|March 11th, 2008|
I recently got one of those letters from a student asking about my job. Someday, I suppose, I will be too busy to answer letters like this. But I am not just quite yet. It’s been sitting on my desk guilting me for over a month now.
So here’s my answer, which may help other 12-year-olds out there wondering about getting into the industry. BTW, if you had to recommend a programming language to today’s 12-year-olds, what would it be?
I’m sorry it took me so long to answer your letter – more than a month! I hope it’s OK with your teacher that I took so long. You’re right that a video game career is cool and fun but very challenging – it also keeps me very busy.
You had a list of questions for me:
What kinds of technology do you currently use?
We use lots of different sorts of technologies, ranging from word processors and spreadsheets to high-end 3d modeling software for making artwork, and all sorts of things in between. We even use low-tech methods sometimes. For example, we use Post-It notes on a wall for scheduling tasks.
Games development involves many different disciplines. You have
- designers who specify the rules
- level builders who make the game worlds
- artists who make the 3d models you see
- other artists who paint the models with images called “textures”
- programmers who write the code to make the game work
- musicians and sound designers to make it sound good
- managers who help keep everyone working on schedule
- testers who make sure everything works,
- plus lots of other jobs to then get the game into a box and onto a shelf in a store.
Every one of these jobs uses different technologies.
How often do you use these technologies in your job?
Every day! I am a game designer, but I also run my own company. So I do a little bit of everything.
How have changes in technology helped you today?
Our whole industry depends on technology. Every year, there is now technology that enables us to make different kinds of games that we used to. For example, when I started out as a game developer fifteen years ago, online games were very unusual, but because of the Internet they are everywhere now. You didn’t use to be able to do things like the Wii’s motion sensors, or the touch-screens on a Tablet PC or Nintendo DS.
What type of software do you use to create games?
I use what is called an IDE, or Integrated Development Environment, in order to write software code. Most programmers will use something similar. There are many sorts of IDE out there, and they are sort of like word processors for programming code. They help you find bugs, compile the code into executable programs, and in general make life easier than just programming in a text editor.
Artists often use Photoshop, of course, as well as 3d modeling software like 3DStudioMax or Maya. Sound designers use software like ProTools and SoundForge. Basically, every discipline has their own tools.
Do you think it is impossible for me to create even if I am only 12 and in 7th grade?
Not at all! But making games is hard work. So you have to be willing to work hard. I learned to program when I was your age, and even made whole games from scratch. I recommend you start out by learning with a programming language that is easy to learn or free. There are several out there. I love BlitzBasic, which costs around $100, but it has a free demo you can try out.
Learning to program is like learning a new language, or a new way to think. So it can take a little while to understand that computers do exactly what you tell them to. When your code doesn’t work, it is just about always your own fault.
Do you think online games are better than first player games? I like that online games allow you to interact with other people.
Most games throughout history have been multiplayer, if you think about it. Everything from chess to Monopoly. It’s only since the invention of video games that we have seen so many single-player games being invented – it used to be the exception, like Solitaire. So yes, I do agree that multiplayer games are better in a lot of ways, and truer to the spirit of what games are: social learning activities.
Best of luck with your class!