For many, working as a video game programmer at a famous development studio sounds like a dream job. I have been a video game programmer for seven years now and would like to share my four best tips for making this dream a reality.
Know what you're getting into
Before you dive into becoming a video game programmer, spend a little time to research what working at a video game studio actually entails. You don't want to spend time and effort becoming a video game programmer only to realize that it's not what you were hoping for.
Working as a video game programmer takes a lot of effort. The work hours and deadlines can get stressful, especially near the end of a project. Talk with people who are in the video game business, either in person or online, about any questions you may have about the business.
Create your own games
Try your hand at making your own games at home to see what it's like. You can start with simple projects first, such as basic text games or simple shooters. Grab a book on video game programming at your local bookstore (there are many to choose from) and dive in. C and Java are good programming languages to start out with.
Don't try to create something too big or you'll quickly get overwhelmed. The purpose of this is to learn what it's like to make games and get a little experience, not to develop the next award winning MMORPG. Development studios will be more likely to hire you if you have a good project or two that you can include with your resume.
Go To College
Currently video game development studios are hungry for programmers. They spend a lot of money using headhunters to help them locate new people to hire. The good news is that once you are in the video game business, there are many opportunities for companies to work for. There are many different projects and locations that you can choose from. The bad news is that the studios can be very picky about hiring new employees with no previous video game programming experience. Therefore it can be very hard to get your foot in the door.
Going to college for a Computer Science degree and getting excellent grades is one of the best ways to show video game studios that you will be a competent and committed employee. The classes will also give you many of the skills that you need to work.
There are schools now that specialize in video game degrees, such as DigiPen. They are still relatively new and it's not clear whether they increase your chances of getting a job in the video game industry.
Know your games! The video game industry is changing at a breakneck pace, so it's important to stay up to date with the new products. Play many different games every month to see what companies are doing now with video games.
Development studios want to make sure that they only hire programmers that are devoted to video games. Staying up to date with videogames is an excellent way to demonstrate this.