There are a number of ways to enter the game development industry in South Africa, including getting a relevant university degree.
This is according to Nicolas Bischoff, one half of independent game developer The Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood released the successful point-and-click science-fiction horror adventure game STASIS, and its free tie-in Cayne.
It is currently working on a post-apocalyptic adventure game called Beautiful Desolation, which was Kickstarted this year.
“Game development, like film, is a largely faceted industry. There is a massive scope for career entry points,” said Bischoff.
“A typical studio will have several major roles that need to be filled in order to produce an end product.”
These include game studio manager, director, and producers, as well as programmers, artists, sound and music producers, and people in marketing and promotions.
Programming roles can be further subdivided into engine developers, game developers, and research and development.
The art department can consist of 2D, 3D, user interface, and concept artists.
When it comes to programming, Bischoff recommended doing a BSc in Computer Science or similar degree, and combining it with self-study in game development.
“With this combo, you cannot go wrong in getting a job anywhere in the world,” he said.
For your high school subject selection, Bischoff recommended English, mathematics, all computer courses your school might offer, and art.
Bischoff said that as a programmer, getting as much mathematical understanding as possible was important.
“Algebra and vector math are the most important, but game development touches on trigonometry, geometry, and calculus.”
“If you intend to work at a AAA studio overseas, then you would need a very good grounding in mathematics. I wasn’t particularly brilliant at school maths, but I had a good grasp of the concepts that I now use daily.”
From an artist’s perspective, his brother, Christopher Bischoff, joked he has only needed to know how to work a basic calculator.
Pros and cons
Bischoff said being a game developer has the following positive aspects:
- Artistic expression.
- A global market.
- A growing field of opportunity, as the industry keeps getting larger.
- Great work environments, often with creative people.
Like most jobs, there are also negatives:
- Game development is a competitive industry, you need to constantly keep up with game news, development news, and technology, and keep your skills current.
- It is complicated, and a lot of things need to come together to produce a final product.
- Time consuming, like most creative industries.
- You won’t enjoy playing games anymore. You will deconstruct everything to see how it works and what makes it fun.
The most important thing
Being a game developer requires constant self-study, and Bischoff recommended the following YouTube channels to get started:
The most important thing you need to land a job at any studio around the world is your portfolio and experience.
“You need to start building it up now. Most professional tools are free to use – download Unity, Unreal, and GameMaker now and get working,” said Bischoff.