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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessDay job or part time works and how long it took you to be a game dev
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Schumius
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« on: December 31, 2018, 05:53:24 AM »

I was wondering if anyone's in more or less the situation I'm in. I'm in my late thirties, right now my main source of income comes from the classes I'm giving in local universities as an adjunct lecturer. Same as anyone in a not tenured position, income security is weak and I'm actually living off my saving which will last me a couple of years, but no more than that. Being single with no children and little social life also helps a bit, but not having a family of your own packs a punch especially when your old college mates get married left and right and theirs kids can already have conversations with you.

What I've been debating of late is whether I should leave the academia and get a full time job (game related or not).

As someone who hasn't written a line of code in his life, right now I'm learning the basics of Python and then when I have some rudimentary programming knowledge I'll pick up a game engine like Unity or Game Maker(or Construct, Godot, etc. haven't decided on one yet, but I'm leaning towards Unity). I'm willing to learn programming because I think it'll be beneficial in the long run, and to my surprise, I quite enjoy learning Python, it's logical and fun actually, something which I didn't expect.

Nevertheless, among the fun I'm having with the tutorials and self-congratulating upon correctly executing some simple lines of code, I don't think realistically I'll be a game dev before some years have passed--but how many? 3? 7? or maybe even longer? Of course I wish I had the foresight to start doing this more than a decade ago when I was fresh out of the college, but I guess better late than never.

But am I already too late, considering not having a stable income and an uncertain future? In real life I don't know any game devs; people around me have more "conventional" life styles: 9 to 5 jobs and pensions, families, etc. Would you ditch the part-time classes and find yourself a job for the income security and peace of mind or would you, in your late thirties, keep at this while you learn to make games with all dangers of failure and maybe someday becoming a dev (making game sells is yet another question)?

I'm also interested to know how did you (those with none or limited experience) become a dev and how long did it take you? And from the advantageous point of hindsight, what would you change about your process if you could?
« Last Edit: December 31, 2018, 06:19:19 AM by Schumius » Logged
TonyLi
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« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2018, 07:52:51 AM »

You could be a "game dev" today. Open GameMaker Studio or Twine and start making. Whether that would accomplish your goals is a different matter.

You mention family, and peers' conventional lifestyles. Only you can answer how important they are to you. The professional game industry is a grinder. Every year, more starry-eyed fresh college grads arrive ready to work near-constant overtime for half your salary. They've already been honing their skills for years in school. They also still have a large social pool from college, so dating/social life is easier. We're at the age (I have a few years on you) when many leave the industry because they want time for family or, if they're making the compromise for work/life balance, they realize they can't live forever on instant ramen and no retirement savings. Programmers especially can earn much more without overtime in other fields. This in part makes studios less willing to hire older applicants; there's also just plain age discrimination. Not to make you feel old. You're still young; it's just a relative thing. So that's the bad.

The good news is, screw all that. You can do it. Not long ago, someone might have added that if you're not an early 20-something hetero white male, don't bother. It's still terrible, but it's getting better. Studios are starting to value diversity (including experience). Much of that is due to the tools that allow diverse independent devs to make critically-acclaimed passion projects. Many are hobby projects made on the side as time allows while their creators receive a steady income from a day job. I suspect the peace of mind of a stable income might also free them to take more creative risks.

Here are my thoughts (take or leave):

If you love academia, try to find a way to make it work. But for adjuncts I acknowledge it's also a tough lifestyle.

If you really want a professional job in the game industry, evaluate what kind of job. If it's programming, get a temporary day job or continue teaching for 2-3 years to pay the bills. Take programming courses, or consider a 2-year degree. These should teach you how to program without being tied to a specific language, which is important in the game industry since languages and engines may change from one game to the next. Simultaneously, build a portfolio by completing as many small projects as you can. This will show applicants that you can complete things that work correctly. Try different game genres, too. Meanwhile, make contacts by attending local meetups (check meetup.com), conferences, and game jams. Do Global Game Jam this January, especially if a local game studio is hosting a site. Like any field, it's who you know. It frustrates me when people complain that they've blindly sent out hundreds of resumes but can't say that they've just talked with a single person in the field they're applying for. When people know you and can point to a portfolio that shows you know how to get things done, they'll help you get hired at a good place.

If you want to make games and have a work/life balance, get a stable day job that gives you a reasonable amount of satisfaction. It's an opportunity to also pursue non-game interests. Work as a park ranger if you like nature, work as a barista if you like people, etc. Make games in whatever time you choose to devote as a hobby. Meetup.com is still a good place to meet potential collaborators. And, who knows, maybe one will take off and you'll end up doing it professionally anyway.

« Last Edit: December 31, 2018, 07:58:19 AM by TonyLi » Logged
dafu
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« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2018, 09:31:46 AM »

If you want to do the artistic side of game development (asset creation), then I have no advice for you as that's rather alien to me.

From the programming side of things I would suggest you focus on chasing a C++/C# career as a software developer, and get a decent stable job this way, while doing gamedev on the side as a hobby. Note the languages I pointed out, these are serious gamedev languages, something like Python is not going to get you out of the hobbyist game developer space.

There are a tons of transferable coding skills that you will pickup at a standard 8-5 desk job as a general developer. A lot of these skills will be essential for gamedev and you will need to learn them one way or another anyhow. It will be a lot less stressful to do this while earning a good living.

With the experience you get from your desk job you will then be able to adapt the skills to game development on the side, and always have the desk job to fall back on if gamedev turns out not to be for you. If gamedev is working out on the side then create a few demo games and start sending resumes+portfolios to gamedev companies. Note that this will get you in the game later than a new college-grad, but also note that those grads are usually put through the grinder and used and exploited at less ethical game dev shops.

There is a trap in this approach though. Switching from a nice 8-5 well paying job to a gamedev job will probably involve a significant pay cut. Depending on how you play your cards you might quickly find that the nice 8-5 job has helped you create a life with higher living expenses, a house, nice car, a family, and then one day you'll realize that you can't afford to be a less paid gamedev anymore! But at the same time you might not care about that as much anymore if your life is good in all other ways, and you might be satisfied being a hobby gamedev. (I might be talking out of experience here!:)

This in my mind is the safest approach. Safest doesn't mean it will get you the best results, but it's far less likely to lead to long-term regret!
« Last Edit: December 31, 2018, 02:00:05 PM by dafu » Logged
TonyLi
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« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2018, 12:12:48 PM »

dafu is totally right about the advantages of a non-gamedev day job, and also C++/C# if you want to be able to transition into a gamedev programming job. It never hurts to know more languages, though. If you still have the Python bug, Humble is running a Python 2019 book bundle right now.
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Schumius
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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2018, 07:35:15 PM »

Thank you TonyLi and dafu for sharing your thoughts, truly appreciate the detail replies. And so many great ideas!

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Open GameMaker Studio or Twine and start making.

Funny you should mention Twine because I made my first game with it. It is a great tool, especially for beginners to see results and to build up confidence.

You hit dead on about age, it's indeed bad. Apart from a two year stint in a theater company, I've spent most of my time in the academia so I'm pretty lacking in qualifications (though not ability) for jobs in other fields. So that adds to my anxiety of if not landing a desk job now, it'll be even tougher years later facing younger competitors.

When I was out of college I thought about becoming a photographer, but a photographer friend advised me against it, the reasoning behind his advice was the same as yours that the income pressure will inhibit taking creative risks. I agreed with that and didn't want the joy I had with shooting pictures to become something mechanical. So I didn't take on photography as a professional pursuit.

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Here are my thoughts (take or leave):

I do love teaching (but not scholarly investigations), the reason why I started to think about making games was because I was toying with different ways to conduct the class and games seemed interesting to me. Then I found myself thinking "hey, making games is another form of expression!" and it got me hooked, and I wanted to turn all those ideas into games, games that comment on things, like Papers, please.

I do think I'll take programming courses, it will be much more effective than learning from tutorials, and probably saves me a lot of time. Regarding a degree, I will have to look around locally, or maybe an online diploma. A degree will be a big investment, but if it's worth it I'll do it.

Building a portfolio is also a top priority, start small is the way to go to build up skills, confidence and to show that I can get things done, regardless of how small they are. Global Game Jam is up in about three weeks! Don't know if I'll be skillful enough to do it though as I'm just learning the basics... or is that a total misconception?
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Schumius
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« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2018, 08:04:40 PM »

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If you want to do the artistic side of game development (asset creation)

Haha, I can't do art so no worries, your advice is indeed very useful to me.

Thanks for mentioning languages, and C# is the next language I'll learn. I picked up Python because it was said to be the most easy to learn for beginners. Right now the plan is to acquaint myself with the Python basics, do a few simple projects (with books like Automate the boring stuff with Python) and then jump into C#. I took a few Unity courses in my uni last year and decided that I should learn C#.

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There are a tons of transferable coding skills that you will pickup at a standard 8-5 desk job as a general developer.

Great idea! Honest be told I've never before considered working as a programmer (which is logical since I didn't know programming, but now that I'm learning things might look different a few years down the road). Both yours and TonyLi's ideas on jobs outside of the game industry (at least for the time being) is appealing and make a lot of sense and least prone to regrets income-wise in the long run. The adjunct thing I'm doing now seems less and less viable the more I look at it, but at the same time another part of me argues that meanwhile I can take on other part-time jobs such as translation (Spanish-Chinese-English) and make ends meet as someone I know is doing currently, but the same problem exists in that there's no job security (the friend I mentioned is also banging his head for the same reason I am).

Humble is running a Python 2019 book bundle right now.

Thanks for mentioning the bundle!
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TonyLi
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« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2019, 06:28:21 AM »

Global Game Jam is up in about three weeks! Don't know if I'll be skillful enough to do it though as I'm just learning the basics... or is that a total misconception?
GGJ welcomes all experience levels. If through unlikely bad luck you land in an unwelcoming team, jump ship early to a better one. A weekend isn't much time to program or make art, so the important decisions are on the design side. As long as you have a passion for games, you can contribute to the design. And in a recent jam I was in, one teammate was tasked with writing a simple text-based level generator in Python even though we were using a non-Python engine, so you never know what skills will come in handy. But most importantly you'll get to meet other like-minded people.
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Schumius
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« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2019, 08:08:43 AM »

Alright, I'm sold! Just registered on GGJ and found one local site just nearby! Very lucky. Meetup.com also seems pretty nice, I'll delve more into it. Thanks for mentioning them, they do open up possibilities and chances to meet like-minded people in person and more incentive to learn.
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VampireSquid
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2019, 05:58:32 PM »

I am a bit like you in that I am older and interested in games as a form of expression. I am also not in the games industry.

I do have a software background so maybe I can comment on that. I see a lot of people wanting to climb the software ladder.  Python then c# then maybe c++.  I don't think you need to do that. If you want to for sure go for it but it's not needed if you just want to make games.

Just get gameMaker or something similar and learn it. There are huge games made with these tailored tools and they are enough. You mentioned papers please. You could make that in gameMaker. The main thing is to get out there and create.

This was all said before by other posters but i hope it still helps.
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Mark Mayers
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« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2019, 11:02:12 PM »

If you make games, you're a game developer.
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« Reply #10 on: June 04, 2019, 03:53:59 AM »

I've mostly skimmed this discussion, but here's my two cents as someone who's been making a game in C++ for a while now: Don't use C++. Copy-pasting every function declaration to a header file and having to write method implementations in a separate location from their class's body will prove to be a massive pain and unnecessary time sink, and the complexities of template metaprogramming are too much of a headache to deal with when all you want to do is make a simple game.

I recommend sticking with game maker or unity, or even using a framework in any other language than C/C++.
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Schumius
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« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2019, 06:22:21 AM »

Thanks for the input guys!

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I see a lot of people wanting to climb the software ladder.  Python then c# then maybe c++.  I don't think you need to do that. If you want to for sure go for it but it's not needed if you just want to make games.

Just get gameMaker or something similar and learn it. There are huge games made with these tailored tools and they are enough. You mentioned papers please. You could make that in gameMaker. The main thing is to get out there and create.

I was seriously considering the programmer path, but conflicting interest (now I have narrowed it down to narrative design, so that's the direction I'm working towards) make me having few progress in this respect. Meanwhile I'm learning Godot (after trying out GameMaker and Unity), for me it's pretty intuitive, and I like it more than Unity despite the later being more established, only downside is that companies hire people who can work with Unity. Oh well.

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If you make games, you're a game developer.

I like that. Smiley

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Don't use C++. Copy-pasting every function declaration to a header file and having to write method implementations in a separate location from their class's body will prove to be a massive pain and unnecessary time sink, and the complexities of template metaprogramming are too much of a headache to deal with when all you want to do is make a simple game.

Yes, I've been reading up on languages and indeed that's the impression I have of C++ in that it's very complicated (still with Python, so no firsthand experience with C++). Still don't know whether I'll learn it later or not, think I'll keep learning Godot and see what needs to be learned to accomplish what I want to create.
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fluffrabbit
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« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2019, 04:05:11 PM »

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I see a lot of people wanting to climb the software ladder.  Python then c# then maybe c++.  I don't think you need to do that. If you want to for sure go for it but it's not needed if you just want to make games.
I say go for the hardest thing you can imagine, as long as it isn't Java. Never Java. I started with QBASIC, then moved on to domain-specific languages (game scripting languages) and DarkBASIC, JavaScript shortly thereafter, then I tried to learn C and went back and forth until I was finally forced to learn C++, and it's not bad. I don't think you can or should want to avoid programming. It's a natural extension of your other interactions with computers.

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Don't use C++. Copy-pasting every function declaration to a header file and having to write method implementations in a separate location from their class's body will prove to be a massive pain and unnecessary time sink, and the complexities of template metaprogramming are too much of a headache to deal with when all you want to do is make a simple game.
Modules are just around the corner, and you can go STB-style single-header mode with #define XXX_IMPLEMENTATION.

As for templates, yeah, I had to go deep into that today and it was very challenging.

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I'll keep learning Godot and see what needs to be learned to accomplish what I want to create.
Not bad if you're starting. You may run into some limitations, and it will be interesting what you do when that happens.
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