As the multi-billion-dollar interactive entertainment industry continues to expand, so have job opportunities for video game designers, artists, programmers and testers. By 2020, employment figures for software developers alone are expected to balloon by 30 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, tens of thousands have already morphed their game-playing passion into a rewarding career, with some salaries exceeding $90,000 annually.
“Top-notch game programmers are definitely in high demand,” said Jason Gregory, lead gameplay programmer at Naughty Dog, a Los Angeles-based company owned by Sony Computer Entertainment America. “If you’re a great programmer who has shipped a few good games, the studios will be competing to hire you.”
In what way has your educational background served you?
“I earned my bachelor of applied science degree at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. My specialty was systems design engineering, a program that covered many different disciplines. It turned out to be a great background for video games because a game programmer must work with a wide range of technologies, including 3D graphics, physics, audio, artificial intelligence and database design.”
What impact has your company had on the video game industry?
“I am convinced that our incredibly talented Naughty Dog team raised the bar for the entire industry when we published the ground-breaking game, The Last of Us, our latest PlayStation 3 exclusive. Also, my text-book, Game Engine Architecture, has been adopted by quite a few university game programs. I hope the industry benefits from both.”
What attributes must a gameplay programmer possess?
“First and foremost, you need to have excellent problem-solving skills. It’s also crucial to have a solid grasp of 3D math, data structures and algorithms, and a programming language, like C++. Experience with concurrent programming is valuable, too, because all game hardware is multi-core nowadays.”
What is your pointed advice to emerging video game developers and programmers?
“Create a mod of an existing game. Write your own tech demos. Join a group of fellow enthusiasts and make an indie game. It’s the best way to learn and a great way to impress potential employers.”
Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to Examiner.com.