Obtaining a college degree is one of the best ways to propel your career in the right direction. There’s no shame in going the traditional route and earning a four-year degree in game design or something closely related as it will pay off in the long run. This is an increasingly common path that’s expected more and more by AAA studios as the game development industry grows. A degree gives you the chance to become exposed to more tools and people than you would encounter on your own. School also presents learning opportunities, with things like mock development cycles, working on a team and having your work critiqued. However, you need to have a thick skin to be in the gaming industry. Learning how to take criticism from your peers and professors is essential to your success. It will prepare you and enable you to answer questions and stand behind your work. Being able to complete assigned tasks on time is an essential skill to have in the real world and mock development cycles will serve as great practice for meeting deadlines.
Schools usually require you to prioritize and balance multiple responsibilities. Managing these duties will mirror the way you’ll prioritize tasks in the future. Working with others in a team is another valuable experience you will gain at school. Just like you would in anything else, you’ll have to do things and work with people that may be outside of your comfort zone. This is all with a specific goal or vision in mind. By working with a team, you will get a feel for people’s varying work ethics, communication styles and personalities. This is a valuable lesson to learn, not only for game development, but for real life in general.
Most importantly, school will give you a taste of what the real world is like. You can participate in an internship, work part-time or shadow some designers in the industry to get a feel for your potential future. An important part of school is building your resumé. You should have a few solid portfolio pieces to showcase to potential employers.These should be one of the most basic tools in your arsenal before you graduate. There are very few companies that will accept someone who has spent so much money on their school career that has nothing to show for it.
Now let’s go off the beaten path for a minute… Okay, maybe you are not so smitten with the whole degree thing. This is understandable considering how expensive college can be and the fact that you could be getting real world experience on your own instead of sitting in class. Perhaps placing your foot in the door involves a more direct approach. Aspiring developers can still make apps and games in their spare time if they choose to. As long as the end result is enjoyable and demonstrates a real ability to script levels, you can expect a studio to hire you. But bear in mind that this may be difficult without qualifications. This is assuming you don’t go out and create your own indie studio or launch your own fundraising campaign. However, bear in mind that scripting your own game will not happen overnight. Depending on what you know, it may take anything from a few months to several years to finish your game. This also costs money, which means you will need a job to pay the bills and a job takes time, which leaves you with less time for your game.
Important Takeaways: Getting a degree can kickstart your career in the game development industry. Although this path is competitive, it has consistently proven to be worth the time and effort. Working towards a degree will give you valuable experience and open great doors for the future. Even if you do happen to choose the alternative option and jump right into real-world work, there are still infinite opportunities available to help develop your skills and develop a successful product. Getting there is easier said than done. Considering which option is the most economically viable is probably one of the most important decisions you need to make on the way. Once this is done, stick to the choice you made and make the most out of it.