Note: This post is going to contain some programming jargon, if you need me to clarify anything just leave a comment.
I should probably preface this with my computing and programming experience. During my time at university I’ve learned quite a few languages, mainly java (4 years experience) with bits of C, Haskell, SQL and python along the way. I have no experience programming in C++, C# or using unity.
I was incredibly nervous on the long train ride to Dundee and during coffee with a friend before the Game in Scotland Careers Fair. Now I know it was only a careers fair, but being told to bring CVs to hand out definitely put some emphasis on making a good impression. The massive queue outside the venue didn’t ease those nerves either!
Inside the venue, lots of developers were dotted around to chat with about game development and jobs in the field. The first few I spoke to turned out to be a very disheartening experience. When I explained to them about my lack of C++/C# skills, a couple of the guys I spoke to seemed to lose interest and become very dismissive of my chances. Now I see two massive flaws with this:
1. Its a game development careers fair. I know one of the purposes of it is to find potential employees, but another is to attract people to get into your industry. If people don’t have the right skills, don’t just send them on their way, some encouragement and advice goes a long way.
2. Say I go away and actually learn these languages. Why would I want to apply after my poor initial experience with them?
It wasn’t all doom and gloom however. I did receive a lot of positive feedback from Trevor of Blazing Griffin, saying I had the right tools by having a strong programming background, and to get making stuff ASAP.
Now I may not be the most qualified to speak about this, but I totally agreed with that feedback. I may not have C++\# skills, but I have lots of object orientated programming experience and skills, surely there must be some transfer over between languages. His passion and enthusiasm was also massively refreshing and was really encouraging.
After watching some of the presentations which ranged from really amusing to intimidating, I was feeling a bit deflated. On my way out, I discovered another area packed with developers and decided to check it out. I had a much more positive experience with the guys in this area, with all the developers being much more friendly and enthusiastic about game development and getting into it.
I had a fantastic chat with Steven over at Tag Games who gave me loads of good tips and advice about getting into the industry based on my skills and gave me a massive boost (free cookies as well!). Again the main points I got were that having a strong programming background was a good thing and it would help massively when learning how engines and frameworks work (Tag Games for example use their own kit for making their apps) and that my skills were definitely transferrable. We also had a laugh about my stream and everything, very cool and friendly guys.
I also got to pick the brains of the programmers for Reloaded Productions (the makers of APB) and they gave me some wonderful insight into programming, the engines they use and things like debugging and physics in games. I must have stood chatting with them for about 15 minutes, they gave me great advice about where to start with learning C++ and how to get started and were very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful.
Everyone in this area took a great interest in me as a person, and not just the languages I knew (or didn’t know more importantly) which gave me a massive boost and some enthusiasm for getting into the industry. I came away from the discussions I had with developers feeling driven and encouraged which was fantastic (quote of the day: “if people say you have no chance because you don’t know C++/#, just tell them to fuck off”). After 3 hours of presentations, discussions and CV distribution, I decided to call it a day and head home.
So there you have it. It was a rollercoaster day in terms of my motivation, but I came away feeling like I could succeed with a career in game development. There was a definite divide between the people who were there for business and those who were there to promote themselves and promote their industry, but all in all I had a great time and learned a great deal about this awesome industry.