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Video Game Careers
A guide to understanding what video game school is all about with information about some of the best schools.
Obtaining a career in the video game industry used to a difficult thing because there were very few options and very few schools that could teach the required cutting edge skills. If you wanted to choose this path you had to be self taught. Today this dilemma has been turned upside down. You now have a plethora of schools to choose from and lots of programs and specialties to decide amongst.
The video game industry has changed over the past ten years. And it has matured. It is now a full-fledged industry. That means there are plenty of opportunities to find a rewarding career without being a hot-shot game programmer. As a matter of fact the days of the hot shot developer are pretty much over. The creation of a state of the art video game now requires a dedicated team of employees with a wide range of skills and interests.
What does this mean for you? It means opportunity in a lot of different disciplines and it means that you have to specialize within a subgenre of the big picture of "Making Video Games".
First Things First
Before you pack off and go to a video game school or dish out the dollars for an online school there are some things you should do. Being great at video games is not enough to insure you will have a successful career in the video game industry. And working in the video game industry is not as much fun as playing a video game. Your job will probably not be to play video games for eight hours a day -although there are a few jobs like this.
- Have an understanding of video games, how they're played, and what they're all about. have a feel for the game industry. Know what games are out there, what styles of play they have and how they handle the game playing experience. Chances are good that you already fulfill this requirement.
- Have an understanding of the underlying principes of game design There are several ways that you can do this. I recommend one or both of these methods to get you started in this:
- Build Mods - Mods are modificiations of existing games. Quake is a famous game for this approach. You use the mod builder software and you build levels or worlds that can be added right into the game itself. The Mod sub culture is very vibrant and you can find a lot of support and help. Even better for your experience would be to join a team that is working on a mod. This gives you good teamwork experience.
- Get a free or inexpensive Game engine development suite and build your own games. You can build adequate and fun to play games on your own this way. I recommend you do this with the Genesis 3d Game development software. It is completely free and I have all the software and a tutorial that takes you through all the steps right here on this site. Genesis 3d Game design tutorial
- Get familiar with some of the professional tools that the video game industry uses. There are a whole host of tools that game design teams use. And the tools you would use are dependent on what role you would play on the team. Here is an overview of some of the different jobs in the industry and what software tools they would use.
- The concept artist works with traditional art tools such as paint, acrylics,pencils and pastels. If you really love drawing things that are video game related such as scenes, characters and worlds this might be a good option for you. It is very competitive and takes a fair amount of talent/skill. If this is the path you think you might want to take your best career options would be to take a very heavy course load in traditional arts and minor in video games so you can understand the game industry but be an artist first.
2 dimensional artist
- This type of artist is concerned with the backgrounds the structures and the textures of the game world. You should have a solid grasp of Photoshop if this is the career path you want to take. Photoshop is the defacto career standard for any artist of this type. I recommend you get a trial version of this software, a student version or the full version and get working on it. Proficiency with this software is a must. If you are considering buying it out right it is rather expensive and if your budget prohibits you from purchase right now you can use the much less expensive Paint Shop Pro. It is similar to Photoshop and will give you a good understanding of how a paint program works. It will make your eventual transition into Photoshop much easier.
3 Dimensional Model Artist
- This type of artist is concerned with making the characters, monsters,creatures and objects that inhabit a video game world. In this area of game art the choice of software is not as straight-forwared as in the 2d art. The most accepted software is 3D studio Max and you can't go wrong if you learn how to use this suite. But over the past few years a couple of other programs have moved forward and make gain in the game modeling world. These are Maya and SoftImage. If you are looking for a free 3d modeling tool that will get you started you may want to get Milkshape. It is a modeling tool designed for the game Half-Life. taking everything into consideration you won't go wrong no matter what software tool you start your 3D modeling with. The concepts of modeling are universal so the skills will transfer from one tool to the other. You will just have to learn the specifics of the new tool which will be easy enough.
- This is the person that makes the characters and objects in the game move. It is a very specific skill and it takes good understanding of animation to get things right. There are two distinct areas of animation. First there is the understanding of the principles of animation and this doesn't involve the computer. Then there is understanding of computer animation software and how it works. To learn the concepts of animation (without the aid of a computer) you should check out this book. It is the best book on the subject and will give you a solid understanding of the art of animation.
Programmer - This is something that is a little more traditional when we think of video game making "Programming" and it is a very wide field that can find you doing almost anything in the video game making arena. Here are some possibilites:
- Database manager A game has to store and manipulate a lot of information and somebody has to maintain this
- Artificial Intelligence Designer - Todays games are very heavy into artificial intelligence and a lot of thought and work goes into making characters and objects intelligent in their behavior.
- Tools Designer - You don't actually work on the game. You create software tools for the game designers. This makes their job easier
- Engine Programmer - A video game runs on what is called an engine.
- I have a more in depth tutorial on programming for video games
Other Opportunities in Video game design - There are many other jobs in the video game industry and here are some examples
- Script and story writer - Today's video games tell a complex story. No longer are they all about "Making your way to the end". they are very involved with stories, plots, quests, sub-plots and back stories. If you have a knack for story-telling and writing this may be a feasible and attractive option for you.
- Being a computer based industry there are a whole host of computer related jobs such as network adminstrator or even computer maintenance and repair technician
- Of course there are traditional jobs like sales, marketing, customer service and many more.
Ok, you have a good overview of the Video game industry and what it takes now lets look at traditional education options video game schools