Behind a video game is a fun and exciting creative process. Before the
game sees the light of day, many people work on it, including a video game
programmer (also called a video game developer).
Being a video game developer can involve many things, and there are many
facets to this career.
"Developer is kind of a general term, and really, testers, writers and
animators are also a huge part of the development process," says Emanuel Borsboom.
He is a senior software engineer who used to be a video game developer.
"But usually when people are referring to a video game developer -- and
referring to an individual person, rather than a company -- they really mean
video game programmer."
As a video game programmer, you'll be behind the scenes, writing the code
that actually makes the game work.
"A video game programmer writes the computer code that controls the logic
of the game and that renders the graphics and audio," Borsboom explains. "Mostly
this is done in the C++ programming language and low-level assembly language
or machine code."
Video game developers' daily duties depend on where they are in a game's
"In the first phase, the developer is doing a lot of concept work," says
Robert Riedl. He is the executive producer at a video game company. "Thinking
out the who, what, where, when, how and why. They're also meeting with the
people who will make the game, soliciting their ideas and understanding limitations.
"In the second phase, they're documenting the specifications for the game
so everyone who's building has a clear concept of what to do. In the third
phase, the developer is overseeing the game as it is created to make sure
it jibes with the original concept."
Video game developers have to be able to effectively communicate with the
other developers and solve programming challenges in a creative way. They
also need to play and read about other games to understand how they work.
That part sounds pretty fun!
Most video game developers get hired by a company and work in an office.
Sometimes they may work from home, but generally they need to be in close
contact with the team they're developing the game with.
The job hours can vary quite a bit. Depending on where a developer is
in the project, it can get pretty crazy!
"For 90 percent of the project it's Monday to Friday, nine to five, but
the last ten percent usually sees a dramatic increase in the hours," says
Cary Brisebois. Brisebois is a senior programmer at a video game company.
"Typically, it's Monday through Friday. But it's not typically nine to
five," says Rick Marazzani. He is the founder and general manager of a video
game company. "Flex time has predominated in the video game industry, because
engineers like to work on their own hours, when they're most productive."
To some degree, people with disabilities could do this job. It would be
difficult without the use of one's hands, however.
For a long time, working on video games was considered a male domain.
Is that still the case? Those in the field say there may be more men than
women, but that shouldn't hold females back from this career.
Lesley Phord-Toy is a game director. "I have worked with many women in
the game industry who are in leadership positions," she says. I have often
heard from my male counterparts that they value the organizational skills
of the women on the team to help keep the projects on track.
"I honestly feel that if you are skilled at what you do, there is no reason
why you would be negatively affected being a woman in the game industry. You
do definitely need to be able to work with mostly men, however."
"As a whole, women are severely underrepresented in this industry -- only
comprising about ten percent of the workforce," says Riedl. "There are several
reasons why this may be so: the perception that it's a boys' industry, the
long hours, better-paying jobs elsewhere... We're very lucky that over half
of our staff are women, including our CEO, VP of sales, chief technology officer
and production manager."