A game programmer encompasses various specializations that professionals engaged in making video games focus on in the highly-collaborative game development process. In this profession, you could focus on becoming an audio programmer, special effects and graphics and artificial intelligence.
As an audio programmer, your work will center on attaching the sounds to the game. Sounds and music are integral in any game because it serves as a cue about various stages or events in it. Characters, levels and weapons each have their own distinct sounds and as a sound programmer, it is your job to assign these to each of them.
If you choose to specialize in programming a game’s special effects and graphics, you will focus on creating visual cues that make the game engaging to the player. The realistic gleam of a sword as it is wielded by a character or the sparks that fly from a dynamite that has exploded are part of your job. You will also be responsible for inserting text that will ask the player to choose between two actions.
As an artificial intelligence programmer, you will be undertaking one of the more challenging tasks that game programmers do. You will be encoding intelligence into the game characters so that they know how to find their way in a maze or respond to the movements of the enemy. An example of AI at work is easily seen in the number of enemies that players meet in the different levels of the game and the sophistication of their attacks. For instance, it’s easier to beat the enemies at the early stages of the game because they are not as numerous and aren’t as fast but as the game progresses, they become more agile and possess hidden powers that can creep up on the protagonists. These are the kinds of activities that you will be focusing on when you work as an AI programmer.
No matter what type of game programmer you choose to be, an important part of your job is ensuring that the game will continue to play without any lags or delays. The quality of a game depends largely on it being able to provide continuous action. It’s crucial for programmers to ensure that the game does not crash while it is being played.
To succeed in this profession, you need to possess the technical knowledge and skill to write the code for the game. In addition, you also need to have an eye for detail as well as possess keen problem solving skills since you need to be able to spot areas that need to be tweaked or issues that need to be addressed. Since video game making is a collaborative effort, you also need to have the ability to work well with others and communicate your ideas clearly to them.
Why Become A Game Programmer
For the avid gaming fan, a dream career would be to have the chance to play and develop video games all day and get paid for doing so. A career as a game programmer allows you to combine your passion for gaming with your skill in making video game code. As video and computer games continue to grow in popularity, there will be a demand for those who possess the technical skills to make them.
On the more practical side of things, this profession pays very well. Entry-level game programmers can expect to earn decent living wages with those who have experience standing to earn six-figure incomes.
Game Programmer Work Environment
Game programmers are employed with game development companies and gaming studios. They typically work fulltime in comfortable office settings and observe regular 40-hour work weeks. However, they usually put in more hours of work when they are trying to beat deadlines when a game is about to be launched. During these times, it is normal for them to practically live in the office, in a manner of speaking, as they solve last-minute issues in the game and make sure that it does not crash while in operation.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not gather salary data specifically for game programmers. However, the latest Game Developer Salary Survey revealed that programmers earned $93,251 a year which is higher than the $73,864 paid to game designers and the $74,349 paid to artists and animators. Audio professionals, however, earned a bit higher at $95,682. More experienced programmers stand to earn more than $100,000 a year.
Game Programmer Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have the job outlook for game programmers in particular. However, it has projected that, in general, computer occupations are expected to grow 18 percent in the period covering 2012 to 2022. This rate is faster than the average for all occupations. Gaming industry sources, on the other hand, revealed that there will always be strong demand for game programmers. Due to their creativity and technical skills, they are integral in making video and computer games come alive and as such they cannot just be replaced even when the economy is suffering a downturn.
Game Programmer Degree
While there are game programmers who got into the profession due to their experience in gaming and game development, employers do prefer those who have received formal education on the subject. Nowadays a common entry point towards a career as game programmer is a bachelor’s degree in computer science. For those who know that this is really going to be the work they intend to do for the rest of their lives, a degree in computer game development or game programming which is now offered in a lot of universities and colleges is an ideal preparation.
Aspiring game programmers should also hone their skills by participating in open source software development endeavors as well as have a passion for playing computer games. They should also keep themselves updated on the latest trends in the gaming industry.