Game development is an industry that’s exploding at the moment. With $91 billion in revenue last year, gaming has grown bigger than both Hollywood films and the music industry. Universities are offering brand new courses in game development, independent game design studios are starting to emerge in Australia and there’s even a high school in Victoria that teaches game design.
Basically, there’s a huge interest in working on video games these days. And while it’s a sector with lots of growth and potential career options, it’s also a highly competitive space to work in.
To get some insight into how the industry works, we had a chat to Jack Condon, a dude from Sydney who’s managed to crack into the games industry. He works for a technology agency called S1T2 as the lead of real time development.
“It’s a fairly typical story of a nerd,” says Jack. “Basically every moment that I had, I was working on my craft.” He’s been dabbling with game design in his bedroom since he was a kid, attempting to build his first videogame at 11-years-old. From there he studied visual art, worked as a bar tender and dabbled in academia before coming back to game development. He’s always been self-motivated and had a “do it yourself” approach to making games, which has worked so far.
“I was working in bars part time for the first 3 years of my game development career,” he says. “Eventually I started freelancing more and more and my portfolio grew. That’s just how it works, you need to be proactive.”
Do you need a degree?
“Uni is definitely not necessary,” says Jack. “A lot of our team has a background in fine arts as I think those conceptual skills are really important.”
“But it’s whatever works for you at the end of the day. The best thing about uni is learning with people around you and making friends. However, employers in the game development industry won’t care so much if you went to uni or not, mostly they will just want to see your portfolio.”
Essentially, a degree can be a good option but you can definitely get started on your own with a whole range of free online tools. GameMaker, Unity and RPGMaker are a good start. Lisa Brown, a designer at Insomniac Games has also provided a list of all the best online resources to help those who want to take their own path.
What is the industry like at the moment?
Jack says there’s still not a whole lot of work in gaming in Australia. “Triple A” games—which are the large scale, high budget productions—are generally produced overseas and Australia is better known for its indie game industry.
“Melbourne has over half of the game development studios in the country and the Victorian government is really supporting studios and opportunity. The same can’t be said about other places,” says Jack.
“At the same time, people involved with game development here are involved with it for love, through thick and thin. There’s a lot of collaboration.”
How to get started
Learning the ins and outs of game design can be a very isolating experience, which doesn’t really help when it comes to working in the industry. Instead, it’s a highly collaborative and social job, demanding skills that a lot of developers lack, at least at first. Jack’s advice is to just find some friends and make a game.
“If there no jobs around, grab all the other unemployed talented people you know and get to work. In game development, you can make your own opportunities. Even if you fail, your portfolio grows stronger and you learn.”