In the course of my work, I contribute content to games (mostly music and words). I meet a fair amount of young people who want to be employed in the games industry; students of various disciplines like programming, design and art, and kids who simply enjoy gaming.
My friend, Nicole Stark, has been an animator, designer and artist for 15 years. She’s also a mum who has worked with her children on commercially released games including Ninja Pizza Girl.
One point Nicole and I particularly agree on is that it would be wonderful to encourage more people from diverse cultural backgrounds and with a range of identities to contribute to games, as well as everyone who already does. Can your son be a game designer? Absolutely. Can your daughter? Absolutely. As can, we hope, everyone, no matter who they are.
Nicole has provided insight and useful starting points below.
What are some of the ups and downs to game development as a career?
Game development is a creative career that with all the associated ups and downs. There is nothing better than watching someone have fun, and knowing that you made that fun. And if fun isn’t your thing, it’s also a buzz watching people get lost in your world, experience loss, frustration, joy or transcendence, and knowing that your work made that possible.
Unfortunately you will never have enough energy, resources or talent to make your creation perfect. Whether you are working for big global mega-corporations or tiny indie teams its very, very easy to work too hard. Crunch and work/life balance are a huge problem in the games industry.
The games industry also has a diversity problem. Despite the audience for games being as diverse as the population, the workforce is overwhelmingly white, male and straight. Decades of publishers and developers marketing to young men has created a cycle where women and people of colour don’t always see themselves represented in the industry, and therefore don’t pursue it as a career.
What kind of person would you recommend a career in game dev to?
The good news is that lots of kinds of people can survive and thrive in the games industry. Making games is a team sport, so it is important that you play well with others. Lots of disciplines come together in this industry, so whatever your talent, chances are there is a place for you.
What kinds of roles can people pursue in game dev?
A very basic list would include artists, designers, programmers, audio designers and composers, producers, marketing people, accountants, office managers, but there are lots more.
Where can young people learn and practice making games?
Its never been easier to learn how to make games at home, but it can be hard to know where to start 🙂
If possible try a holiday workshop at your local library or join your local Coderdojo.
Many kids start out playing with mods for existing games, like Minecraft or The Sims. Don’t stress if your child seems more interested in playing than building games. They’re learning while playing too.
Scratch has a lot of tutorials and is a great way get a feel for the basic concepts of coding and building games.
Twine is a free tool that allows kids to create interactive stories.
If coding isn’t your thing (and remember programmers are just a small part of a game development team) there are lots of apps that let kids try out animation and sound design. Google’s Toontastic is available free on mobile devices.