Whether you were raised on Mario Kart or consider yourself an Elden Ring expert, many of us have fond memories playing video games. Some people love gaming so much that they decide to pursue a career in game development. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to break in if you want to work in gaming.
“In the gaming industry, there are so many different avenues,” says Dylan Lavis, Senior Technical Recruiter at Nxt Level, a recruiting agency for gaming and technology. From Gameplay Programmers who write code that makes animations move to Data Scientists who analyze esports pros’ performance, there’s a variety of careers you can have in the field.
Breaking into the gaming industry requires more than just logging hours playing games (though that experience definitely helps). To get you started, we’ve rounded up some tips from recruiters who specialize in game development. If you want to dive even deeper, our new free course Introduction to Game Development will give you an overview of the different roles that are involved in the game development and design process, plus familiarize you with the tools that pros use to make your favorite games.
Think about games you like to play
First thing’s first, you have to figure out what types of games and platforms you’re interested in making, Dylan says. Think about games that you enjoy playing: “Is it a computer game? Is it a mobile game? The type of game makes a difference in the programming languages that you would use,” he says. In Introduction to Game Development, you’ll learn about the most common game types and how the design process can differ.
Narrowing your focus will help you determine which technical skills you need to learn or projects you need to build in order to ultimately land a job in the gaming business. It’s best to start with your immediate interests, rather than trying to project what your exact path will be. “Figure out what you want to build, not what you want to do with your life,” Dylan says.
Learn the programming languages
Every video game requires code to bring the characters, stories, and actions to life. Here are the most popular programming languages used in game development that are worth learning:
If you’re brand new to coding or are overwhelmed by all of the options, take our coding personality quiz. It’ll help you discover the courses, careers, and languages that align with your interests and goals.
Practice using game engines
Game engines (or frameworks) are game development environments that come pre-packaged with libraries specifically for gaming. “Game engines are huge assets,” Dylan says. For example, there are game engines that allow developers to incorporate sounds, movement, 3D renderings, and lighting effects into their games without having to code it from scratch.
Get portfolio-worthy experience
The number one thing that job-seekers need to break into game development is a portfolio of game projects, Dylan says. “You’ve got to be able to show your work,” he says.
Don’t sweat it if you don’t have professional experience in the gaming space yet — any games that you’ve created or contributed to can go in your portfolio, explains Marc Mencher, a technical gaming recruiter who works with companies like SEGA, Sony, and Nintendo. Even if it was a just-for-fun game jam contribution, or one level of a game that you designed, it all counts as relevant experience. “It's just about showing the effort and getting it done,” Marc says. For some inspiration, check out these incredible games made by Codecademy learners.
A pro tip to keep in mind as you build your portfolio: Recruiters want to see a couple paragraphs of code that you’ve written, Marc says. “Of course, you want the code to be clean, and it can't just be system calls — the code has to do something,” he says. Linking to your GitHub profile in your portfolio also “makes a huge difference,” because recruiters can see you’re actively contributing to projects and read code that you’ve written, Dylan says.
Refresh your resume
A few details that should definitely be included on your Game Developer resume are the programming languages you know, the games you have experience playing, and any game projects that you’ve worked on.
Beyond that, be sure to include the titles of games that you’re knowledgeable about from a player’s perspective, Marc says. While it might seem weird to write “proficient in Call of Duty” on your professional resume, it will catch a gaming recruiter’s eye. “Put down names of games on a resume — people don't think to do necessarily,” he says.
Express your passion for gaming
In today’s job market, the people who stand out are the ones who clearly dedicate their time to playing, building, and learning about games, Dylan says. “If you're in the gaming industry, you're a gamer at heart,” he says. You have to find ways to showcase your passion for gaming and tell your story.
For example, you could write about the games you grew up playing in your professional bio, or talk about a specific game that inspired you to pursue game development during your job interview, Dylan says. Engage with the gaming community so you’re up-to-date on industry news, and use social media sites like Discord and Twitch to network with gaming professionals. (BTW, Codecademy’s Discord server is a great way to meet other people who are learning to code, as well as folks who are interested in game development.)
Lastly, when you’re brand new in any industry, Dylan says you have to strike a balance between feeling confident in what you know, and having the humility to admit what you don’t know. “Studios want eager go-getter types and quick learners,” he says. “But at the same time, humility is a trait I've discovered over time that you really want.”
Ready to start applying for jobs in game development? You can start your journey today by taking the free course Introduction to Game Development. And be sure to check out all of our game development courses to learn the important technical skills you need to make games and get recognized by recruiters.