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Changing career path to gaming industry

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#1 Mulchie   Members   


Posted 25 December 2009 - 03:12 AM

Good afternoon all and merry xmas. After a very long 13 years doing Java team leading, design and development I'm looking to switch career paths to an IT stream that I may actually enjoy. Games programming is something I've also wanted to get involved in having experimented a little with it over the years and I've loved gaming since the good old days of the original elite. What I'm wondering is if this is even vaguely realistic considering I've spent most of my time programming in Java with only limited C++ development. I appreciate I would need to get my C++ programming up to a decent level and create at least a basic demo of some kind before I could expect to get in at the bottom level but would my age (35) be a barrier to breaking into the industry? Assuming it isn't, once I've improved my C++ skills, would I need to specialise before attempting to get employment (e.g. focus on a specific aspect such as 3D graphics programming) or is the general knowledge demonstrated in a demo sufficient? Any information or advice greatly appreciated. Hope you are all having/had a nice xmas. Bri

#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   


Posted 25 December 2009 - 04:40 AM

Hi Mulch, you asked:

1- Is this realistic?
2- Am I too old?
3- Do I have to specialize?

1. You can make it realistic if you build a spectacular portfolio. How many games have you worked on in your spare time so far? If zero, then the realisticness quotient is pretty low. But you can change that.

2. No.

3. Don't worry about finding a specialty. Your specialty will probably find you. Just build a portfolio.

-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#3 dudeman21   Members   


Posted 25 December 2009 - 06:01 AM

Ditto to what Mr. Sloper said.
---------------------------Visit my Blog at http://robwalkerdme.blogspot.com

#4 Hoody   Members   


Posted 28 December 2009 - 09:13 PM

Your never to old to change career, I'm now 36, did terribly at school and gained few qualifications which led me into taking many dead end jobs over the last twenty years. And yet i have now Bull#@£$ed my way onto a game development degree course, and so far i am doing reasonably well. And as long as i continue to put in the work i can't see why i shouldn't at least gain an entry level place somewhere?

#5 KulSeran   Members   


Posted 28 December 2009 - 10:23 PM


3. Don't worry about finding a specialty. Your specialty will probably find you. Just build a portfolio.

Agreed. There are many positions at a game company. Not all of them require you to know C++. Expecially the tools programming. Tools are made in all sorts of languages, including having to cludge together several languages to get from point A to B. Languages like Java, Python, and C# all provide a step up from writing a lot of tedious code in C++. Melscript, lua, python, and other languages end up being parts of the tools too.

Secondly, knowing a language means you can probably pick up most the languages like it. Knowing every common function in the book for C++ isn't going to help you all that much if 90% of the code that you are looking at is code attaching to some proprietary API.
There is a big difference between knowing how to code in a language and knowing all the functions you commonly want to use in a language. And knowing how to code is the hard part. The rest you can just bookmark some documentation to run to whenever you forget how to use object X. This is especially important considering in games programming you will be using a lot of closed-source APIs from companies that make the hardware (sony/microsoft/nentendo) as well as middleware and in-house code. Entry level positions expect that you will be looking at docs/source to get upto speed.

#6 Ravyne   Members   


Posted 28 December 2009 - 11:01 PM

Probably an equally important question, and this is not at all meant to discourage you, is whether you can take the financial hit that I can only presume you'll be taking going from a senior-level java coder with leadership experience, to a (lets be optimistic) mid-level game developer.

I don't know your personal situation, but someone your age may have certain responsibilities (Mortgage, retirement savings, loan payments, wife, kids) which have to be taken into careful and honest consideration.

Due to the poor economy, I recently had to take a job that pays only half as much as my previous one (after collecting unemployment for 9 months, which was a few weeks from going into "emergency aid" -- which would have meant I would only received 75% of the normal benefit for 3 additional months.) and I've gone from making large payments towards my student loans and still being able to make any purchase I wanted, to basically scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck and making little if any headway on my loans (not to mention the credit card debt I ran up during my unemployment to get by.) I'm supporting myself and my girlfriend, who is in college and recently started part-time work to help out, and I really can't imagine having kids or some other major expense on top of it all.

You can make a good living in game development, but salaries are typically less than what similar experience would net you in traditional software development and, in many cases, have you working longer hours or crunch-time fairly regularly.

Just be sure you are aware of these potential financial/lifestyle issues before making any big decisions.

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