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  • Why You Need A Game Career Strategy

    [07.07.20]
    - Rahul Sehgal
  • As video games and gamified applications get bigger and bigger (Video games generated $130 Billion in revenue in 2018), game-making as a career choice becomes more viable, layered and holds more and more potential. However, as the game industry is relatively young (40-50 years old), there isn't a lot of clarity about what career strategies one can adopt in order to achieve maximum potential. 

    A career strategy is a must, because it means that you're thinking 5, 10, maybe even 20 years ahead and aligning your present actions and decisions with your life goals. Without one, you could spend years and years in endless loops without making any real progress. More than anything else, it is about doing meaningful work- the kind that makes you look forward to Monday morning. It also means that you earn enough to be able to live your life the way you want- be it raising a family, buying a home or a car or taking a vacation.

    I've been teaching game-making and mentoring for 10 years now, and I hear these questions a lot:

    1. How do I get started making games?

    2. Is it a good idea to go indie and start making games on my own?

    3. Should I get a job at a game company/studio? What's that like?

    4. How do I advance in my game career?

    I've been making games since 2008; I've worked with huge multinational companies earning hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue as well as small studios with twenty people. I also do consulting, and have run my own Indie outfit. All of this has given me some perspective on what steps to take to make career progress in the game industry.

    CREATING A STRONG FOUNDATION

    To start with, you need to build a strong foundation for your career by understanding the basics of the trade, so to speak. To help illustrate, let's have a look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

    The pyramid above represents the hierarchy of human needs. Once the basic needs at the bottom are fulfilled, more advanced ones like creativity and self-fulfillment arise. To start with, it's important to have a good grasp of the basics and build your understanding of the art and science of game-making. It's okay in the beginning to make a Flappy Bird clone that nobody plays; you'll get to your masterpiece if you stick it through. In order to reach a creative pinnacle, you have to be in the trenches first.

    It does not matter what age you start making games! I was 33 when I quit my Merchant Navy career and started making games for a living. You need to start out with the attitude of a student and understand the general process of game making, and then the specific basics of your craft, be it design, art or programming.

    A great way to learn the basics is to go to a Game School, like I did; I went to Vancouver Film School and did an intensive one-year program in Game Design. Here is a video I made about Game Schools.

    If you can't go to game school, that's OK too; there are other ways of learning the basics. One is to get an Internship at a game company, like I did with Piranha Games in Vancouver. It allows you to observe the process of making games closely, with gradually increasing responsibility that comes from getting better at your chosen discipline.

    Speaking of disciplines, it's vital to understand that in game-making, there is often an overlap in what work people do. There is rarely a sharp distinction between design, art and programming in the sense that some people perform dual, even triple roles. I personally do Design and Art direction, but don't write code. If you are starting out, it's very much possible that you are unsure about what role is for you, and that's totally OK; no need to rush into a decision and choose a particular discipline.

    Generally speaking, knowledge of multiple disciplines is a HUGE plus in a game team, because someone who understands the different aspects of the game development process well, can communicate with the entire team and occupy a leadership role with relative ease.

    Going to game school or doing an internship is a great way to figure out what exactly it is that you like doing an are are good at...you may well realize that you can combine roles with your skill sets, like the way I combine Design and Art.

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