9 Things You Need To Know Before Studying Game Development at University
Always be prepared.
1. Learn what’s involved in the other disciplines.
Your chosen area of study is not the be-and-end-all of what goes into making a game. Understanding what’s expected of a programmer, a designer, an artist, an audio engineer or anyone else you can think of, is important. It’ll give you some perspective but crucially, will make working with them in the future a whole lot easier.
2. Know how to code.
This might sound obvious, but it’s important that you at least understand the basics before you embark on your course. Think of it as learning a new language, because that’s essentially what you’re doing over the course of 12 weeks. Going in blind can prove a significant setback, as you’re presented with what can only be described as a wall of information and are expected to able to put that information into practice even in the very early stages of your learning.
3. Call of Duty is not the only game in existence.
You’d be surprised at how few people explore the multitude of genres that span today’s market. Having an eclectic knowledge is the key to understanding the defining characteristics of a game and reasoning why it plays or tells its story in a particular manner.
4. Read everything you can get your hands on.
There is a staggering amount of reading material on gaming, and not just in the form of review articles and strategy guides. Dev Blogs, Opinion Pieces, Case Studies, Essays, the list goes on and on. Read as much of it as you possibly can, the insight it can provide is invaluable.
5. Respect the classics.
While gaming is still often considered the youngest and most immature entertainment form by the public at large, it has a history now spanning over 40 years. And in that time, it has grown into a billion dollar industry, home to an innumerable amount of titles, some that were good… and some that were so bad, that all copies were destroyed and buried in the desert. (This is 100% true, look up “E.T. Atari 2600”). But this history, regardless of however short it may be, can be a well of inspiration to designers young and old.
6. Learn how to think like a critic.
While the average player might like to just shut their brain off for an hour or two per night and just have some mindless fun, this isn’t the case for a critic. While you’ll never have to scrutinise a game to the same degree that a tester would – such as making their character run and jump along the same wall for three hours – it is important that you begin to analyse and imagine how and why a feature was implemented and how it fits in the game as a whole. The next time you boot up your favourite title, ask yourself; was this feature necessary? Does it influence some other aspect of the gameplay? Does it influence how I play the game? How might it work on a technical level?
7. Be prepared for a lot of all-nighters.
Otherwise known as “Crunch Time”, it’s a commonly used phrase in the games industry, and while a lack of sleep is nothing new to most students, writing code at 5 AM requires a certain amount of mental fortitude and a lot of coffee to avoid a total crash.
— Jehi Jha (@jehijha) March 8, 2016
8. Making a game can be difficult and takes A LOT of time.
There’s a reason why it takes even the largest and best funded studios years to develop a single game. The key thing to remember working in the industry is that you are providing your players a service in the form of entertainment. Therefore that service has to be of the highest quality you can provide. Starting out with a fresh concept will usually mean that your game only exists on paper for the first few months of its life, giving it time to mature and hold up to scrutiny.
9. Nothing beats seeing your game come to life for the first time.
You’ve worked on it for that last 12 weeks, you’ve never stopped thinking about it in all that time – it’s your baby. You’ll likely experience that feeling a lot by the end of an intense project. But it never gets old. Seeing it boot up makes the amount of time and effort you’ve put into it all worthwhile. (Bonus points if it actually works on the first try without dumping an error).