is it at all viable to try and self-teach yourself how to design and build games? is having gone to and graduated from school an absolute must? or can you still be taken seriously and considered if you've never gone to college?
Yeah, it’s totally viable to work on games without formal training. One designer I know is a former professional basketball player. Another was a marine biologist. A third was a self-taught programmer who never finished college. But what they have in common is a relentless dedication to games, a drive to internalize and learn the skills necessary to make games, and the talent to know when to use those skills and how.
In terms of being taken seriously in the game industry, beyond the initial screening by recruiters, we honestly don’t care too much about whether you have a degree. What we care about is whether you can do the work. The degree is supposed to mean that you have some minimal amount of knowledge on the subjects. It means that you’ve at least been exposed to commonly-accepted concepts and theories. It does not, however, guarantee skill or talent. Skill and talent can only be exhibited through your decisions and experience.
We need you to convince that you can do the work. If you can’t explain to us why you can do the work, there’s no reason for us to hire you. If you don’t have a degree, you’re going to need to show us that you have the equivalent skills and understanding that one would obtain in school. That might mean teaching yourself programming, level design, or animation. That might involve building your own game levels, or mods, or even an entire game. That almost certainly means you must have something you can show us that demonstrates what you’ve done. You must also be able to talk about your work in depth. If you can’t exhibit mastery of your own project, how can we expect you to learn our stuff?
Remember, we don’t just hire the first candidate we find that passes the minimum requirements for the job. We’re looking for the best possible candidate out of the total pool of applicants. You’re going to be compared to lots of other candidates, especially if you’re applying to a popular AAA studio. Many studios get hundreds of resumes on a weekly basis. If you want the job, you’ll need to persuade us that you are the best candidate out of all of the applicants. That means you must show us that you can do the work better than all of the other candidates, including those with degrees. Not having a degree won’t necessarily stop that from happening, but it means you more to prove than someone who has one.
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