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Advice for an "old" newcomer

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Hello everyone!

 

 I am now in my mid thirties and have worked as a Systems Admin my entire life. I recently started to think about my future and that I really want to change the field (call it mid life crisis if you want). I was always interested in programming, game programming to be exact. I know it's hard to get there and at the beginning I probably won't even be touching "game programming" at all.

 

I have to admint that I do have my concerns about it... I keep reading of kids who start programming in their very early teenage years. Which is awesome but for me as an older guy it can be fairly demotivating.

 

I don't know how long it would take to get good enough to be hired in a junior game dev position? Any hints?

I mean it wouldn't make much sense if I'd find my first job in my mid fourties. As much as I'd love to switch in to this very cool field, if that would be the case, I wouldn't do it.

 

Where would you start studying (I would teach it myself on evenings after work)? Jump directly in to game dev with Unity or Java?

Or start with the rather dry material first?

 

Also, what does a junior game dev make these days? I live in Canada.

 

Thank you !

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If your goal is to learn programming (game programming or otherwise), I'd suggest skipping on Unity for now. Unity is cool and all, but I suggest building a good programming foundation if your goal is to learn (game) programming. Starting with Unity would mean you're trying to learn both Unity and programming, which I personally think is a bit overwhelming for someone just starting off.

 

Pick a language. Honestly, any language will work fine. You'll know several languages (to various degrees of competence) by the time you're ever hired as a game developer.

 

Then, start learning to program in that language. Focus on your foundational skills. I don't know if you're the kind of person who needs quick results to stay motivated, but I'll be honest if you're that kind of person: building good foundational skills might seem like a demotivating waste of time (as the end result of your work isn't impressive), but that's just because it's hard to recognize the progress you're making. Once you've got good foundational skills in your first language of choice, then branch out into more ambitious projects (though still simple, like Pong or Tetris clones).

 

I tend to find people get more demotivated and frustrated when they skip the "boring" foundational-skills programming, and the people who stick through the "boring" first month (or two or three, depending on time and commitment) actually end up making accelerated progress.

 

Sorry I can't answer your questions about the business side of game dev.

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1. I don't know how long it would take to get good enough to be hired in a junior game dev position?

2. Where would you start studying (I would teach it myself on evenings after work)? Jump directly in to game dev with Unity or Java?

Or start with the rather dry material first?

3. Also, what does a junior game dev make these days? I live in Canada.

 

1. Nobody else knows, either. The sooner you start, the sooner you can get there. If you don't start, you won't get there. So just start.

2. You have to start by learning programming.

3. Read the Game Industry Salary Survey and convert to Canadian dollars.

http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/1108/game_developer_salary_survey_2012.php

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I don't know how long it would take to get good enough to be hired in a junior game dev position? Any hints?


Many programming jobs require a Bachelors Degree in programming. This takes 2-4 years of college.

Also, what does a junior game dev make these days? I live in Canada.


$60,000-$100,000 a year, I believe. Well, for a standard game programmer.

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If your goal is to learn programming (game programming or otherwise), I'd suggest skipping on Unity for now. Unity is cool and all, but I suggest building a good programming foundation if your goal is to learn (game) programming. Starting with Unity would mean you're trying to learn both Unity and programming, which I personally think is a bit overwhelming for someone just starting off.
 
Pick a language. Honestly, any language will work fine. You'll know several languages (to various degrees of competence) by the time you're ever hired as a game developer.
 
Then, start learning to program in that language. Focus on your foundational skills. I don't know if you're the kind of person who needs quick results to stay motivated, but I'll be honest if you're that kind of person: building good foundational skills might seem like a demotivating waste of time (as the end result of your work isn't impressive), but that's just because it's hard to recognize the progress you're making. Once you've got good foundational skills in your first language of choice, then branch out into more ambitious projects (though still simple, like Pong or Tetris clones).
 
I tend to find people get more demotivated and frustrated when they skip the "boring" foundational-skills programming, and the people who stick through the "boring" first month (or two or three, depending on time and commitment) actually end up making accelerated progress.


To play devil's advocate, programs like Unity allow for "rapid" building of games and some people learn better by being able to visualize through real progress done and building things. Also, my college teaches you that something you need is a portfolio of work to get a job, pretty much. You can build a portfolio either way, but it seems to be more impressive to make the next action/adventure game using Unity than Pong using C++.

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To play devil's advocate, programs like Unity allow for "rapid" building of games and some people learn better by being able to visualize through real progress done and building things. Also, my college teaches you that something you need is a portfolio of work to get a job, pretty much. You can build a portfolio either way, but it seems to be more impressive to make the next action/adventure game using Unity than Pong using C++.

I wasn't suggesting to never use Unity. I think Unity itself is fine. But when it comes to learning to be a game programmer, it's impossible to escape the fact that you have to learn programming, and Unity tries to minimize the amount of programming one does. Learning the syntax, idioms, and standard libraries of a language is paramount, in addition to learning some core computer science. Once one has a decent programming foundation, then I think it's good for them to move onto game programming (where tools like Unity might be very useful).

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To play devil's advocate, programs like Unity allow for "rapid" building of games and some people learn better by being able to visualize through real progress done and building things. Also, my college teaches you that something you need is a portfolio of work to get a job, pretty much. You can build a portfolio either way, but it seems to be more impressive to make the next action/adventure game using Unity than Pong using C++.

I wasn't suggesting to never use Unity. I think Unity itself is fine. But when it comes to learning to be a game programmer, it's impossible to escape the fact that you have to learn programming, and Unity tries to minimize the amount of programming one does. Learning the syntax, idioms, and standard libraries of a language is paramount, in addition to learning some core computer science. Once one has a decent programming foundation, then I think it's good for them to move onto game programming (where tools like Unity might be very useful).

That's the thing though. You seem to imply that it's better to learn game programming or general programming at its core first, then move onto tools. My experience is not everyone either chooses to learn that way or is able to learn well that way, and that there are some people I know who didn't follow your words of widom who are very good programmers, creating randomly generated levels, engines, etc.

Or on a completely unrelated note, someone once said, the best way of learning is to dive into code. I agree with that approach.

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To be honest if you want to learn programming and games programming then a good option is to try out a couple of MOOCs.  I can highly recommend in order on Udacity; programming 101, Intro to web programming, Games programming in HTML5.  These will give you a solid foundation on real programming (and genuinly recognized qualifications for FREE!) and from there you can move onto Unity or a lower level programming language.

 

As for salary.  Do not go into games programming for the money.  The salaries are poor (compared to non games IT jobs) and the job security is laughable.

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I don't know how long it would take to get good enough to be hired in a junior game dev position? Any hints?


Many programming jobs require a Bachelors Degree in programming. This takes 2-4 years of college.

Also, what does a junior game dev make these days? I live in Canada.


$60,000-$100,000 a year, I believe. Well, for a standard game programmer.

 

Be closer to the 60K mark be very careful there with what they make, 90K-100K and up is at least senior level or very specialist areas and then you won't be junior anyway.

 

Canada and EU pay less then the US sadly with EU being worse off then even Canada. Eu pays about half of what the US would pay. In the EU though contracts are generally permanent contracts so it is fairly hard to get fired and redundancy comes with a fee as well on the employer.

Edited by NightCreature83

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I have to admint that I do have my concerns about it... I keep reading of kids who start programming in their very early teenage years. Which is awesome but for me as an older guy it can be fairly demotivating.

 

Don't let age trouble you. There are plenty of people who are much faster than me at simple math calculations and learning new languages, I meet them more frequently as I happen to go deeper where they'd be lauded as heroes and kings.  These are skills really important for me to be good at, which I've practiced for years, but I still fall average at.

 

I've played brain age and it tells me I have horrendous hand-eye coordination every single time.

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