Computer Games Developer Careers

How to become a Computer Games Developer

What does a Computer Games Developer do?

Computer games developers produce games for PCs and games consoles, working on new games and updating existing titles. There are many development stages leading up to a game's release - initially, the development team may be small, but as the project nears completion, up to 30-40 people may be involved. They may also work on games for the internet or for mobile phones. Games development usually breaks down into specialist roles including:

Designer - designers develop concepts for games, including the design detail, structure, and technical and functional specifications. They have an understanding of the whole development process, the conventions of game play and the target markets.

Graphic Artist - graphic artists bring the game to life visually, giving an effective appearance to the backgrounds, characters and interface. They often have their own specialisms, including storyboarding, or 3D modelling of characters, objects and scenery. They usually work under the instruction of a Lead Artist.

Animator - animators are artists who work on the appearance of objects or characters in motion. They add convincing movement to static images, taking into account factors like timing, spatial awareness and expressions. Animators sometimes have specialisms such as character animation.

Audio/Sound Engineer - audio/sound engineers create sound effects, character voice-overs and musical scores for games. They work with programmers to ensure effects required by designers can be incorporated into a game. They may also work with composers to produce musical scores for games.

Programmer - programmers are responsible for the code that enables the game to function. Like other members of a games development team, programmers have specialisms: they may develop software tools for artists and designers to use, design and build game engines and debugging programs to optimise game performance, or develop the artificial intelligence techniques commonly used in games. Programmers also test their code and fix bugs. They usually work under the instruction of a Lead Programmer.

Tester/Quality Assurance Technician - testers work with programmers and producers to identify problems during game development. They check playability, reliability, sequencing, scoring, functions and menus, reporting defects in design, game-play and software to the team. This is a common entry-level role.

Producer - also sometimes called project managers, producers have overall responsibility for the project, ensuring the finished game is delivered to the publisher/distributor on time and within budget. They liaise with all sections of the development team and monitor progress, set targets and allocate resources; and also sometimes deal with sales and marketing activities to generate interest in the forthcoming product. They have a good overview of the game, the team and how the process comes together.

Skillset’s website has more detailed information about specific job roles within the computer games industry – see the Further Information section for contact details.

What's the working environment like working as a Computer Games Developer?

Work is office-based, usually during normal office hours Monday to Friday. Overtime may be necessary to meet deadlines, particularly in the run-up to a game's launch.

Work can be pressurised, as the market is highly competitive and subject to seasonal peaks.

What does it take to become a Computer Games Developer?

All roles in games development require:

  • an understanding of the history and culture of games
  • the ability to think creatively and solve problems
  • excellent team-working skills and analytical skills
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • excellent IT skills
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • the ability to keep up with industry developments and willingness to acquire new skills.
Additionally, artistic and design roles require a working knowledge of 3D modelling software, animation tools and graphics packages, plus the ability to draw; for technical aspects, a knowledge of programming is essential, usually requiring a good level of maths and physics. Testers need patience, persistence and good observational skills. Producers need project management experience.

Language skills are useful if involved in the development or localisation process for overseas markets.

Computer Games Developer Career Opportunities

There are many opportunities in the industry for people with the right level of skills and qualifications. Many computer games firms offer structured career paths for all disciplines within games development. Entrants with drawn animation, camera, lighting, mobile phone technology or scriptwriting skills and relevant industry experience are particularly in demand.

Positions are available overseas, particularly Europe and the United States. There is a large market for computer games in Japan so an understanding of Japanese culture could be beneficial.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Computer Games Developer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Prospect House
80-110 New Oxford Street

Skillset Careers
Tel: 08080 300 900 for England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Tel: 0808 100 8094 for Scotland

e-skills UK
1 Castle Lane

International Games Developers Association

Information Systems Examinations Board
The British Computer Society
1 Sanford Street
Tel: 01793 417542