, the place where I always knew I would end up since the age of 9.



There you have it.
I dropped out of high school, never went to a university, and didn’t even start in my own country.
I am not saying you should neglect your school work, but if your passion is significant enough you will get a job eventually, no matter what.

Parts of my story seem like luck, but the fact is you can make your own luck. If you have passion, you will be walking up to your first employer with tons of demos and samples in your arms. This is how I got my first job in Thailand.

Additionally, the world is your oyster and the rules are different everywhere. It would have actually been tougher for me to get a job in America or the UK because the rules are different there. Not impossible but not on the first try like in Thailand.



That being said, the world is only your oyster if you have some kind of degree. You can’t get a visa anywhere without one.
So as long as you don’t have one, you are stuck in the UK, with UK rules, and things may be difficult for a while.


L. Spiro

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That was a great read. It's nice to know what other people have done and what they have accomplished.

I do believe you have to be at a specific place at a specific time and it can pay off. I guess if I had carried on with College I might of ended up wasting two years of my life and only just started learning how to program last year. So I feel I maybe got a head start even though I dropped out of College.

I also do feel I have a bit of luck, in a sense that I will always have the support of my family, I will always have a roof over my head regardless if I make it or not, whereas a lot of other people might not have that kind of security and support that they deserve. I know I probably have some years ahead of me before I even think about releasing a game. I have a game idea at the moment and I have kept it to myself for a few months now. It's quite hard to add new ideas to it, but it's a very simple game.

I will be taking a week or two off from studying during the Christmas holidays and probably work on remaking a game using my own techniques and from what I have learned so far. I do remember making Pong from a Book, but I had to use code that the tutor's had used. This time, I have a good idea on how to make it myself.

Thanks for that, hoping other people will add to this thread.

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if your passion is significant enough you will get a job eventually, no matter what... Parts of my story seem like luck, but the fact is you can make your own luck.

QFE.

While I wouldn't terribly recommend that anyone try to replicate Spiro's (rather risky) path to success, having passion for what you do, and making your own luck, are the keys to succeeding in any walk of life.

***

I took a somewhat different, if also slightly unconventional path. I was homeschooled all my childhood, where I obsessed over computers, lived the high life, and didn't do a lick of work academically. As a (fairly obvious) result, I failed all my 'A' levels, which ruled out attending university in the UK.

So, I aced the SAT instead, on my first try (you guys have no idea how easy you have it in the US education system), found a nice little university that was willing to take a risk on someone with no highschool transcripts, threw myself into my work, and obtained 3 degrees in 5 years.

Back to what Spiro said about passion: somewhere along the way I lost mine. I still muck around with game development, but I don't have any real inclination to pursue it as a career at this point i my life. And losing your passion kind of sucks - I'm moonlighting as a system administrator and adjunct professor while I try and figure out what to really do with my life...

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