A beginners's guide

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Programmer

Games Programmer questions and answers

Let’s tackle some common questions about this games career path.

Games programmers write the code of the game, which underpins every part of the game including its gameplay, controls, art and animation.

They write new code but also adapt existing code to new purposes, finding and fixing bugs and trying to create the most efficient code to deliver the game.

Junior programmers can find themselves working on any part of a game, perhaps improving someone else’s code, working on old code called code libraries, or working with testers to find and fix bugs (broken bits of code). Starting salaries can range from between £20,000 to £23,000.

More senior programmers usually start to specialise in specific areas of a game’s code such as physics, graphics, network, tools or engine programming, or Artificial Intelligence. The most senior programmers manage teams of other programmers. Salaries for medium to senior staff can range from between £32,000 to £45,000.

Programmers always have strong maths and often a good understanding of physics. Before starting careers, they usually have written a lot of their own code, have learnt various programming languages and may have spent time copying other games analysing how many games work. They usually have developed elements of their own games, someone else’s games (known as mods) or joined game jams, the products of which they build into a portfolio.

Games companies usually have these 3 pieces of advice:

  1. Show your passion by doing everything you can to make games. See What next? below for some places to get started.
  2. Practice your teamworking skills by working in groups – that’s how games are actually made;
  3. Keep going and don’t be put off if knocked back.
  • What’s a games programmer?

    Games programmers write the code of the game, which underpins every part of the game including its gameplay, controls, art and animation.

  • What do they do?

    They write new code but also adapt existing code to new purposes, finding and fixing bugs and trying to create the most efficient code to deliver the game.

  • How do they start their careers?

    Junior programmers can find themselves working on any part of a game, perhaps improving someone else’s code, working on old code called code libraries, or working with testers to find and fix bugs (broken bits of code). Starting salaries can range from between £20,000 to £23,000.

  • What about later in their careers?

    More senior programmers usually start to specialise in specific areas of a game’s code such as physics, graphics, network, tools or engine programming, or Artificial Intelligence. The most senior programmers manage teams of other programmers. Salaries for medium to senior staff can range from between £32,000 to £45,000.

  • What skills and experience help them start their careers?

    Programmers always have strong maths and often a good understanding of physics. Before starting careers, they usually have written a lot of their own code, have learnt various programming languages and may have spent time copying other games analysing how many games work. They usually have developed elements of their own games, someone else’s games (known as mods) or joined game jams, the products of which they build into a portfolio.

  • How can I get started?

    Games companies usually have these 3 pieces of advice:

    1. Show your passion by doing everything you can to make games. See What next? below for some places to get started.
    2. Practice your teamworking skills by working in groups – that’s how games are actually made;
    3. Keep going and don’t be put off if knocked back.

What next?

8-11 year olds

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  1. Watch the role videos on our careers pages and ask which roles appeal the most
  2. Start making games on a free online course from the National Videogame Museum
  3. Take a Digital Schoolhouse computing workshop
  4. Attend a Games Careers Week event that’s right for the age group
  5. Find out if a Digital Schoolhouse is near you
  6. Keep playing and making games as much as possible in spare time

12-15 year olds

* indicates required
  1. Watch the role videos on our careers pages and ask which roles appeal the most
  2. Take an introductory class on Gamemaker or Unity (see below)
  3. Attend a Games Careers Week event that’s right for the age group
  4. See if any Colleges or academies near you have games development courses like these from the NextGen Skills Academy
  5. Keep studying whichever of these GCSE subjects they enjoy: computer science, maths, art and design technology.

15-17 year olds

* indicates required
  1. Watch the role videos on our careers pages and ask which roles appeal the most
  2. Take classes on Unreal, Gamemaker or Unity (see below)
  3. Attend a Games Careers Week event that’s right for the age group
  4. It’s not essential to have a degree but degree courses accredited by industry programmes like TIGA’s or ScreenSkills’ can improve career chances for graduates
  5. Keep studying whichever of these A level subjects are favourites: computer science, maths, art and design technology.
  6. Keep playing and making games as much as possible in spare time

18+ year olds

* indicates required

  1. Research games roles through sites like Into Games, Grads in Games, British Esports Association and ScreenSkills
  2. Take BGI’s free Start your career in games development course on Futurelearn
  3. Teach yourself how to make games using any of the online courses below
  4. It’s not essential to have a degree but degree courses accredited by industry programmes like TIGA’s or ScreenSkills’ can improve career chances for graduates
  5. Attend a Games Careers Week event such as the Games Education Summit
  6. Attend an online games jam like these
  7. Build a portfolio of work, perhaps following advice from Grads in Games
  8. Find a games job via these job boards
  9. Keep playing and making games as much as possible in spare time

Essential resources

Below you will find a range of permanent resources running year round.

We have added age badges to guide you towards sites that have resources appropriate for the age group listed.

Parents – please note that our age badges are not certified age ratings so we recommend you review all materials to decide if they are appropriate for your child.

Games Careers Week is a free non-profit event organised and funded by the BGI, Into Games and Grads in Games, supported by TIGA, NextGen Skills Academy, Gamesindustry.biz and Ukie

Organised by

About the BGI
About the BGI

The BGI is a charity number 1183530 which educates the public about games through the National Videogame Museum, training and research.

About Into Games
About Into Games

Into Games is a national non-profit Community Interest Company that supports people from all backgrounds in finding rewarding careers in games.

About Grads for Games
About Grads for Games

Grads in Games is a non-profit Community Interest Company which equips students with the skills games employers need.

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