The games development industry comprises a broad range of roles that encompass a variety of skill sets. Some of these roles include programmer, designer, producer, artist, animator, sound designer, community manager, and quality assurance tester, just to name a few. To get an idea of what these roles involve, check out this guide at Screenskills. (Please note, this is a British website so not all course information will be applicable to Australian students.) This site lists a range of job opportunities in the industry, including position descriptions, and highlights the diversity of roles in the sector.
Suggestions for a High School Student:
Programmer: Study maths, physics and IT subjects. There is no way around the “hard stuff.” As technology is always changing, find out what coding languages are currently being used in the games industry.
Artist/animator: Study art, graphic design, photography, media. Computing gives you an understanding of how programmers work, which is useful as artists need to work closely with them. It is also good to have an understanding of marketing, as game artists in small teams will often create the artwork for the studio’s social media.
Sound designer: Study music, media and IT subjects. You’ll probably need to do an audio engineering course after high school, so having solid computing skills will be useful.
Game designer: This role can vary greatly from company to company so it’s difficult to recommend specific subjects. If you’ll be involved with level design, physics and maths are useful. If your role focuses on narrative design, creative writing, media and editing skills will be helpful. IT subjects will help you understand how programmers work which is great especially as some game designers also help with coding.
Producer: Producers, like game designers, often have a diverse skillset. Business management and accounting can be useful, as producers manage the production budget and schedule, so good organisational skills are key. Psychology can be helpful as producers must manage their team and also liaise with publishers, media and other stakeholders. They may also be in charge of managing marketing and social media in smaller companies. Lastly, art, media and computing subjects will help you understand how the developers on your teamwork, which can help you to more effectively manage a project.
(Please note, the above list is only a guide. Video game developers are not clones of each other and exist in a fast-moving and highly competitive environment that is characterised by continuous technological and business innovations. The same role can vary quite dramatically from company to company and there are many paths into the industry.)
Another great way to engage with video games in high school is the Australian STEM Video Game Challenge. Sponsored by IGEA, the program is about encouraging STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills through the enjoyable and intrinsically fun medium of interactive game development. This serves not only to alter student perception of STEM subject areas but also as a great intro to the engaging power of video games!
Many tertiary institutions offer games development or related courses, so have a look at what’s in your local area.
The best first step is to consult your University Admission Centre. These process applications for admission to most undergraduate courses at participating institutions and allow you to browse available offerings. They do not only list traditional universities also private education providers such as AIE and SAE which offer a range of pathways and degrees. AIE runs the Game Plus incubator, a proud member of IGEA.
- For Queensland, check QTAC
- For New South Wales and Canberra, check UAC
- For Victoria, check VTAC
- For South Australia and the Northern Territories, check SATAC
- For Western Australia, check TISC
If you are concerned about the quality of an educational institute offering higher education degrees, Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching (QILT), a suite of government-endorsed surveys for higher education, which cover the student life cycle from commencement to employment, will offer you guidance.
The most important thing to remember is that working in the games industry requires passion, dedication, networking, and a lot of hard work. The industry in Australia is comparatively small and you will be competing against some great talent for available roles. Even if it’s not a viable career path for you, there’s no reason you can’t make games as a hobby!
Online Resources For Games Development
Here are some website and software recommendations.
Game Development Software Aimed at Beginners:
- Construct 2: An HTML5 game creator designed specifically for 2D games.
- GameSalad: Create games for iOS, Android and HTML5 with easy drag and drop function.
- Stencyl: Multiplatform game development software.
- RPG Maker: Software to create role-playing games.
- Scratch: Program your own interactive stories, games, and animations.
Game Development Software:
- Unity: A flexible and powerful development platform for creating multiplatform 3D and 2D games and interactive experiences.
- Unreal Engine: A complete suite of multi-platform game development tools.
Engaging with game engines and associated tools to “mod” games is also a good way to gain a better understanding of the inner working of video games.
Learn to code:
- Code Academy: Learn to code interactively for free.
While these sites also contain courses you have to pay for, there are plenty of free resources aimed at various skill levels – from heavy stuff at MIT to content for a younger audience at Code Avengers.
- Blender: A free and open-source 3D art creation suite.
There are also free versions of proprietary software available. While these are often limited in terms of features and cannot be used for commercial projects, they can nevertheless serve as a good introduction. Examples include Nuke for VFX or Houdini Apprentice.
- GIMP: The GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a free software for photo retouching, image composition and image authoring etc. Think of it as a free alternative to Photoshop.
- Sculptris: A 3D art program.
- Inkscape: Open source vector art program.