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30 years old, want to make games, should I learn how to program?

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I'm somewhat unhappily employed right now. Although I'm grateful to have a job and am able to make ends meet my heart lies elsewhere. I've loved video games since I got my hands on an Atari way back when. I want to make my own smaller-scale games from home (who doesn't) and am wondering if I should dig in and learn how to program. I'm most interested in designing but I'm thinking it's hard to sell a programmer on devoting a lot of time to a project with someone who has zero experience designing video games.

Seeing as how I'm already 30 and do not have a ton of time (between my main job and my supplementary work doing web/graphic design) I'd only be able to spend about 6-9 hours a week learning how to program. I want to make things happen soon, obviously, so I'm wondering if this is worthwhile or not. Perhaps I should make simple games in Torque while looking for a programmer to work with on larger projects? I do think I'd enjoy programming, though, (I've really enjoyed learning html and css for what that's worth) and it'd be good to be able to get my hands dirty and bring more to the table.

Thoughts? Edited by jabjab

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It all comes down to your reason for making games. Why do you want to make games (what is the end goal, after the games are made)? And, when you ask if you should learn how to program -- how might you make games otherwise?

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[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

[background=rgb(250, 251, 252)] I do think I'd enjoy programming, though[/quote][/background]

[/font]

[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

[background=rgb(250, 251, 252)]I think you'e answered your own question.[/background]

[/font]

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It all comes down to your reason for making games. Why do you want to make games (what is the end goal, after the games are made)? And, when you ask if you should learn how to program -- how might you make games otherwise?


My goal being to sell them.

I think I'd enjoy programming but as someone who is more interested in the art and design side of game development I wonder if I should focus on that instead (using torque, for example). As I wrote in the first post, though, it might be a hard sell to find a programmer willing to do the heavy lifting (since the early games would be relatively simple the art and design end would probably be far less demanding).

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I think I'd enjoy programming but as someone who is more interested in the art and design side of game development I wonder if I should focus on that instead


First, you need to figure out your passions. What is it that drives you. You say you think to might enjoy something, but that is very different from doing it day-in and day-out for the next twenty years of your life.

A book I frequently recommend is "What Color Is Your Parachute". Go get any edition -- there is a new one every year -- and work through the flower diagram. It takes a few days of soul searching to complete it properly, but when you are done you can have a solid understanding of what you really want out of your career.

Since you want game development as a career, that means a lateral move is in order. Look for a job that is similar to your current job, but in a game company. Then if you still want to, use your new contacts and work history within the industry to move again into the target job.

You say you are already an artist, although you don't say what your 'main job' is. Consider a job as a texture artist or concept artist at an existing game studio. I've known game programmers who started out as game artists, then became technical artists, and finally moved to programmer positions. If your 'main job' is working with people, consider a job as a producer. If your 'main job' is contacting people, consider a job in marketing. Etc., etc. Edited by frob

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If I could interject...

From what I read, you are really not too interested in learning how to develop games as much you are to perform the artwork and designing of the games. Now if you are just thinking about learning how to write game code, just to see your games become reality, and not really a passion of yours, I suggest that you pair up with a developer and keep doing what you are good at.

Really, you are looking at two totally different poles here: code development requires logical and analytical thinking, (black and white;) artists and designing requires creativity (colors "excite" you, if I were to try to explain.) I don't know of many that like to do both, and can do both well - though they might be out there - rare though.

Though I have been in the development field for over 32 years, my exposure to game development is limited, but actually I was talking to some people (around where I live) recently to see how I could get a hold of some creative people to bring ideas to me, provide the front ends, and I work the "guts"... I work for a living as well, so the time I could dedicate to these projects would be limited too, but If you are willing to investigate what possibilities we both could bring to the table, I am game.

Michael.

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[quote name='Tom Sloper' timestamp='1338324012' post='4944427']
It all comes down to your reason for making games. Why do you want to make games (what is the end goal, after the games are made)? And, when you ask if you should learn how to program -- how might you make games otherwise?


My goal being to sell them.
I think I'd enjoy programming but as someone who is more interested in the art and design side of game development I wonder if I should focus on that instead
[/quote]

No, your main goal is business (to sell the games you make). Your goal is to be a businessman. You should write a business plan, and while writing your business plan you should figure out who ought to be programming your games.

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[quote name='jabjab' timestamp='1338324929' post='4944434']
I think I'd enjoy programming but as someone who is more interested in the art and design side of game development I wonder if I should focus on that instead


First, you need to figure out your passions. What is it that drives you. You say you think to might enjoy something, but that is very different from doing it day-in and day-out for the next twenty years of your life.

A book I frequently recommend is "What Color Is Your Parachute". Go get any edition -- there is a new one every year -- and work through the flower diagram. It takes a few days of soul searching to complete it properly, but when you are done you can have a solid understanding of what you really want out of your career.

Since you want game development as a career, that means a lateral move is in order. Look for a job that is similar to your current job, but in a game company. Then if you still want to, use your new contacts and work history within the industry to move again into the target job.

You say you are already an artist, although you don't say what your 'main job' is. Consider a job as a texture artist or concept artist at an existing game studio. I've known game programmers who started out as game artists, then became technical artists, and finally moved to programmer positions. If your 'main job' is working with people, consider a job as a producer. If your 'main job' is contacting people, consider a job in marketing. Etc., etc.
[/quote]

First off I want to say that I really appreciate the feedback from everyone. You've given thoughtful replies and I am very grateful for it.

To answer your questions:

1) Honestly, my current job is what drives me to find something better. I'm working as a sort of jack-of-all-trades for my family's business. They sell construction equipment. I have grown to enjoy it and have learned a lot but my favorite work for them has been designing their website, product catalog, and newsletters. I'm unhappy there, though, as my marketing and web/graphic design skills are underutilized. I am currently doing freelance work on the side.

But I believe this answer needs further clarification. To be clear, I live and breathe video games as well as design. I'm not saying I'm an amazing designer but I believe I have the potential to make great things. So why haven't I pursued this earlier? There's a few reasons.

For one, I've grown tired of a lot of what comes out now. However, the digital distribution and indie side of things have re-ignited my passion. It has shown me that interesting, original ideas can still find an audience to enjoy and support it. Then there's the question of how in the world would I get a job as a designer if I didn't have any strong secondary skills to get me there. Perhaps I had gotten some half-hearted advice years ago, I'm not sure, but I'm not a great artist. I'm just a serviceable one. I never thought I'd enjoy programming until recently (math was never my strong suit). I've never been the most outgoing of people so being a producer seemed a bit of a reach. So, I became discouraged and felt that game development was a pipe dream for me. But I've had a change of heart for several reasons, many have been mentioned above.

2) Thank you for sharing that book. I will check it out.

3) Michael: Right. If I was to learn how to program it'd be primarily a means to an end. One, while it'd be satisfying to be able to program the game or software myself, I'd still be doing it out of necessity. As stated, designing it is what I want to be focusing on. Edited by jabjab

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[quote name='jabjab' timestamp='1338324929' post='4944434']
[quote name='Tom Sloper' timestamp='1338324012' post='4944427']
It all comes down to your reason for making games. Why do you want to make games (what is the end goal, after the games are made)? And, when you ask if you should learn how to program -- how might you make games otherwise?


My goal being to sell them.
I think I'd enjoy programming but as someone who is more interested in the art and design side of game development I wonder if I should focus on that instead
[/quote]

No, your main goal is business (to sell the games you make). Your goal is to be a businessman. You should write a business plan, and while writing your business plan you should figure out who ought to be programming your games.
[/quote]

I don't think it's as black and white as that. My goal is to make a living making video games and software. It's not so much about making a lot of money as it is being able to be able to do it for a living. Edited by jabjab

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