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Get in the Game: How to Start in Game Development

Interested in a long-term career in game development? Learn from Lion Studios President, Rafael Vivas on how to kick off a career in the gaming industry.

Mobile gaming has the ability to be successful in almost any time for one key reason: accessibility. With the proliferation of the smartphone across the world, millions and millions of new people in almost every demographic became gamers (whether they care to admit it or not). And, the market is showing very little signs of slowing. There are other growth factors fueling this mobile boom — there has also been a growing interest in people wanting to pursue game development as a career. 

A Place for Everyone

With this increased interest in game development as a viable option for a job, if they are interested, passionate gamers are now able to pursue a long-term career in a space that once seemed largely unattainable. More than ever before, there are opportunities for anyone interested in gaming to start developing their own game. 

There is a massive amount of new ways for people who have an existing knowledge of coding to take advantage of free resources to create new games that they would want to play. This independent style of learning has been popularized through everything from companies like Unity to even more easily-accessible “learn by watching” platforms like YouTube. These tools not only help build development skills, but facilitates proactivity in development and creates an understanding of how businesses and industries function. As more and more developers enter the market to create new and engaging games or work at game studios, this drive has technology-focused companies motivated to develop solutions to make the art of game creation faster, easier, and more accessible to more people than ever. In fact — companies like Unity are empowering traditionally trained game developers and hobbyists alike to explore their imaginations and create great games. 

In addition to these free resources, there are also more and more opportunities for students offering robust programs and degrees that are specifically tailored to everything from game design and programming to visual effects, animation, and 3D modeling. 

The Rise of the Indie Developer

One of the more practical privileges of the low barrier to entry into the mobile gaming space is that people regardless of their location have access to information and tools that can help them become a game developer. One of the groups I have a deep passion for, and one that I am fortunate enough to get to work with on a regular basis is the indie developer. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with these indie developers in every corner of the world whether it’s San Francisco, Latvia, or Pakistan.

More and more, I’m noticing plenty of talented indie devs rise up from all over the world. A lot of times, these are people who are working on their game as a side project or in hopes that it will bring supplemental income for them and their families. One such example is that of Oliver Eriksson, a Swedish game dev who created the game Flip Trickster. When we first started working with him, we were surprised to learn he was only 21 years old, and while he ultimately had his sights set on a professional career, he was driven by creating a game that would be fun to play. This drive to create something that he was excited about not only kept him motivated to keep working on his game, but resulted in passion that was almost tangible in the gameplay of Flip Trickster. Because they often work alone, indie developers are an essential part of these online communities — they’re not only seeking advice on their own games, but they are also the passionate audience that other game devs can turn to for feedback, inspiration, or advice. 

We also see a lot of small teams of indie developers working on a passion project — often working together to both develop their game, and to help each other learn more about game development faster. As more people continue to enter the space, I think we’ll see more traditionally trained and hobbyists pursue game development on an individual basis or in these intimate groups where they can ideate and iterate with a small, trusted team. 

Quantity and Quality

As the industry continues to evolve and take advantage of new technologies, there will be a time where we’ll see an even larger golden age of games. Companies will leverage new, intuitive technologies to try to produce even more games at minimum cost in the search for the next big hit. On the flip-side, indie game developers with access to these same technologies will be able to explore their own game concepts and will hopefully have just as much of an advantage when it comes to creating and testing games — this will give them a chance to test their creativity, offering more gaming experiences that are unique and enjoyable. Overall, this means there will be a wider range of games catering to most (if not all) types of gamers around the world. 

The path to success in game development is not always a straight line — you can take any approach whether it’s first getting a gaming degree, or you could be a hobbyist with some free time that has a hit on your hands. Games companies should continue to actively engage with this new generation of developers, and work to inspire the next generation to seriously consider a career in game development to bring creativity to the industry. 

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