Games Industry Mentor, Career Advice, and Programming 101.

04 Jun
June 4, 2012

Launching this blog has been an extremely educational experience. I wanted to post a quick update to discuss where I sit today, what I’ve been learning recently, and what I’m feeling called to do next.

During the process of writing my first couple posts, I’ve talked a lot about passion. Passion not just for video games, but music, art, storytelling; subjects that took over my heart, disciplines I spent countless hours developing. Yet everything seemed to come back to games in all the work I did. I imagined orchestral scores reminiscent of Martin O’Donnell’s work in Halo (it’s on iTunes if you want to experience some hardcore nostalgia). Actually, my first adventures into photoshop and the 3D modeling world were to make my own mods for Halo PC. Every avenue of the arts I explored somehow led me back to games.

That was no coincidence. I was meant to be heading towards a career in games, using all the facets of passion I’d discovered in high school to develop games. In my last post, I described exactly what my dream job would look like. While my interest in making games certainly includes the art and design side of the process, what really fascinates me is game-play. I realized in my research that my dream of developing game-play aspects, especially in a senior position, would never come into fruition unless I learned to code. Programming and the prospect of trying to learn it had never really set me on fire. Suddenly, in the context of coding elements like artificial intelligence and game-play mechanics, that’s changed. Explosively.

I started yesterday.

It’s difficult, but riveting. My good friend Chris met up with me to get me started. He’s been rubbing his knowledge off on me since we were thirteen. Thanks to him, getting started was actually pretty easy!

A few days ago I stumbled on to Games Industry Mentor, a podcast by an environmental artist at BioWare named Aaron Canaday (websitetwitterpodcast websitepodcast itunes). Mr. Canaday started the show as a resource for aspiring game designers and developers looking for foot-in-the-door kind of advice.

It’s fantastic stuff.

I listened to Episode 12: Programming 101, hoping to gain a little encouragement and direction. That was a good move. The two guests on the episode, both senior programmers (also) at BioWare named Edgar Glowacki and Aaron Otstott, offered mountains of advice for any kind of person interested in the programming side of this industry. I quickly realized after clicking play that I needed to take notes. 700 words worth, as it happened.

I’d like to discuss everything that popped to me a little bit further than I have time for today, but I’ll note a few things that were particularly important:

  • Of the disciplines within a typical game studio’s programming department, game-play programming is probably where my ambitions fit best.
  • Choosing C++ as my first language is the harder route, but it’s the unsung standard language of the industry and will be expected of me.
  • Starting in QA has always been one of the easier ways to get into the industry. It isn’t easy anymore. Moving up takes a lot of work, a lot of networking, and a lot of luck. Yet, I still feel called to pursue a QA position. Probably while still learning C++.
  • “Be passionate” and “be humble” were probably said a few dozen times each. That’s my kind of language!
  • Figuring out and communicating a sincere passion for development is vitally important, especially during interviews. I might already be kicking some serious ass in this regard.

I’m certainly off to a fantastic start in my quest to make this happen. Everything I’ve learned so far, every piece of advice I’ve absorbed, it brings me closer to my goal. Yup. This is, without any doubt, the industry I belong in.

I’m learning a ton. That’s great. I’m ready to take it further.

It’s time to get hired.

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