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The videogames industry is seen as an exciting one. Around 9,220 people work in the industry which, in the UK alone, is worth some £1 billion each year. There are more than 450 studios in the UK of varying sizes, from programmers operating alone to those employing hundreds. It’s a varied industry with lots of opportunity.

Tablets and smartphones have provided a massive boost to gaming since these devices allow games to be played and, given that they are mainstream, millions of people effectively have a games machine in their hands. Along with major consoles from Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, smaller machines including the Ouya and computers such as the PC and Mac, there are just so many platforms on which to develop and this means, with the right skills, you can forge a very successful career.

Employers tend to like graduates with maths and physics. Computer science is an important degree. Specific games courses tend to split the industry with some believing them to be very useful whereas others find them not to be. A passion for games and a feel for programming, art, sound or any one of a number of disciplines that go to make up the industry, however, is a must.

Here we look at the various roles within gaming.

Games Designer

A games designer controls how a game plays and what is contained within it. To be effective, they need to understand every aspect of their game. They need to be good managers since they delegate to members of their team various aspects of the design process from programming to art to sound.

Part of their role is to map out a game’s environment, detailing the layout and helping to build the digital worlds in which people play. They use 3D modelling programs to create and edit sections of the game which helps them communicate their vision to their team.

Games Artists

Using complex 3D modelling and animation packages, game artists produce the images which make up a game’s environment. They work on the characters, objects, buildings and landscapes under the direction of a lead artist, in liaison with a games designer.

Animators take this art and define and create their movement. This is a vital step in ensuring the games are immersive and interactive. Animators and artists work closely together in modelling their virtual worlds.

Programming

Programmers are like the glue which holds all of the various elements of games together. They create the code which allow the graphics and sound to be manipulated by the player and they devise the techniques which ensure the games actually work.

It is the programmers who inject games with artificial intelligence (a field of computer science dedicated to producing programs that attempt to mimic the processes of the human brain). They will also work on character control, graphic rendering and on perfecting the gameplay and good teamwork is vital, as is the ability to solve problems.

Audio

Those working in audio create the music and sound which goes into games. Most games also have speech and it is the sound men and women who record this dialogue and supervise voice performances.

They also look after the sound effects in games and work with programmers to ensure the right sounds are used at the appropriate times – often in games the music alters depending on the stage of the game or whether or not there is imminent danger.

Quality Assurance

When a game is complete, it must be rigorously tested. It is the job of the Quality Assurance department to put a game through its paces, testing every nook and cranny of a game, looking at every conceivable way to crash or damage the game. This way, when the game is finally shipped, the developers can ensure the titles are as bug-free as possible, although it is fair to say some glitches do slip through.

As bugs and faults are found, the developers iron them out. Testers have to sit with a game for days on end. It is seen as a way into the industry for many.

Production Management and Publishing

Developers produce the games. They can be in-house (that is, part of a publishing company) or independent (selling their produced games via whichever publisher they wish to sign up to).

Publishers sell and market the games produced by developers. A developer will have a producer or project manager who oversees the game’s production. An external producer would work at the publishing company and ensure not only that the game is coming along well but also that the marketing teams are geared up for the publicity drive.

Other roles

Not everyone is directly involved in the making of a game. The industry employs people from wide range of disciples including marketing, PR, human resources, administration, and IT support.

David Crookes is the communications manager for TIGA, the non-profit trade association representing the UK’s games industry.

About the Author

  • Organisation:
  • About David Crookes: David has worked as a journalist and PR executive in the videogames industry for eight years. He also curates the Videogame Nation exhibition which looks at the history of games in the UK.

David Crookes

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