A game programmer is a computer professional who assists in the production of video games. At the simplest level, programmers are responsible for creating or inputting the code that makes possible every action, visual image, and effect in a video game. Many game programmers have an educational background in computers or an extensive history of training in the field.
The training of a game programmer usually involves at least an undergraduate level degree from a traditional college or university. Many programmers have degrees in computer science, information technology, or digital media. These degrees may carry areas of emphasis depending on the program, with some programmers crafting their training toward certain areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) or three dimensional (3D) programming. Some programmers are self-taught or have trained through apprenticeships, and non-traditional schooling, though this type of background is less popular now that computer science majors are more prevalent.
To break in to the workforce as a game programmer, a candidate will have to try to stand out from a field of hundreds of qualified applicants. In addition to a good educational background and experience gained through internships or summer jobs, many experts recommend that the best way to find a job early on is to demonstrate programming skills by creating games or applications. These examples of skills do not need to be massive or particularly groundbreaking, but should show a clear understanding of programming basics.
The great value of a game programmer is that he or she can transform the plans of designers and creators into workable programs. Programmers essentially act as translators between the design team and the computers, turning the ideas expressed by design team into computer code. Communication skills are very important in this line of work, as the programmer must be able to fully understand the concepts and requirements of the design team in order to render them in program form.
Though many people love playing computer games and fantasize about working in the industry, it is important to think about the work environment and requirements that come with life as a game programmer. In addition to sufficient education, a game programmer will generally need to be good at working in a team environment and cooperating with other team members on a daily basis. Writing code is also time-consuming and requires many long hours staring at a computer screen; while most programmers find this work engaging, others may find it difficult to simply sit still that long.
Many game designers and creators start their career as programmers. For creative-minded people, game programming can provide a solid, practical understanding of how video games are created. Those with programming experience can better understand both the limitations of gaming capabilities and the innovation possible throughout the field.