How Do I Make Games?

One of the most common questions I get in my email inbox is: “How do I make games?”
There is usually no more information in the email than that. I have no idea whether the person on the other end is an engineer with 20 years of programming experience, or a high school freshman who just got his or her first computer.
So, how do I answer such a question?
If I had nothing else to do, I’d ask the person to tell me some more about themselves, what sort of education, experience and skills do they have. I’d also ask them to tell me what kind of game they would like to make.
I also have to consider what they mean. The question could be rephrased as: How do I get a job making games? Or: How can I build my own game as a hobby?
The type of game is also in question. Elementary school kids are building simple whack-a-mole games in educational game building software, and pros are developing million-dollar 3D game engines.
So, let me try to answer this question in as many ways as possible:
How do I make games?
Go to college and get a computer science degree. Get a job at a software development company, preferably doing something graphics, user interface, network or scientific. Develop a game or part of a game in your spare time as a hobby. After a year, start applying to game development companies for an entry-level job. Work hard and move up, perhaps jumping from one studio to another until you feel you are the person who is making games.
How do I make games?
Ask your teacher if one of the computers at school has Flash on it. Get your parents to buy you a book about flash games. Read the book and do the examples. When you are done, take what you have learned and make a simple 2D game to impress your friends.
How do I make games?
Go to a local meeting of the IGDA and talk to people about your game idea. Find programmers, designers and artists who want to work with you. Buy them dinner and get them excited about your idea. Raise some money and hire them to build the prototype and then use that to raise money to build the real thing.
How do I make games?
Take your programming or art experience and start building a portfolio. Apply for a job at a local game development company as a tester or QA person. Offer to work for free if you have to. Impress the heck out of them until they promote you.
How do I make games?
Use your personal fortune to buy a game studio and tell them how you think it should be done.
How do I make games?
Get a group of your friends together that have various talents: art, programming, level building, etc. Start meeting every Friday night and planning. Eventually, give each other task to complete during the week. When it starts to look like a game, work hard together to finish it up. Sell it as shareware (downloadable).
How do I make games?
Get a big game, like Counter Strike or HalfLife 2 and start to build your own levels with the provided tools. Create some levels that tell a compelling stories or have unique gameplay. Get some recognition and wait for the game’s maker to contact you to build games for their next release.
How do I make games?
Get a great idea for a game that no one else has thought of before. Email big game development studios and ask them to make the game for you and give you lots of money for it. (Warning: This method doesn’t work. Don’t try it.)
How do I make games?
Take the big game idea you have, and shelve it. Create a different small downloadable or Web-based game that you can make in one month or less. Put it on the net and spread the word. Start working on another game idea, twice as big. Get that one up on the net too. Repeat. Get some attention and experience. You’ll know when the time is right for your big game idea. And, chances are your big game idea will change and morph into a much better idea along the way.
How do I make games?
Get a mixing bowl. Add equal parts talent, skill, creativity, hard work and long hours. Mix.
For more information, I suggest visiting Gamasutra, GameDev.net and going to an IGDA meeting near you.

October 2, 2007 • Posted in: General

9 Responses to “How Do I Make Games?”

  1. Malinion - June 26, 2008

    I am 13 and I want to make the graphics in a game ‘when I grow up’. What subjects will I have to study (I’m at Secondary School)?

  2. Malinion - June 28, 2008

    Thank you for replying, but i’ve got something called our ‘Options’ which is where you pick what lessons you want/need to get your desired job. now i know that it’s a couple of years away I just want to know what lessons not to get distracted in. I would be grateful if you played the skill PC game FgunZ I think if you like games were you have to learn new techniques and skills and 3rd person shooters + katanas & kodachis, this is the game for you (WARNING: Addictive Game Alert!!!)

  3. Malinion - June 30, 2008

    ok thanks. Will I have to take up ICT?

  4. matt roper - October 7, 2008

    well no its not impossible …use a premade engine and buy maya (around 6000-8000 euros) ( i hacked) and teach yourself..watch some youtube videos ive been programming for a year now and me and my team have completed several 2D games and now are moving onto a 3D rpg game :D by the way i started out using “game maker” its a nice little tool and you can have some fun with it

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