So you want to break into the video game industry (you want a game biz job). First, you have to know which type of job you want -- if you don't know which you want, you need to read about the game industry and the types of jobs in it. Then you might need to make a decision. Third, you need to be qualified for the job. Fourth, you need to know how to find information and how to ask good questions (you need to not ask bad questions). Finally, we have tips for getting the job.
(Thanks in advance for anyone that ends up reading this. I'm sorry that this kind of turned into a wall of text, but I thought I'd clear my thoughts and put it all in a post, so at least I can look at it and try to figure out, well, what to do.)
As the subject line says, I'm another one of those dreamers that isn't quite sure of which path to take in order to end up in the game/software industry in say, the next 6-8 years. I'm really in no hurry, as I'm just 20 years old, and have been working a supermarket job for a couple of years already (not a great job, but it's money!). Being essentially a nerd, my only real expenses are rent, pizza and caffeine based drinks. And the occasional DVD, but that's beside the point. The point being, I'm not in any sort of financial hurry to get to work.
Anyway, it's the education part that has me a little confused. I'm from Finland, so I did the basic 6+3 years of normal school (or elementary school), and then went on to get a three year degree in a vocational/trade/career school. That degree pretty much translates to "IT worker", so it has to do with information technology in general, on a basic level. Other than that, I've been programming for about a year now, in C# and C++ and in my mind I'm at an "advanced beginner" type level, where I can make basic, functional games and applications, but still obviously have an immense amount of things to learn. I've also done quite a bit of 3D modelling and animations and things of that nature over the last 2-3 years, mainly as small mod projects for games like the UT series.
Overall though, my head works quite logically and I have some creativity, but not really enough imagination and artistic vision to work as a 3D artist. Programming would probably suit me better.
So basically my question would be, what sort of an education should I be aiming for? There's really no schools anywhere in this country that are gaming oriented, but there's definitely some that offer degrees that are similar to let's say, the computer science degree that people always like to bring up. However, if I were to start going to school, I'd likely have to quit my job and try to live on whatever the social service wants to give me (my parents aren't exactly rich so I'd prefer to be self sufficient), so that's not really a great option. I guess the online options are one way (the only way in my case?) to go, and although I haven't done much research on them, they would probably fit my schedule easily.
I'll end up doing tons of stuff on my own regardless, so it's not like I won't keep sharpening my skills even if I don't get a degree right now. Currently I'm really in love with Unity, as it allows me to utilize all of my skills, and just in general I'm really enjoying both the highs and lows of at least small scale game development.
Ha, yeah I guess I forgot to mention what I actually want to do. I'm really most interested in the programming part of game development right now, although one day it would probably be great if I could move towards game design as well. For now though, programming.
I did read most of the links in the FAQ (and thanks for writing them), but I figured I'd still ask as I'm not quite certain of the way online education works.
Go get some sort of computer sciences degree. Many schools have game programming/development courses, just check out the schools. Fortunately you are in Finland so it's free to get the degree so go get it! You can get really cheap loan to pay for you expenses and also work in the summer. Unfortunately there's not much of a game industry to speak of :)
Programming and design are not antagonists, though attempting to do both will require quite a curriculum. I personally advise you to focus on programmming first, and look for opportunities once you're in the business. I've seen a few people do that already, and it looks like a good plan. I haven't seen it the other way around, and design is pretty hermetic around here, but I dunno about Finland. What company are you aiming for? Which developer is there in your area?