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I am a student in Game Programming at University and a lot of students like me are wondering the best way of entering the industry. With a bachelor degree in game programming, but no real experience in the game industry, how can students begin developing real projects ?

Major game companies requires you to have 2 - 3 years of experience, so how do you guys suggest us to make our way through this selective industry ? Start in smaller buisness ? Build a kick-ass demo could maybe be enough ? Massively read all game programming books we can ?

Thanks for your suggestions, the question is yours !

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4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

As someone trying to get into the programming side you've got two main options.

Internships

Look for any internships you can find with game companies in your area. These are a great way to get your foot in the door. Many larger publishers use internships as a try-before-you-buy plan with students. If you can prove yourself in a real production situation then you will often find a job offer at the end of that internship, if the company has open slots.

However, please come into it with mindset to learn as much as you can. There are few things more annoying than a student who has spent a couple years in school and thinks they know how everything works.

Make Something, Show your Passion!

When looking at two inexperienced candidates if one of them has some software they can show that's certainly a leg up on someone that has nothing. It doesn't have to be a finished game, but obviously if another candidate has a game and you don't that looks better on them. Most importantly it needs to be easily demonstrated (have video of it running as well as the code) and you should be able to clearly explain what you did.

Note, you've likely made some projects in school, but so has everyone else and often similar projects. I'd advise against showing those unless they are very good, or you've taken them far beyond the class requirements. Think about the message you send with what you show. Class work says, "I couldn't be bothered to do more than the minimum." That's not the message you want to send.

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+1 for the excellent response above. I would like to add that in addition to working on personal projects, you should have at least one team project you've worked on and completed. To potential employers, team projects demonstrate your ability to collaborate and work effectively with others, which is a necessity in our industry. If you're interested in looking for team projects, I'd highly recommend checking out the "Help Wanted" forms on indiedb.com and gamedev.net –  Ari Patrick Oct 21 '10 at 5:16
    
I will check theses on my next free times, as students it's hard to come with a concrete and quite complete project and push it to the end with all school works to do and side jobs to live so team projects could be a nice avenue ! –  Frédérick Imbeault Oct 21 '10 at 15:53

The barrier for developing games is so low now that if you are truly interested you have no excuse not to.

Use Flash, HTML5, Java, Ruby, Python, even GameMaker. You can create a game for a game making competition, or just for yourself, but the important thing is to make one and complete it. It really adds a lot of perspective into what matters and what doesn't when you sit down and complete a game.

Additionally be sure to get your games in front of real players and get their real feedback. All the university courses, and even industry experience are a poor proxy for seeing how real people interact with your game.

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+1 for providing the link to ludumdare –  Vishnu Oct 21 '10 at 4:42

I think one of the better ways to establish yourself in the industry is to do just that - establish yourself in the industry. Develop an independent game, keep a blog, have it heavily publicized, and then everyone is going to know who you are, or be able to find out quickly. Like you said, game companies require you to have experience, so you can apply all you want, but in the meantime one of the only ways to fulfill that requirement is to create the experience yourself. Of course, one of the key dependencies of this plan is the fact that you must put out a quality product by yourself or in a small team/business. A portfolio of any sort will give you a much better chance of succeeding than those without one.

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Do you have some nice ideas of nice blogs that I could base myself on ? Just to know what kind of stuff I should keep on it, like small independent challenges, news of a bigger indenpendent projet, etc ? –  Frédérick Imbeault Oct 21 '10 at 1:17
    
@Frédérick Imbeault I'd talk about projects your working on, programming tips and tutorials, challenges you've overcome, and your opinion on industry-related news/articles. As long as the content you post on your blog is professional and relevant to the industry, you can't go wrong. :) –  Ari Patrick Oct 21 '10 at 5:33

The important thing in the age of online news, twitter and blogs is to be well known. To get a job in the games industry you only really need to do 2 (not so easy) things:

  • make an amazing independent game
  • publicize your game like crazy

As soon as you are "that guy who created Angry Farm" rather than some anonymous person, you will find it easy to get a foot in the door.

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I agree that being "that guy who created Angry Farm" would help someone's odds of making their way into the industry, but I don't see this as a viable strategy for most, as there are only a handful of "Angry Farms" that come out a year. Besides, in most cases, "that guy who created Angry Farm" either continues to make games on his own, or chooses to open his own development house. –  Ari Patrick Oct 21 '10 at 14:28
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I think the main advantage of creating games and writing articles talking about your experiences comes from the understanding that you gain. Sure you may get lucky and create a breakout hit, but in any case you'll build valuable skills. What company wouldn't hire someone that's proven they: are a self starter, get things done, understand things, and communicate effectively? –  Daniel X Moore Oct 22 '10 at 6:06

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