If you have a passion for games (playing or creating them) and you have a knack for picking up technical skills, then you may want to consider a career in Game Development.
Game Developers usually build games for PCs, consoles, websites, arcade machines, and various mobile and handheld devices. Sometimes, if they work for more independent gaming companies, they may also be involved in designing the game itself.
You will need to have the following subjects at high school:
- English Home Language, or first Additional Language
- Mathematics – Maths Literacy does not qualify
- Physical Science
- Art or Design
The following institutions are highly recommended for a BSc in Computer Science or other certifications related to Game Development specifically:
University of Technology:
- Cape Town University of Technology
- Wits University which needs a minimum APS score of 40
- Stellenbosch which needs 700 admission points
- University of Cape Town which needs a Faculty Point Score (FPS) of 660
- Rhodes University which needs a minimum APS score of 40
- University of Pretoria which needs a minimum APS score of 30
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or a related field
- Bachelor of Engineering majoring in Computer Programming
- It is possible to become a game developer, if you have other certifications that have taught you the relevant game development skills
You will need to have a strong grasp of the following:
- Development engines, like:
- Graphic design tools
- Artificial intelligence
- Programming skills, such as:
Some soft skills that will help you include:
- Critical thinking
- Good decision-making skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Quality control analysis
- Operations analysis
- Systems evaluation
- Professional communication
To practice these skills, you can look up relevant courses at coding bootcamps, like Code Academy, or online courses provided by companies like Udemy.
You will usually specialise in the field of Game Design, but it is also likely that you can start your own game development company and develop your own ‘indie’ games.
More frequently, Game Designers are also finding work in the e-learning industry, where you would build games that are focused around helping the user achieve certain learning objectives.
As a Game Developer, you can expect to work a normal 40-hour week. However, as deadlines approach, or if bugs need to be fixed, you might need to work into the evenings or on weekends to finish on time.
One benefit with your working hours will be that most companies allow their developers to work flexi-hours, which means that they won’t always work the usual hours of 9am to 5pm.
If you work at an independent game studio, which has usually just started out, it is likely that they will be paid in the form of profit share in the company. This is because the game is usually not completed, and the company has not yet made any money.
In an established studio, a junior Game Developer can expect to earn between R8 000 and R14 000, while an experienced Developer can earn between R25 000 and R30 000.
Usually you would work in an office or game studio, but you could also be employed on a freelance-basis where you will be able to work from home. In this case, your team may be located in other parts of your country, or even the world, which means that you will have to have good internet access and equipment that will allow you to work remotely.
The dress-code is often casual, unless you have a meeting with a client, which may require you to dress more formally.
Before diving into a career as a Game Developer, keep in mind that there is a lot of competition in the job market, and very few available game development jobs. To stay on top, you need to be sure that you keep your maths and programming skills up-to-date, as well as have a strong profile, with a lot of internship or other job experience.