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How University Helped Me Become A Game Developer

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14th August 2017

To study or not to study… that is the question!

Pre-university

Whilst at college I worked in a supermarket; first as a retail assistant and then as a tech advisor, selling tv’s, laptops and mobile phones. By 18, I’d opened and ran our stores first phone shop and shortly after I was leading a small team of tech specialists. Just 2 months later I applied to Plymouth University through clearing, I was on my way to Plymouth – having never left London, never visited Plymouth, not checking my accommodation and gambling that the course would match my aspirations. I had the option to transfer to the same supermarket in Plymouth, but I gave it all up – I started fresh.

 

The Real Value Of University

When most people look back at university they always value its worth in how much they learned in terms of knowledge about their particular subject. However, I think it’s more valuable to assess how much you grew as an individual. Let’s face it, many 18-year-old’s sign up and go to university, not really knowing what they want to do and end up hating what they studied. But if you became more confident, developed networking skills and discovered a new part of the country that you love, then you probably won! The trouble is, without being self-aware, it’s hard to notice how much you’ve changed, and I think university is therefore undervalued by many.

 

The Doing Is Easy

I believe with 100% certainty that in any field, the actual job doing is easy. Do you want to learn Unity? There’s a video for that. Do you want to learn C#? There’s a series of articles on that. Do you want to become an expert 3D artist? You can put the hours in and practise that. You don’t need to go to university to develop these skills. If you want to become the best in any of these things, the university won’t go into that much depth and it will be up to you.

A book can teach you basically anything!

 

You’ll Never Be This Safe Again

The most important thing University offers is a safety net. Do you want to get a bunch of friends together, build a game and get it to market? Good luck fitting that in around your 9-5, family commitment’s, personal finances and just general life stuff. What university offers is a low-risk environment to experiment, fail, try new things, figure out how people work and what it is that really makes you tick. This is what so many people miss out on. It’s an incredibly unique opportunity in your life to give you a head start that you will NEVER get ever again. If things go wrong, you probably haven’t spent any real money and you might just end up with a lower grade.

 

Resources You’ll Never Have Access To Again

Next up it’s the resources around you. The people that are teaching you are some of the best in their field, so why not go out of your way to tap into their knowledge and have that 2-3 hour conversation. With one lecturer, I must have spent about 50 hours 1 on 1 with in my final year. I can only imagine what they could charge for a consultation. These experts not only have incredible knowledge but perhaps even more important is their network of professionals and ex-grads that can give you an unbelievable advantage. It’s important to note that you won’t have access to any of this if you’re a bad student in terms of effort. My key tip would be to figure out what the people you talk to love and offer them value first, give up your Saturday for an open day or participate in a research experiment they’ve organised. All of this applies to your approach with peers too, you never know if the future CEO of Ubisoft is sat next to you.

 

Make The Most Of It

The final thing that University does excellently is getting you started. I learnt more in my first one hour lecture than the previous 50+ hours dabbling with Python each night at college. I was provided with genuinely useful information about how to get started, what people are using, where the industry is heading and what skills will be useful to learn for the future. I was taught the basics of web design, database, apps as well as games, providing me with well-rounded knowledge. As the content became more complex it might not have been taught in the most optimal way, but at least if I was stuck I had immediate support available.

Fun Fact: Hat throwing is really frowned upon by the gown people!

 

To Recap

So how did University help me become a game developer? It offered me that safety net which allowed me to experiment, make mistakes and figure out how I fit into the industry. It gave me access to resources that, through relationships I can still tap into in order to further my career. It proved to me that being a game developer wasn’t just a dream. It is, in fact, something that people do and can be very successful at; and most importantly, it gave me the confidence to try to emulate the success of others too. In fact, the best parts of university were everything except everything except the ‘how to make games’ part.

 

Keep Moving Forward

In the four years since I left London, the phone shop I started became an actual shop and not just a stand, the tech department is no more and many of my friends have since moved on and yet just as many have not. If I hadn’t have gone to university, game development would still just be a dream and I would be back to replenishing stock. Where are you heading? Believe you can achieve your goals and go do it!

 

BrainyBeard

Later this month BrainyBeard will have its first birthday! In that time, we’ve released a tool on the Unity Asset Store as well as two free tools on Itch.io amongst several game jam entries. We’ve helped organise two game jams down here in Plymouth as well as monthly meetup events. We’re also incredibly active on Twitter so why not say hi to us over there? You can also keep up to date with the latest BrainyBeard & Game AI news by subscribing to our newsletter below.