Tips For Getting Into the Gaming Industry – Programming
Today we have a real treat for any young players interested in working in the gaming industry one day. Cheryl Starcher, a Lead Software Engineer here at KingsIsle, has taken some time to let us know a little bit about her background and what can help an aspiring player become a game programmer one day!
I love my job. Here’s how I got to this position and why you might also love a job as a game programmer.
I graduated from Duke University with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a second major in Computer Science. I worked for IBM in their server group doing logic design and verification using C++ while getting a masters degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Eventually I reached a point where I wanted to do something more creative and that’s when I went to work for KingsIsle. I’ve been working on Wizard101 since before it launched and I still love it.
Having a four-year degree and work experience with C++ opened the door for me into the game industry. Luckily for me, KingsIsle was working on MMO games which are the most complicated and challenging type of game to program. They involve a huge codebase and major technical challenges. Supporting the game after launch is just as challenging as we keep adding more features making the code more complex, and fixing problems while maintaining the data we have (you can’t solve a problem by starting over from scratch).
KingsIsle also supports a lower min-spec machine than is typical for an MMO so we jump through hoops to keep the game accessible and we debug problems that only exist on odd pieces of old hardware. We’ve localized the game for different languages including Asian languages, which are an additional challenge. With our partner, CodeWeavers, we support the Mac. I can’t say enough about how interesting it is to be a game programmer and encounter such a variety of challenges.
I recommend that anyone who wants to be a game programmer one day should get a four-year degree in Computer Science. I also recommend that you play games – all kinds of games including board games! Even though a four-year degree and gaming experience are great, the thing that is really going to get you that game job is making your own games. Start off simple and make something you can show to other people. This is what shows future employers your dedication and ability to figure things out. I’ve listed some free resources below that one of my fellow programmers, Gary, has compiled that should help you get started making games.
As a final word of advice, being a game programmer requires someone who thinks logically and is creative. Programming teaches you precise attention to detail, but allows you to solve a problem in multiple ways. Any code you write is an expression of yourself and all of the training and knowledge you acquire allows that expression to work as intended.
Lead Software Engineer
Some Resources to Make Your Own Games
- Make Games Now – Scratch and Alice are free programming environments which support making simple games.
- Resources for programming more complex games