Are you an experienced software engineer looking to make a career switch into game development? Or perhaps you’re considering taking the leap and pursuing a career in game development after years of programming experience?
The transition from software engineering to game development can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between the two roles, the pros and cons of making the switch from software engineer to game developer role, and provide tips on making the transition smoother.
We’ll discuss what skills are necessary for success when transitioning between these two roles as well as potential pitfalls that may arise. Finally, we’ll give advice on how best to prepare for any challenges that come your way during the process. With our help, you’ll be ready to take the plunge into becoming a successful game developer!
What Is a Software Engineer?
Basically speaking, a software engineer is someone who leverages the knowledge of programming languages, algorithmic concepts, and computer architecture to produce meaningful software systems.
Software engineer is a broad term used to describe most programmers who are involved in different areas of applied computer science, including web development, enterprise software development, database development, mobile application development, and game programming.
Software engineers are typically responsible for developing applications and software solutions, which is similar to software developers. They design, code, debug, maintain, and document programs or systems. They may also be responsible for planning, designing, and implementing the overall system architecture.
What Is a Game Developer?
Game developers are people who use the knowledge of programming languages, user experience design, animation techniques and game theory to create interactive and immersive applications.
Game development requires a unique set of skills and knowledge that are different from those required for software engineering. This includes user interface design, animation techniques, game theory, and more.
Additionally, game development requires a deep understanding of the user experience and how to create engaging experiences for players. While software engineers focus on creating efficient systems, game developers are responsible for creating engaging and enjoyable experiences for players.
Is Software Engineer the Same as Game Developer?
Software engineering and game development are not the same thing. In fact, game development can be considered a subtype of software development, as technically, game development is nothing more than the engineering of software intended for playing rather than productivity.
Aside from technicalities, the title of software engineer usually refers to someone who works on programs other than games, often PC-related systems and software.
As such, you can expect someone with the software engineer title to be involved in areas such as market research, data analysis, software testing, and application support.
On the other hand, game developers are usually focused on creating interactive experiences for players.
Can a Software Engineer Become a Game Developer?
Software engineers can definitely become game developers, and it is much easier to do so when you are already a software engineer. You are already familiar with programming and know all the fundamentals of algorithms and other development-related concepts.
The only thing you have to do is fine-tune your coding skills to match those required for game development and gain some experience in the field. These skills may include game design, specific programming languages required for gamedev, and familiarity with game engines frequently used for the production of games.
Pros and Cons of Switching to Game Development
Making the transition from software engineering to game development can be a great idea for those who are looking for a more creative and engaging field. Plus, game development is a growing field with countless opportunities.
On the other hand, making such a transition isn’t without its downsides. As discussed above, game development requires its own set of skills and knowledge, so you will have to invest time and energy into learning those new skills.
1. Game development is fun!
If you used to be like most teenagers, you probably did a fair share of computer gaming back in the day. In fact, you may still be playing in your spare time. Now, how cool is it to be able to work on and influence the development of games akin to those you used to play? Game development could be a dream job for you if you are interested in games!
2. You already possess the background
As a software engineer, you already know the fundamentals of programming. This gives you an edge when learning the skills and technologies needed for game development. You probably have a CS degree and some experience coding. There is even a good chance that you may know the languages often used for game development, such as C# and C++.
3. Demand is high
Game development is a growing field with plenty of opportunities. The demand for game developers, especially in AAA studios, continues to rise as gaming becomes an increasingly popular pastime. You may find it easier to land a job in game development than some other kinds of software engineering.
1. It can be tricky to transition
The thing is, game development isn’t only about programming and coding. Granted, you’ll have to learn a few new technologies and languages in order to produce a game. But it isn’t just the technical aspects that you need to consider – game development also involves artistic concepts such as level design, animation, and sound. You have to be able to use your creative side in order to make the game you want.
2. You might need to start from the bottom
Depending on the company, you may have to start at a junior-level position in order to gain game development experience. You may not get the same salary as a software engineer right away, and you may have to start at the beginning. It can take some time before you get promoted into higher positions.
See also: Entry level game developer remote job openings
3. You should get used to long hours
Working hours in the gaming industry are very different from those of software engineering. It’s not uncommon for game developers to work long hours in order to meet deadlines. You should be prepared for the possibility of working around the clock and on weekends, since that is often considered part of the gamedev culture.
Is Game Development Harder than Software Development?
Game development is known as one of the most difficult fields in software development. Several factors go into this notion, which we will review below. However, it is noteworthy that game development has become somewhat easier after the introduction of ready-to-use game engines such as Unity and Unreal.
Some of the harder skills you need in order to be able to do game development involve:
As a game developer, you will need to be comfortable with a lot more math than that required of a regular software developer. This includes linear algebra, which is needed to create 3D models and animations, calculus, which is necessary to calculate physics and movement, as well as other types of mathematics.
Another harder skill you need to be successful in game development is physics. You will have to understand how real-world objects behave and move, so that you can recreate them in the game. This requires a lot of knowledge about how forces, speed, and energy work together.
Design is probably the one skill that separates game development from regular software engineering. You will need to be able to make creative decisions about what kind of world you want to create and how the characters should interact with it. You will also have to understand user experience (UX) and game mechanics in order to create an enjoyable game.
4. Data structures
Finally, game development requires a good grasp of data structures in order to create the game world efficiently. You will need to be able to store information about the game in an organized manner, so that it can be retrieved quickly when needed. This requires knowledge of various data structures, from arrays and linked lists to more complex ones like B-trees and skip lists.
Overall, game development is a difficult field that requires a lot of knowledge and skill in order to be successful. You need to understand various aspects of software engineering as well as game design and data structures. However, with the right amount of time and effort, you can become a successful game developer.
Software Engineer vs. Game Developer Salary
Despite the relative difficulty, game development is known to be less well-compensated than software engineering. Unfortunately, this is due to the fact that there are fewer job opportunities in the game industry, and employers may be hesitant to pay higher salaries.
According to Zippia, software engineers make an average of $100,260 per year or $48.2 per hour. Conversely, game developers earn an annual salary of $91,009, or $43.75 hourly.
Salary ranges vary according to different sources, so make sure to do research in order to get an accurate picture of the salary you can expect in game development.
Overall, regardless of pay rate, working in the game industry can be a very rewarding experience for those who are passionate about creating games.
Software Engineer vs. Game Developer Education
Unsurprisingly, software engineers and game developers both require a similar type of background. Both professionals would usually need to possess a Bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field.
However, game developers may need to have an additional focus on design courses in order to fully understand the development process. Game developers may also need to have a background in creative writing, narrative design, and game mechanics.
When it comes to internships and job experience, software engineers and game developers may have slightly different requirements. Software engineers would need to have experience working on larger, enterprise-level projects in order to be considered competitive.
On the other hand, game developers often gain experience working on smaller projects like indie games or mobile apps, which is sufficient to build a good portfolio and resume.
Overall, each profession requires a unique set of skills and education, so make sure to research which one is best suited for you.
What Programming Languages Are Needed for Game Development?
There are several programming languages commonly used in game development. These languages, however, are not exclusive to game development and are also used widely in software engineering and other fields. The languages most prevalent in the gaming industry include:
C# is a general-purpose programming language developed by Microsoft. It is widely used for game development and is the most popular language in the industry.
C++ is a powerful object-oriented language developed by Bjarne Stroustrup. It is used to create complex software, such as game engines and is the second most popular language for game development.
Java is another general-purpose programming language developed by Sun Microsystems. It is often used for mobile game development and can be used to create games for both Android and iOS devices.
Overall, the programming languages used in game development can vary depending on the type of game being developed. However, C# and C++ are the two languages most widely used in the gaming industry.
Is Game Development Right for Me?
Let’s be honest. The hours in game development may be long and the challenges difficult, but the feeling of accomplishment when your game is finished is worth every hour put in. Game development may not be for everyone, but if it’s something you’re interested in, it’s worth giving a try.
If you are after a great work-life balance, higher pay, and less stress, then perhaps software engineering could be a better fit for you. However, speaking from experience, if you have passion for a field, all the challenges will seem relatively small compared to the enjoyment you get from working in it.
As such, we recommend using passion as your first-line compass in deciding which field to go into. Other factors are also important, however, and you should make sure to do research in order to get an accurate picture of the salary and working conditions you can expect in game development. Research into job postings, companies, and industry standards can help you make a more informed decision.
In the end, it all comes down to what you want and what you feel passionate about. Game development and software engineering are both great fields to get into, so make sure to take your time and find the right fit.
Still not sure if game development is right for you? Build a game. Put your skills to the test and create a project. If you get a form of a kick or rush from the process, you’ll know it’s the right fit for you.
How to Transition from Software Engineering to Game Development
Now, we would like to provide some tips for you on how to transition from software engineer to game developer roles.
1. Focus Your Resume
The first step is to make sure your resume reflects the skills you have that are relevant to game development. Highlight any experience you may have with game development libraries, frameworks, or programming languages. If you have no experience in game development, go ahead and get some.
2. Work on Your Portfolio
If you have personal experience with game development, make sure to showcase it in your portfolio. Include screenshots of games you have worked on, as well as a demo of the game or a link to an online version. This is essential if you have no work experience in game development and would like to transition as soon as you can.
3. Practice Your Interviewing Skills
When interviewing for game development roles, be prepared to answer questions about game design, user experience, and programming. Be sure to practice coding challenges in game development languages and show off your problem-solving skills. Also, be able to explain why you want to transition from software engineering to game development.
4. Network with the Right People
The game development industry is filled with passionate people, so take the time to network and connect with them. Reach out to game developers on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter and join online game development communities to get your name out there.
5. Keep Learning
Finally, continue to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in game development. Read industry publications, attend conferences and events, and practice coding challenges to stay sharp. Being a game developer is about more than just coding, so make sure you stay on top of all aspects of the industry.
Making a transition from software engineering to game development is not an easy task, but with the right effort and dedication, it can be done. We hope these tips will be helpful in getting you started on your journey.
How Long Does It Take to Switch to Game Development?
The amount of time it will take to switch to game development depends heavily on individual circumstances. Factors like the amount of existing experience in the industry, the amount of time and money you’re willing to invest in learning, and luck all play a role.
Generally, someone with a computer science degree and some experience in game development will be able to make the switch faster than someone who is starting from scratch. However, even if you don’t have any experience, you can still learn the necessary skills and transition to game development. It may just take a bit longer.
On average, you could expect several months to a year for the process, including learning necessary skills, building a portfolio, and networking with industry professionals. Ultimately, it all comes down to how hard you work and how quickly you learn. If you’re passionate and determined, a successful transition to game development is within reach.
Making a switch to game development can be an exciting career move for software engineers. With the right effort and dedication, it’s possible to make this transition in just a few months or longer, depending on your individual circumstances.
To increase your chances of success, focus your resume on relevant experience, build up your portfolio with personal projects, practice your coding and interviewing skills, network with industry professionals, and stay up-to-date with the latest trends in game development.
With a positive attitude and determination, you can make your dream of becoming a game developer come true. Good luck!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.