This Week In The Business: So You Want To Be A Developer?

Image: Media Molecule

QUOTE | “Even when I see students enrolling in predatory schools that count ‘indie’ as alumni career placement to bilk students into bloated programs they don’t need for jobs they won’t get, I never discourage. Frankly, it’s time I looked at myself in the mirror and asked if I’m really acting ethically. Am I an enabler?” - Over the Moon Games’ John Warner says it’s time to tone down the encouragement the industry gives aspiring indies.


QUOTE | “The way to operate in the arts is to take small risks by doing highly risky small things that make you happy and give you experience/resumé items even when they fail catastrophically. Don’t build your livelihood or taste or happiness around expecting commercial success.” - SpellTower developer Zach Gage, one of a number of indies who weighed in on Warner’s editorial.

QUOTE | “No matter what you do in this industry you’ll most likely fail; your career will be turbulent no matter what you do. But if the people working on a game aren’t excited about what they’re making, then you will definitely fail.” - Flame in the Flood developer Gwen Frey says her best advice for developers is “only work on projects you believe in.”

QUOTE | “Not in my darkest nightmares did I expect this day to ever come, but circumstances have reached a point that even my endless optimism can no longer rectify.” - After six years, developer Josh Parnell announces the cancellation of his Kickstarted procedural space game Limit Theory due to physical, emotional, and financial exhaustion.

QUOTE | “We are making entertainment. We aren’t curing cancer. We need to understand the human cost of making games and make the doom manageable.” - Media Molecule studio director Siobhan Reddy sees her role as not just ensuring the Dreams developer makes good games, but that it’s also a good place to work.

QUOTE | “Heeeeyyyy remember how there was going to be a skeleton crew staying on for a while and I was part of it? Nah, jk, we all just got laid off, too.” - Former Telltale Games narrative designer Rachel Noel on Twitter, confirming another round of layoffs at the beleaguered developer.

QUOTE | “#AsAGamesWorker, I want to work in an industry that puts the well being of game developers in the forefront. Before shareholders. Before clients. Before management. Before public image. Before established practices. Before corporate culture. Before everything else.” - Warner Bros. Montreal developer Osama Dorias, seemingly starting a hashtag to highlight conditions that need to change for developers, be they indie or AAA.


QUOTE | “Housemarque is dead to me, and you can all go and get bent.” - Housemarque game designer Henri Markus, recounting the sentiments of a dedicated fan after the previously arcade-focused studio unveiled its new battle royale game, Stormdivers.

QUOTE | “You know what is missing in this industry? A soul. Video games are about gaming, and gaming is not about entertainment, it’s about learning.” - Ubisoft chief creative officer Serge Hascoet says the industry should make more games that somehow enrich players’ lives.


QUOTE | “From a technical point-of-view, going free-to-play has been a nightmare. From a store point-of-view it’s a nightmare as well.” MercurySteam owner Enric Alvarez discusses the Metroid: Samus Returns developer’s difficult move into free-to-play with Raiders of the Broken Planet and Spacelords.

QUOTE | “If you can make a player pause at a series of dialogue options or quest solutions and weigh each one for a while, then you’ve done it right.” - Chris Avellone (Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity) discusses his approach to interactive narrative in a feature about his latest project, Pathfinder: Kingmaker.


Video game “universities” or “schools” are generally pretty scummy, for profit institutions that don’t care if you get a good education. They promise students that they’ll get jobs in the industry, entice people with flashy commercials and then give them a virtually worthless certificate. There certainly are graduates from some of these universities who have been successful, many, many more have not. I’ve worked in both the games industry and now in IT, the ranks of former students with these largely useless degrees working in entry level positions are numerous.

My strong advice to anyone thinking of going to a video game design school to try to be a game developer is this: don’t. If you want to work in the industry, building a portfolio of examples through amateur design and development, mod work, open source project, etc. is much more impressive and important. If you want to get a degree, get it in Computer Science or Computer Engineering and work on your portfolio in your spare time; because even if you crash out of the industry a degree, particularly a BS or MS in CS is going to take you much farther in the world beyond the video game industry.