Could You Program the Next Big Gaming Phenomenon?
Video games have been popular for decades and the advances made over this time have often been breathtaking. If you enjoy playing games then you may also have harbored thoughts of designing and coding your own games. Maybe you already have tried. Is it possible to design the best selling game today?
At the start of computer and video gaming
Back in the 1970s arcades were huge. Many classic games that are still around came out during this period including PacMan, Space Invaders, and Asteroids. After the arcades started closing the home market started to take over with Atari becoming a market leader.
The games back then for the Atari 2600 were supplied on cartridges, programmed in Assembly language, and were graphically simple. They were usually programmed and designed by a single person as opposed to large teams today.
Home computers started taking their places in the bedrooms during the 80s. It was during that period that home game designing started to take off. Many young adults and teenagers learned BASIC first and then the better coders learned how to write Z80 machine code.
Having a home computer such as a ZX Spectrum opened up the possibility of learning how to not only program but to write a game and sell it. In the early days of the Vic 20 and the ZX Spectrum, many games were of low quality and programmed in BASIC. From 1982 to 1985 the quality improved rapidly.
How big were computer games in the 1980s?
Over 5 million ZX Spectrums alone were sold which gives an idea of how big home computing was back then. Programmers then were paid extortionate salaries and drove sports cars but then it came crashing down. The biggest casualty in the UK was a company called Imagine that imploded while they were being filmed for a documentary on the success of the games industry.
Modern game development
Nowadays vast budgets are spent on development. Game development is far more complex now, and there are teams made up of dozens of people working on one game project. It may take years for a game to see the light of day. Back in the past, it was often one person sitting at home, programming in their bedroom for a few months or sometimes just weeks.
How can you get a career in the video games industry?
If you are interested in a career in this field then there are lots of roles available. It would depend on your particular skills. You might be talented at designing and developing games, creating the world, and writing scripts. Or, you may be a good musician and wish to write soundtracks for games.
Of course, one huge area is actual programming. You may not need formal education if you can display a genuine skill at coding but obtaining a computer programming degree is a good choice. This is because you will learn all the necessary skills to not only look at the games industry but many other options too. Programmers are needed in many fields.
Can you make it as a lone programmer?
These days it is much harder to design games alone than back in the 80s. There are indeed independent coders and designers but you would need finances behind you while you are programming. This means taking on other employment and coding part-time or using savings. Even if you wrote a great game you would still need to market it and get the public to notice it.
Are there any entry-level ways to learn game design?
To be a coder there are no shortcuts as you will need to know how to program. If you want to learn about gaming design then there are quite a few platforms that let you make your own games. Adventure Games Studio lets the user create point and click games that were made popular by LucasArts years ago.
Some coding games help youngsters practice their skills such as CodeMonkey and CodinGame. Another possibility is learning to make games in HTML and publishing online.
Mobile phone games
If you really want to be a solo programmer then the one platform that may be available to you is mobile devices. Once you have your programming skills to the required level you can try and develop mobile games. If you create something entertaining and well written you can self publish on Google Play and receive downloads. If it is good enough you can charge for each download.
While it is unlikely a single person will create a game as big as Space Invaders these days it is still possible to be an independent coder. Learning how to program properly is essential but with imagination and a good idea you could be releasing your own games for Android and Apple.