3 Tips on How to Have a Great Career in Game Development

Through FindSpark’s partnership with Eventbrite for their blogger tour, I was able to get a ticket to the 10th annual Games for Change Festival. Games for Change is an incredible organization that promotes the creation and distribution of social impact games; their goal is to use the entertainment factor in games to help players learn, give, and become aware of what’s happening in the world. The Games for Change Festival is a three day long conference where professionals from the gaming industry present the social good gaming projects they’re working on to the press and public.

games                                                          Image courtesy of Thinkstock

So, you want to make games for a living.

Maybe you grew up playing games, video or analog, and now you want to share the same joy with a younger generation. Or perhaps you love programming and find the aspects of game design to be challenging and fun. Or maybe you just really emulate Gabe Newell and want to be the next big thing in online gaming. Whatever your reason, careers in game development can be extremely rewarding, as the industry continues to grow and branch out into areas like education, social good, and even the health industry.

Here are some tips to help you with a career in game development from some of the wonderful speakers at the 10th annual Games for Change Festival:

1. Learn the different ways to get a career in game development
Creating a career for yourself in game development doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go work for one of the big companies. In their panel “Win Win: Models for Creating a Social Impact Game on a Budget” Clay Ewig and Lien Tran talked about four other modes of development: indie (definitely the most popular), student/class creation (mostly MFA/Grad student thesis work, but could be started earlier), small grant projects, and large grant projects. There are definite upsides to working on each type of project, the obvious ones being some money to help with the production (the grants),  complete control over projects (indie), and access to play-testers and a support system (student). There are downsides too, like a lack of money for indie developers (unless you have a successful Kickstarter campaign), or a lack of time for students, or lack of control for grant workers; however, the pros far outweigh the cons in terms of getting your foot in the door with side projects that you can put into a portfolio.

2. Remember the elements of a good game
As with any type of product development, you have to know the types of things that will make that product great. For games, it’s all about the way the game is presented. In Lindsay Grace‘s panel “Game Verbs for Change,” he outlined the three things every good game must have:
1. A Goal
2. An obstruction to that goal
3. A means to that goal
For example, the goal in Super Mario Bros. is to rescue Princess Peach. The obstruction, of course, is Bowser and the perils of the Mushroom Kingdom. But, you have a means to rescuing the princess by running through the levels, gathering power ups, and defeating the creatures that stand in your way.

If you can find unique ways to utilize those three things, then you’ve got the start of a great game. You can find more of Lindsay’s advice at learnvideogames.com.

3. Impact is key
All games (and books, TV shows, and movies) have to have some sort of impact, whether it’s teaching the player some useful skill, giving players ample amount of entertainment, or even just making the player aware of a certain cause or bit of information. “It’s never too early to start thinking about impact,” says Harmony Institute‘s Debika Shome. Her panel “Impact: Using Data, Interactivity, and Storytelling to Make Meaningful Games” emphasized how important it is to clearly outline how your game will impact your players. For more information on how to develop your game’s impact and how impact affects good storytelling, read the Harmony Institute’s Impact Playbook (it’s free.)

I hope those tips help you in your game development career. If you have any questions about any of the Games for Change tips or panels, please post them in the comments.

This post is sponsored by Eventbrite NYC. Eventbrite enables people all over the world to plan, promote, and sell out any event. It’s also a destination for people to discover awesome events going on in THEIR city. Whatever your hobbies or interests – from photography workshops and wine classes to food festival and industry conferences, there’s an event on Eventbrite for you to attend. Keep up on the goings-on in The City That Never Sleeps by following Eventbrite NYC on Twitter, or liking them on Facebook. Planning an event? Go ahead and create an account to get started.

About the Author

Steph Lippitt attended Hofstra University, where she triple-majored in Publishing, Creative Writing, and living off of less than four hours of sleep a night. She was lucky enough to get internships at three incredible companies: DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Sterling Publishing. Steph is currently the Education Assistant for Mediabistro, though she is also a Lead Blogger for NY Creative Interns and a regular volunteer for various comic conventions (New York Comic Con, MoCCA Fest). Steph enjoys reading every little bit of text she can possibly find, eating delicious and exotic-sounding foods, and going on random adventures in and around New York City. She also really appreciates air conditioning/space heaters in their respective seasons and loves writing about herself in the third person for blog bios.

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