Is Game Programming Right for Me

Ian Rich - Communications Coordinator, AIE Seattle

Ian Rich is a part of the admissions team for the Seattle Chapter at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment. Being an established gaming-focused technical artist himself, he completely understands what the next generation of industry professionals want to learn. Prior to AIE, Ian has taught Game Art and Game Programming skills to high school students at the Skills Center in Ballard. When he's not meeting new students, he creates games on the side, takes care of his awesome mane, and works full-time being the world's coolest dad.

You might be a programmer when...

Have you ever wondered what's going on under the hood of the games and software tools you use? You might be a programmer! Perhaps you have learned a bit about programming, but you're wondering whether to pursue it as a career. Let's go over some ways you can explore that question.

People who enjoy programming often have an interest in puzzles and logic, or taking things apart to figure out how they work. They are also people who enjoy learning new things, and are motivated to put in the effort required to solve a problem they didn't know how to solve before. If some of that resonates with you, you might be a programmer! The next step is to try it out!

To vet your interest and aptitude, it can be good to start with small and easy ventures and gradually ramp yourself up into more challenging territory. For a fun taste of programming-style problem solving, try this game called Lightbot where you give a cute robot instructions to solve puzzles. If you make it pretty far through the levels and have a bit of fun - you will most likely enjoy programming, since you were technically just doing it! Programming is all about breaking a problem down into small chunks and turning those into instructions for a computer to perform (or a cute robot).

Learn how to build a wheel, before you try reinventing the wheel.

Making games is a very fun way to learn programming; one tried-and-true method for learning it is to remake classic games, working your way through video game history. The venerable Pong is a great game to start with. Try the free Code Your First Game course to get a taste of programming with code - no special software required. After finishing that, you could try making another classic game, just don't go too far into the future! Stay in the 70s for a while.

To get a taste of making a 3D game, we recommend downloading the free Unity game engine, and starting with their Roll-A-Ball tutorial. Don't just stop at the end of the tutorial, though! You will learn much more by adding your own features to the game, using what you've learned to program those features yourself. You could add walls to form a maze or give the ball the ability to jump, for instance.

If you feel like you could use some assistance in maneuvering Unity, we have a course just for that purpose.

Here are some nifty resources:

If this is all clicking for you, and you feel like you want to deepen your programming abilities, you could start studying the foundation of the subject known as, "Computer Science". One great way of getting a start in CS studies is to take a course known as a "MOOC" (Massively Open Online Course). There are many great courses created by top universities. Two popular ones are the Introduction to Computer Science courses from Harvard and MIT. These are structured courses that use an online platform to guide you through. You can generally take them as a self-paced course or a timed course with deadlines.

Don't forget to get in touch with us and let us know how you are doing in your studies!