In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Justin, who wants to know how he could change careers, and become a professional video game developer instead?
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Why it’s not too late to change careers, even if you’re in your 30’s
- How to learn to make games while also keeping your current paycheck flowing in
- How I successfully changed careers to become a game designer and programmer
- Bonus: How building games as a hobby could help you at your current job
If you have a question you'd like to get answered on the podcast, leave a comment below or ask me anything here.
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Good morning, afternoon, or evening, whatever time it is where you’re at. Welcome to the Game Industry Career Guide podcast, episode number 9. Im Jason W. Bay from the Gameindustrycareerguide.com and this is the broadcast where I answer your questions about getting a job and growing your career making video games. Today I’m answering a question from Justin. Justin asks, “I’m an older gamer. I already have a job with medical benefits and a salary of over 75,000 dollars a year, but it’s not what I love to do. I realize it might be crazy to go back to school and start all over when you’re almost 30 years old, but I would love to be able to make games. Even on a small scale, even if I don’t make as much money. How should someone in my situation start out?”
How old is too old? (Trick question)
First of all let’s just start by saying that 30 years old is not old. Most people, at least most people here in the U.S., most people retire in their 60’s. So, you still have a few decades left in your career. If your current job makes you miserable yeah, maybe now is a good time to explore something new.
So, let’s get right down to it. How can you or anybody else looking to change their careers start shifting away from what they’re doing now and start moving toward a new career in game development? There are two options that could work for you, and actually another third option that’s not exactly what you asked for, but we’ll discuss it just in case.
The side hustle
The first option would be the safest, but it’s the least guaranteed to work. And that would be to stay at your current job, but start making games on the side. You could take some online courses, or go through some tutorials like the ones you’ll find for the Unity game engine, I’ll link to some of those resources in the show notes.
Because then you’ll start to learn the basics of game development and you’ll start building a portfolio you can show to potential employers. Once you have a couple of little game demos to show off, you can then start applying for entry level game jobs. And there won’t be any pressure because you’re still getting your nice paycheck from your current job.
So that’s one way to start learning how to make games, build a portfolio, and then start applying for jobs. And if it takes you six months or a year or whatever to actually find your first entry level job, that’s fine because you’ve got an income, you’re stable, you can take your time. Okay, that’s one way to approach it.
The evening education
The second option is a little more serious. It’ll cost more money and it will require a lot more of your time every week. But I think it has a higher chance of success. Plus, it will make you more employable in the game industry, faster. This option, option number two, is just to start taking formal game development courses or certificate classes in your evenings and weekends.
This is best if there is a local community college near you that offers game development as part of their adult continuing education programs. Quite a number of community colleges have started offering game design and game development courses because there are a lot of people that want to move careers and game development looks like a viable option. I think this is a good option because you’ll learn game development very quickly and you’ll start making connections with other game developers and instructors that could help you get a job later on when you graduate the program.
Also, I can personally vouch for the effectiveness of this option, because taking an evening and weekends game development course is how I transitioned from my job as a game tester and landed my first job as a full time game designer and programmer. I took a one year long game development certificate course from a local university extension. Now those are the two main options that I think could work for you. But, there’s also a third option that’s not exactly what you were asking for but I think you might want to consider it.
Game development just for fun
The third option is to keep your job, in other words, don’t switch careers, and just make games on the side as a hobby. Because, once you start making games as a hobby, it’s possible that you’ll find that it’s not really for you. Maybe you just really enjoy playing games, but making them, maybe that doesn’t turn out to be as appealing as it seemed like it would be. Maybe game development just won’t click with you once you start doing game development.
But, guess what, if game development does click with you, it’s possible that making little games on the side by yourself, or with friends or with people you meet on the Internet, maybe that’s just what you needed to bring some more happiness in your life. Maybe you’re just in a rut at work. Maybe once you start building games you’ll find that it takes your mind off your day job and you can get back to work more refreshed each day. Or, maybe your day job truly is miserable and you do need to get out, in which case, options one or two should do the trick and start you on that new career path towards game development.
There you have it. Two and a half ways to start steering yourself on to a new career path towards making games for a living. Thanks to Justin for that question, and thank you for tuning in to this podcast. If you liked it, be sure to subscribe in iTunes. It’s free and once you subscribe, new episodes will just be downloaded automatically so you’ll never miss an episode. For more information and inspiration on getting and growing your job making games visit me at gameindustrycareerguide.com. I’m Jason W. Bay, thanks again and I will see you next time, right here, on the Game Industry Career Guide podcast.