Find out how you can create games for an industry which is well and truly booming…

Making video games for a living is right up there with rock star and astronaut on the list of jobs boys – and more and more girls – dream about. In 2011 the video game market was worth $56 billion globally and local interest in the industry is growing fast. This means jobs in the field are opening up, but not necessarily where you’d expect them to. Tanya Ronnie-Daniels from e-learning design and development company The Training Room Online has five tips to help you on your way to landing yourself a job that will make you the envy of your friends.

First, find out if it’s the job for you

Video game developers need a wide range of skills. If you enjoy working with technology (and if you’re a gamer, you probably do) and understanding software is second nature to you, you’re likely developer material. Making video games involves 3D design and animation, programming, artistic work and project management, so you need to be versatile.

Then, look for the right school

The video game industry is still small in South Africa, and there are a limited number of places you can study game development. The best places offer well-rounded programmes that will teach you how to use the best and latest software, that will teach you how to create ‘real’ characters and storylines, and that will teach you to work across devices and platforms. UCT offers a computer science major in Computer Games Development, while Wits offers a BA majoring in game design as well as an engineering degree in digital art. There are some good one-year courses on offer, too, and it’s really worthwhile looking for an internship – companies like e-learning design and development company The Training Room Online are increasingly looking for young people they can train up themselves.

Practice makes perfect

The best part about being a game developer is that, to be good at it, you need to play games. Often. The only way you can know what makes a game good is to play a lot of games, both good and bad, across every platform you can find.

Give your showreel to everyone

Start putting your showreel together as soon as you start studying. It’s what you’re going to use to sell your skills to the companies you really want to work for. Competition is very stiff out there, so your showreel needs to be amazing. Once it’s ready to go out into the world, put it on your website and don’t be afraid to send the link to your site to every company you’re interested in working at. Even better, physically take your showreel to the company on a flash as well as pointing them in the direction of your website.

Be creative

Not all video game developers work for full-time game development companies. They work across many industries, so when you’re job hunting, don’t limit yourself. E-learning is a great industry for game developers because it’s growing very rapidly and it’s dynamic and versatile. You won’t spend all day every day doing routine work, even if you’re just starting out. App developers are also really in demand, and digital agencies often have space for developers, too. The bottom line is, don’t limit yourself.

Tanya Ronnie-Daniels is an instructional designer at e-learning design and development company The Training Room Online.

This article first appeared