Career Path Question

I’d love nothing more than to work within the games industry. Long hours, crap pay, unappreciated work - I have no delusions as to the difficulty and pains a career in game development can entail and none of that matters to me as long as I’m able to work on games at some level. That’s the main goal.

However, calling my current financial state abysmal would be the understatement of the century and I need to start making money now. I don’t have time to sit on my hands for 3 - 6 months learning a language while building a game dev portfolio. My initial thought was to go into web development, where all of my current coding experience lies. I know HTML5, CSS3, vanilla JavaScript, jQuery, enough PHP to build sites and plugins through WordPress, and a small bit of Python. I’m entirely self-taught and frankly a terrible visual artist. I can take a PSD site mockup and bring it to life, but ask me to make something from scratch and you’d probably disapprove.

The problem with web development is that it’s a full-time career path in-and-of itself. There’s AngularJS, ReactJS, Node.JS, Babel, TypeScript, dozens of other languages and frameworks that are touted as required to know through-and-through and on top of the code you’re expected to be a phenomenal web designer too.

Long-winded rant cut short, it feels like trying to work in web development is just going to leave me delaying any hope of a game dev career and I could possibly even find myself stuck in a career I don’t really want to be in.

Is there a way for me to start making money now, through freelance or entry level employment, where I can also learn and practice with the languages and tools necessary for a career game development?

I don’t believe that in web development you’re expected to be a phenomenal designer. From what I’ve read, as a front end developer you need to have great attention to detail and ability to incorporate stuff into the website that would be consistent with the design, but you’re not expected to also do the design part. True a lot of designers can also code, but what they mostly code is HTML and CSS and not at production level. Maybe some jQuery and sometimes a bit of JavaScript, but I believe this is rare for a designer.

That’s just my thoughts on the subject. I don’t have experience so what I’m saying is based exclusively on what I’ve read online and on my online interaction with some developers and designers. If a developer can also do basic design, then great, but I don’t believe they are required to also do the design for an official and professional website or web app.

By the way, I’m also interested in video game development, but in my country there aren’t really any video game companies (maybe some small companies that I haven’t heard of, but it’s unlikely), so I decided to pursue something that’s equally interesting to me, which is web development.

I’m just going off of what I’ve run into over the last two months. I see the term developer and designer being used interchangeably more often than not. I’ve worked alongside a graphic designer before and loved the experience, but it seems that most employers want an all-in-one designer/developer.

I’ve worked in game development teams large and small. We always had at least one dedicated programmer who never touched the visuals, and a bunch of visual artists who rarely touched the code. I can’t say exactly what is desired in a game developer, but you should be able to focus on development without worrying about your skills in the visual arts.

My thoughts on the career path - and I’m no oracle or expert - is that if you need to improve your financial situation, you’re better off sticking with web development for now and learning game development when you’re not stressed about money. Web development setups are absolutely complicated, and I agree that it’s a significant investment to get it all straight in your head. But web development will actually get you money, and you are far more likely to get hired for it. Game development can range from ‘much easier’ to ‘impossible without an advanced degree’, depending on which area you’d like to focus on, but there’s still a lot to learn there. You can do a lot for your gamedev dreams by deeply learning C# and Unity, or even more by deeply learning C++ and UE5. No matter what, you’re still looking at quite a bit of work just to get hired, maybe as an intern. If you can do that, then the best time to start is now.

As I see it, here are the benefits to “settling” for web development first:

  • Good pay, with which you can afford good tutorials, books, or even online classes
  • Professional connections. You think you’d be the only web developer who wants to make games?
  • Professional coding experience, because when it comes time to get a gamedev job, your resume will show you can get stuff done and work with others.
  • Improved coding skills. As you level up, you focus more on the architectural design than the smaller bits of code. Concepts like encapsulation and abstraction become concrete strategies. You’ll get good at this doing web development, and it will translate to game development as well.
  • You’ll be more valuable to someone as both a web and game developer, because games use servers and databases, too.
  • IMO, the web industry is way more stable than games. You need both a solid foundation and a parachute in case your game studio needs to downsize or you just get tired of being treated like crap.

If you want a foot in the door, get comfortable with C# and Unity. Make little games with pre-built assets, just to get comfortable with building game logic. Nothing too big or complicated (smaller projects with more variety will be better). Then, find the closest art school with a game art program and try to make some friends there. These are people who, though familiar with popular game engines and maybe a bit of programming, are focused on building art assets. They will want to know someone who can build up the logic in their games. Try to get into a student project of some sort, offering outside help. Or maybe some of the students will want to make a game on summer break. Or maybe they’ll be doing a hackathon or game jam and have room for an extra programmer. I did this as a sound designer and went from no professional experience to an internship with a small local company to internal prototyping for Disney and Microsoft to being lead sound designer at one of the biggest robotic toy companies in the world. That took a few years, though, and I already had years of training in audio technology.


So weird. I was just looking on
You’re pretty much right (compared to 1344 results in US).

I know you’re right, hence it being my gut reaction. I just dislike web design and CSS with a passion, and find them to be boring and frustrating simultaneously. Case in point, the CSS for the FCC projects takes me 2-3 times longer than the JavaScript/functionality and never ends up remotely decent. Pushing past that seems like a pointless waste of time considering my end goal and the fact that most web development I’ve seen utilizes templates and plugins anyway.

I’m in the process of learning C# through Unity, since it’s free, widely utilized and even free asset packs help make up for my lack of visual artistic skill. (I can create the stick-person storyboard but don’t ask me to actually draw out the final product >.<)

I was specifically thinking of learning Java and ultimately working on making money through app development (as a freelancer or remote coder, not making my own), since it’s more akin to game development/programming than web work. But the general consensus seems to be refining the web skills I already have instead.

Thanks for the detailed, thought-out response.

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My advice for these projects is to make them as ugly as possible. Stick to basic Bootstrap until Sass is required. Save much time and headaches!


Hmm, I have never heard of any of those 16 companies before. I don’t believe there are any big AAA companies though (like Ubisoft, Rockstar… etc). I’ve actually only seen one game development job advertisement so far, and it was for a company that makes educational games for kids. I might pursue game development at some point in the future, but for now I prefer to put the effort into something with more opportunities and that’s as equally interesting to me.

Sometimes opportunities aren’t widely advertised, making it necessary for you to go to a company’s site and find the appropriate section, if it exists.

Well then those employers are going to have a pretty hard time finding that person. Google it, those people are pretty rare. Some developers just can’t design. They’re amazing developers, but design is not for everyone, and I don’t believe someone who does’t want to design should be forced to do so, and vice versa for designers, they shouldn’t be forced to code.

That’s good to know. But still from among those that are advertised, I see web development job advertisements everyday, compared to just one game development advertisement.

I think the need for web developers is going to die down as more people become acquainted with all the template CMSs that are cropping up and rising in popularity. You really don’t need to know much code, if any, to build the site that the majority of businesses need or even want. Despite the amazing new designs and functionality that all the frameworks and languages being created each year enable web devs to do, most sites/online businesses want simple, slick and something akin to their competitors.

Don’t get me wrong, there will undoubtedly always be a need for web devs and the current demand isn’t dying any time soon - I’m not saying the sky is falling - but it’s becoming more and more of a copy-paste job than anything else. I personally find it boring and want to work in an industry that praises and rewards advancement and ingenuity a bit more.

All coding/programming based careers are good money and in high demand if you take the time to look around. It really comes down to personal preference at the end of the day, and I prefer games - or just about anything really - over web development.

I completely disagree with you, I personally don’t think web development is dying down any time soon. I’m sure I’ve read that web development is becoming in higher demand all the time. Also, web apps are becoming increasingly more popular. I’m actually more interested in building web apps rather than websites myself.

Anyways, that’s just what I think. Hopefully someone with more experience will shed some light on the matter.

In any case though, there’s no reason you should pursue something that you wouldn’t want to be doing.

I was just talking about site development. You’re right. Apps are another story.

If you want to get into game development, you might want to try modding.

See this link from Soren Johnson (Offworld Trading Company)

“Many of us got our start in games through modding in our spare time…”

I’m well aware of the various methods into the industry. That’s why I specifically asked:

Ok - sorry did not read the full chain.
Your question is a really good one - wish i had the answer to that one too.

You are definitely right about not wanting to be stuck in a career that you really don’t want to be in.
I sold out a long time ago thinking that I could eventually get into the career that I wanted (once I became more financially stable). Guess what - it never happened.

50+ hours a week, 52 weeks a year, year after year (drains the soul).

I really wish you luck and hope you can get into the game industry and a career that you want :slight_smile:

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I grew up seeing people who were miserable in a job they were stuck in. I have an uncle who’s always made great money to provide for his stay-at-home wife and numerous kids. At first glance he looks like a very happy person, all smiles and whatnot, but something always felt kinda off even when I was younger. When I got older I noticed those smiles never really hit his eyes, and if you caught him when he didn’t think anyone was around his demeanor was very dour.

His story is a familiar one. He was a star athlete in college and had a good shot at going pro until he permanently injured his knee. It wasn’t his only passion though. He loves to teach, history in particular and he even has a degree in it - I don’t remember exactly what specialization. And where does he work? A law firm. He hates his job, but he can never afford to quit or be fired because it would ruin his family and his relationship with his wife.

While I dislike web development, I don’t necessarily find it soul crushing. It’s still coding/programming at least. But I won’t rest or settle until I’m in a career I actually want to be in. Besides, a little starvation or homelessness never killed anyone. Right?

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Definitely agree with you - you have great spirit and that makes a big difference!
You do not want to be 50+ and have regrets. You have to just give it your best shot now while you can.

Anyway, back to my soul crushing job (I had to work last night and today too)…