Can software developers make video games

Dream job computer game developer: Game design takes courage

Tetris, Mario Kart or Tomb Raider - we spent many hours of our childhood and youth in front of consoles or computers, immersed in the worlds of our favorite heroes and missions. Gambling is life. And many still count computer and video games among their favorite hobbies in adulthood. But who actually develops them and where? Jeremiah Diephuis, professor of media technology and design at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria reveals that. His students design computer games - and in many cases even earn money with them. Until then, however, they have a rocky road ahead of them.

Mr. Diephuis, you train budding computer game developers. Are there any jobs for this in Austria?
Yes, it's true, at the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences in Hagenberg we train people for the games industry, even if many of them end up working in other areas. There are a few well-known development studios in Austria, and some of them have our graduates in, but it can be a tough, labor-intensive industry - as is almost everywhere in the entertainment sector.

What are the advantages of an apprenticeship with a focus on games?
Computer games are great for education, even if you don't necessarily have to work in the gaming sector. We see game development more as a didactic model because you need a lot of fields of competence: software development, asset production (2D / 3D graphics), interaction design, sound, and much more. There is intensive collaboration in interdisciplinary teams, and the students benefit from this. The fact that a reference project is created in the end that can actually be downloaded and tried out is of course a plus point when students apply to companies. Incidentally, it is similar in the area of ​​computer animation: some students come to us because they love animated films, and this claim by Pixar and Co. motivates them to develop their skills. But the animation industry in Austria is manageable, even if there are definitely great projects.

What problems does the game industry face?
In public it is not even perceived as a serious economic factor. The computer game industry is larger than the film industry worldwide. Projects such as GameSpace in the Linzer Tabakfabrik, the Play-Austria trade fair or the GameStage-Expo try to create more awareness of the computer game culture and industry. In addition: In some industries, a business plan is enough to receive funding; not in the games industry. It takes a well-developed game prototype for the business plan, and that's why most of them don't even manage to develop their projects to the point where they can be published.

Only for nerds: Game designers are passionate about their job

Are there certain personality traits that you need as a game developer?
There is one quality that all developers have: they like problems. Incidentally, this does not only apply to the developers, but also to the gamers: There is a hurdle and I want to overcome it; when I have overcome that, I get to the next level and there’s the next hurdle and so on. There is sure to be a connection, because often those who program something are also those who really enjoy playing. When it comes to problem solving, gamers and programmers are very enthusiastic, as hackathons and game jams show. Developers take a weekend off and develop a finished, playable game within 36 hours. Such events are also very important for work, because you learn to use the time as efficiently as possible. If you can develop a game in 36 hours, you can solve other problems as well.

In which areas do game developers and game designers work after their studies?
Many developers get great jobs in web companies, which of course can offer a secure salary and good working hours, compared to the game industry or self-employment. You will then work as a software developer, as a 3D artist for industrial animations and visualizations or in post-production. Of course, they also work for Austrian game companies, go abroad or become self-employed.

"What many don't realize is that game development is something that almost anyone can do."

I would like to emphasize that. Just like some like to paint or like to play in a band, although they don't make any money with it. It's a creative way of expressing yourself, and that goes for game development as well. Whether it's a board game or a computer game, there are already so many tools out there that anyone can use to create a small game. In the GameSpace we want to encourage more people with lectures and workshops to deal with game development and to develop their own games.

But if someone really wants to work in the game industry, what would your advice be?
It is important on the one hand to find your own niche and on the other hand to set the goals small enough so that you have a really playable game afterwards. You won't be able to do a multiplayer online battle arena in your second year of study, but rather create small, completed projects. It is always important to be able to show: I've done this before, I've helped develop a project from A to Z and I know what is important. Then you are also more likely to be employed.

Game Designer

What exactly does a game designer do? At www.karriere.at/beruf/game-designer you will find all the important information about typical activities and requirements.

About the person
Jeremiah Diephuis is a professor at the Faculty of Computer Science, Communication and Media on the Hagenberg campus of the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences, where he teaches media technology and design and interactive media. In the research group “Playful Interactive Environments” he deals with serious games and new areas of application of playful forms of interaction in business, society, health, art and advertising. The native American is also on the board of GameStage, the Linz association for the promotion of computer game culture.

Photo credits: Romaset / shutterstock; University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria