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Step up your game

Posted on Mar 31, 2020 by Cambridge Catalyst

Fire Tech, which runs camps and courses for help kids and teens learn about coding and digital creation, looks at how to get a foot in the door of the gaming industry

It’s the unique mix of technical and creative which makes game design and development such a popular career choice for young people. With a starting salary in the high twenties, it can be a great career path for those with a passion for programming, software, gameplay, narrative and graphics. The industry has two main specialisms: game designers create the vision and game developers implement the vision. But there’s lots of crossover, especially within smaller, niche studios. And there’s a huge need to be able to speak the language of the other specialism: this sector is all about teamwork.

First and foremost, as with all things technological, to be a game developer you need to be an adept learner. Each game studio individually preferences creative (and project management software) although favourites include Unity, Cinema4D, 3DS Max and Maya, all of which have free, educational versions. Programming languages required for the job range from C# to C++, to scripting languages such as JavaScript and Python, to APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). If you want to be part of the gaming industry you need to stay ahead of the game!

For game designers, a wide-ranging, up-to-date knowledge of gaming trends aids innovation. The latest emerging technology is mixed reality: think Pokémon GO. At the heart of computer game design is playability. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Whilst not every player wants to be an e-athlete (an electronic athlete), the central focus of a game is to keep players playing and sharing their experience with others. Interaction is key, from storyboarding the user experience (UX), to enhancing player motivation (kudos and collectables), games now rival others in the marketplace with their unique look and feel (as well as sound).

Gaming is constantly innovating, providing young people with incredible opportunities

Gaming in the future is set to become less bedroom bound, drawing in a broader range of players. And game design elements and principles are increasingly seen outside the games industry such as cultural and commercial contexts where mobile phones are becoming the consoles of the future. Gaming is constantly innovating, providing young people with incredible opportunities.

So, what steps do young people need to take to become a game designer and/or developer? “Make use of the free, professional software available online”, said Jason Veal, managing director and co-founder of games studio Sugar Creative. “You don’t have to know them all but you do need to know how to navigate a range of software. Hone your analytical and programming skills. And be interested – and that’s not just interested in playing games! Your best ideas will come to you whilst you’re doing something completely unrelated”.

For teens, Fire Tech offers a course in 3D Game Development With Unity, a powerful game engine behind many popular games such as Crossy Road, Monument Valley and Hearthstone. Incorporating C#, participants are encouraged to first attend one of Fire Tech’s programming-based courses Coding Games with Java or Teen Coding with Python.

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