Is being a game programmer worth it?

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 25, 2010 at 23:03

I’m 22. Male. Spent 4 years in high school heavily involved with programming video games. Did the whole C++/DirectX path of choice. Got pretty damn good until college when I stopped.

Now it’s 4 years later and I’m wondering if I should begin again. One of the reasons I quit 4 years ago was because I didn’t want to be 80 years old, looking back on life, and wondering if making video games was really what I should have done with my life.

You know, one of those “do you regret NOT doing anything” thoughts.

Now, upon realizing that technology is the future, I’m starting to question my original thoughts. I began wondering if I should come back to game programming when I asked myself “what else would I be programming?”.

Well, I’m going to school for engineering. Do I really want to work on the next word? Do I want to work on some sensor for some Iphone or other unimportant device? Do I want to be working on processors? (I’m a computer engineer by the way, hardware and software).

When I realized that I’m going to be: A) Programming - more than likely, B) working long hours in the technology field, C) Never get to see the big picture anyway (so working on a space probe would be retarded because it’s not like you assemble the entire thing yourself… I’d work on the damn wheel motors or something - just my luck).

So in reality, if I’m going to be engineering something it might as well be fun. I guess I’m just trying to figure out if it’s worth it to spend my entire life on video games. But like I said, it’s either that or something else, since I’ll be programming something anyway. I’d rather work on the next Halo than a new Microsoft Word.

But this brings with it a huge new question. Should I even do engineering? I look outside and love the outdoors, love exercising, love interacting with people. But what the hell would do I do with it? I go to work for a business and get into the same dilemma as game programming vs. word programming: I’m office bitch for which boss? I’ll look back when I’m 80 and said I worked on business proposals. Is THAT what I want to do?

Long-winded post. I apologize. I’m going through a mid-life crisis at 22 years old. At least the majority of you know what you want. Any advice/criticism/whatever responses welcome.

Thanks,

Gardon

32 Replies

Please log in or register to post a reply.

A8433b04cb41dd57113740b779f61acb
0
Reedbeta 167 Aug 25, 2010 at 23:20

I think I’d advise you to not worry too much about what you will think when you’re 80 years old and looking back…you’re going to be a different person by then anyway. :) Focus on figuring out what kind of work you most want to do / are most interested in today. If you find something that challenges you in the right way and interests you enough, you have a good chance of not being burned out on it a few years down the road.

Regarding working on some sensor for a phone or wheel motors or whatever…I can understand the ambition to work on something “big”, but the reality is that very few people end up being able to say something like “I led the team that built the Mars rovers”. Working on a sensor or a motor, or some equivalently small piece of a game engine (say), doesn’t mean you can’t have pride in your work or that the work has to be uninteresting. Moreover, most people who end up leading a team or otherwise in a position of authority in a field get there by working their way up from small things, and gradually taking on greater responsibilities over a period of many years. It takes time and patience to get there.

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 26, 2010 at 02:44

I remember talking with you in the past Reedbeta.

I realize that I have a serious case of “ya, but I could be doing this” syndrome, meaning I’m young enough to do anything I want, yet whenever I do something I feel like I should be doing something more important. It seems it’s much more than just picking a field. It’s picking a field and forgetting about everything else. Kind of like another “the grass is always greener on the other side” type of situation.

For example, I woke up this morning and wanted to get into neuroscience. Seeing how they are working with robotic arms being moved by thought is fascinating. I’m sure tomorrow my mind will flip to something else.

There’s got to be a job out there for someone with a short attention span.

Thanks as always,

Gardon

B2d356f97a3d0dec8ae2d8c1e1fa1c2d
0
Nerd_Skywalker 101 Aug 26, 2010 at 09:16

Remember, you will always see things and go “that’s cool! I want to do that!”, but then after a little while that settles down.

2b97deded6213469bcd87b65cce5d014
0
Mihail121 102 Aug 26, 2010 at 09:30

Gardon, such thoughts are pretty normal and the remedy is to accept the complexity of the modern world. To see the big picture is impossible in general and only few people claim they really do. As software engineers we nowadays never see the big picture. And how could we?? I’m sometimes able to abstract details away and specify the absolute goal of the project (“this is an e-commerce container”), but I’m not aware of all the details. And that’s just software… constructing an airworthy vessel requires both machinery and software. How do you want to understand what’s going on? In fact, every time a shuttle is being launched into space, people are hoping nothing will go wrong and cheer after the critical phase of the flight, because they are aware that something might go wrong. Each and every one on the team is important though – he/she knows a specific task better than the others.

3c5be51fdeec526e1f232d6b68cc0954
0
Sol_HSA 119 Aug 26, 2010 at 10:20

You’re entirely correct. You should stop pondering about game programming, sell all your belongings and move to some developing country and work as a teacher.

That kind of life definitely has a meaning.

I’d never have the balls to do something like that though, and try to make the world a slightly better place in other ways.

A638aa42130293f319eda7fa4ba121f4
0
fireside 141 Aug 26, 2010 at 13:03

It’s kind of getting a little scary in the US because education is a large investment that takes loans that have to be paid back and if you screw up and don’t get a job, you can cause a lot of problems later in life. I would mainly look for a growing market and forget about enrichment and all that garbage. It doesn’t pay the bills. Games look like they are leveling. There’s a lot of competition and there are a lot of people going to school for game related jobs. It’s also probably going to involve a major relocation if and when you find a job. Not only that, but I don’t think the pay is all that great for most people in that field and they work long hours. The companies are a bit shaky, also. They come and go because a couple games that aren’t popular can wipe out a company.

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 26, 2010 at 14:34

Thanks everyone.

You know, I always find myself asking these enrichment questions when at home with the family. When I’m out on my own, fighting to survive and pay the bills this is never an issue. Pay for game programmers doesn’t seem that great, but I would try and do side projects on my own as an indie.

The only other option is web programming. It’s programming and services rendered can add up if you know what you’re doing. The problem with the technology field is that it is growing fast, so pretty soon everything will be competitive. I have to find a niche and stick with it.

Computer engineers are always in demand because more businesses = more products = more computer chips in the products. I can see why game programmers might level off. It seems nowadays there are 1001 games coming out every month. Where are all of these companies coming from?

I think I like the creative aspect more than games anyway. To be honest I don’t enjoy playing for long hours. I just like creating the code/some art that goes along with it, because it’s the only creative outlet I have.

Perhaps this will pass and I can find something else to satisfy my creative intentions. I just wish I had stuck with it. 8 years is a long enough time (in my opinion) to get good enough to land a job. Self-taught or not.

6837d514b487de395be51432d9cdd078
0
TheNut 179 Aug 26, 2010 at 19:14

Remember, there’s always hobbies. Some of us get to do really grand, cool things in life, others not so. That doesn’t mean you can’t practice what you want after hours. That is, in my opinion, where the fun really starts.

8676d29610e6c98d6dd2d9c38528cd9c
0
alphadog 101 Aug 26, 2010 at 19:34

Wow. Serious “Early Life Crisis”!

Some questions:
- How do you know, a priori, that that sensor you would be working on would be “unimportant’?
- What makes you think that being a junior engineer on a hardware project is any more or less “fun” than being a junior coder on a big studio game? You think just one guy puts out MW2 versus the team that put out the Mars Rover?
- Why are you comparing a job in a corporate environment to indie game coding? Apples and oranges. Compare indie coding to any other IT startup and you’ll that there are thrills there too.

“There’s got to be a job out there for someone with a short attention span.”

Yeah, work in any small, IT-based, young company or, even more intense, a startup. Then, you’ll probably be singing the opposite tune.

Here’s the thing, no matter what you pick, it’s got to be something you will wake up bright and bushy-tailed for, every day, for the next few decades of your life, so go with your passion.

The bottom line is with great things come great risk, but it looks like you want great things without the risk. Ain’t gonna happen.

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 26, 2010 at 20:25

Thanks everybody.

B7109317066ddd5327cb0674388c4974
0
Luz_Reyes 101 Aug 26, 2010 at 22:09

I say go for it an make games that you love. You will have a high degree of ownership over your work, which is the key to success (combined with passion). Given this combo, you’ll be unstoppable in the field. As an engineer, you’ll do ok, but won’t excel if you don’t love it.

D0b719b14d1a075337768edf72aef8bc
0
Hosebomber 101 Aug 27, 2010 at 14:38

I have these thoughts from time to time as well. 15 years ago when I decided to work on aircraft I loved everything about aviation and couldn’t wait for my next day at work. The key is finding something you love and the choices you make now can assist in getting to that point even if it isn’t a direct line.

Generalize a bit, there are very few professions out there that you will work in for the rest of your life and even less companies that you will make your entire career with. Engineers are needed in just about every sector now due to the increase in tech. In the aviation world you have structural, stress, design, communications, mechanical, and the list goes on and gets more complex when you start dealing with military aircraft and the special requirements and components there.

Take classes in multiple aspects of computer engineering and see if one of them spark your interest that you had not thought of before. The possibilities are only limited by your ability to open your eyes and see them.

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 27, 2010 at 17:06

For years I have wanted to start my own business. Now that the reality is hitting that technology takes a long time to implement, perhaps taking technology to business isn’t the greatest idea.

The only other option I have fiddled around with is web programming. Low cost, potentially high-reward.

Bottom line is that I want to start my own company someday, and web-programming seems to be the key to starting that. Or I may be way off in left-field :)

8676d29610e6c98d6dd2d9c38528cd9c
0
alphadog 101 Aug 27, 2010 at 18:37

@gardon

technology takes a long time to implement, perhaps taking technology to business isn’t the greatest idea.

That’s a bad over-generalization. Depends on the “technology”. The Slap Chop is making millions! :) Seriously, the novel idea is not the tricky part of success. It’s important, but it’s nothing without the sustained execution… and a little bit of stochastic luck.
@gardon

The only other option I have fiddled around with is web programming. Low cost, potentially high-reward.

First, the age of the “Internet Tycoon” popped with the tech bubble of the late 90s. Second, if you think running a successful, reliable web app is “low cost”, I have news for you. Your op expenses go up quick when your client base goes beyond being your friends as beta testers. :)
@gardon

Bottom line is that I want to start my own company someday

One point of advice: you would benefit immensely from getting exposure in a start-up (or two) as staff before starting one yourself. The knowledge gained would be invaluable, and I speak from experience both as staff and as a founder.

Startups will drain a founder’s life (emotionally and financially) for 3-5 years min before you get any noticeable returns… if you ever do. Live in a startup for a while, test your mettle peripherally, and see if you like the aspects your ambition is actually making you overlook, like higher divorce rates, higher suicide rates, etc…
@gardon

and web-programming seems to be the key to starting that.

No.

Honestly, your problem is that you are analyzing “bass ackwards” from “most likely successful endeavor IMO = what I will do”, instead of the better method of “what I love to do = success”. The former never works, whereas even a passionate hairdresser can have tons of success going from just styling hair to opening a chain of successful stores and a full product line.

A638aa42130293f319eda7fa4ba121f4
0
fireside 141 Aug 27, 2010 at 20:38

Honestly, your problem is that you are analyzing “bass ackwards” from “most likely successful endeavor IMO = what I will do”, instead of the better method of “what I love to do = success”.

Yes, when you are talking about your own business, it should be something you like and have experience in. When you are talking about working for someone, then the opposite is normally taken into consideration a lot more. It should be something you like and are good at, but also something where there is a large expanding market and you have a good chance of getting a job after the education part. I worked in a hospital for a while and I was listening to a group of doctors and every one of them said they went into it for the money. Nothing wrong with that. They were good doctors. A lot of these people who are looking for the perfect job they are passionate about end up being the most unhappy people I’ve ever met because they never find it and they are always complaining, looking for something better, and mostly end up without anything except a lot of bills. I doubt that plumbers go into the business out of passion. I know a guy that pumps out septic tanks for a living and he’s happy and likes his work and his life, but I doubt he was passionate about the business. He saw a demand and a way to make a profit and it was something he was capable of doing. He’s got a nice house and wife and kids. I know someone else that was always complaining about where he worked and constantly quitting. He’s living in a little shack and getting by more on generosity than anything. The perfect job never came along.

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 27, 2010 at 21:27

Most people never get out there and take the chances needed to find that perfect job. I know so many who say that they’ve been looking for years and never found it. These people expect something to happen without having the guts to go out and figure it out themselves. Hoping and praying aren’t going to put the success in your brain.

I find it’s that these people are often the ones giving me advice. On the other hand the successful people I have come in contact with also give advice, but what you don’t hear about is the failures who followed the same advice as the successful people, but just didn’t have the appropriate luck.

It could go either way. Sometimes I just want to give up all my worldly possessions and move to the rainforest (or the beach :))

Fd80f81596aa1cf809ceb1c2077e190b
0
rouncer 103 Aug 29, 2010 at 03:41

it can happen to the best of us negative experiences and huge dramas on your way to make something thats supposed to be simple, its just a little video game after all.

8676d29610e6c98d6dd2d9c38528cd9c
0
alphadog 101 Aug 30, 2010 at 00:46

@gardon

I find it’s that these people are often the ones giving me advice. On the other hand the successful people I have come in contact with also give advice, but what you don’t hear about is the failures who followed the same advice as the successful people, but just didn’t have the appropriate luck.

Wha? :)

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 30, 2010 at 01:56

It’s called hidden truths. These are the things you never hear about because they don’t appeal to your positive outlook on a given situation. For example, often times you turn on the T.V. and hear success stories of people who had nothing to start with and ended up making it to the top.

I used to watch Ronny Deutsch’s ‘The Big Idea’ for invention ideas of people who made simple ideas into millions. They make it seem so simple. What you don’t hear about is the people who had an idea, just like those on the show, who did everything in their power to make it into millions but just didn’t have the luck. You don’t hear about the countless people who failed before one emerged successfully to tell his/her story. Does the one successful person’s advice on how to make it trump the others who failed? Not necessarily, because there will always be someone who followed that advice and failed nonetheless. This means that there has to be another factor in success: luck.

The point I was trying to make was that I have to find out for myself, and stop taking the advice of other people, namely because many of the people willing to give advice are the ones who weren’t able to achieve it themselves. While they may do well in life they will never achieve the greatness of those who took the risks of finding out what their true purpose is, because the risk was too great to even try.

Fd80f81596aa1cf809ceb1c2077e190b
0
rouncer 103 Aug 30, 2010 at 06:23

sure thing, some people here are useless at programming, youd be suprised who with the odd posting actually can finish a whole game.

3c5be51fdeec526e1f232d6b68cc0954
0
Sol_HSA 119 Aug 30, 2010 at 10:39

In all seriousness, I’ve interviewed random people and the happiest with their jobs seem to be those who ended up in said profession by accident.

All friends were applying for this school, so I applied as well. The only one who’s still doing that as their job. Or, I was so hung over that I missed the entrance exams for other fields and this one was still open. Seriously. In one case a person was living rental in a place that was only for students, and he had graduated; he didn’t want to move, so he applied to something random, and ended up liking it more.

For me, I didn’t pick anything, and ended up programming. I’ve been relatively happy with it.

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 30, 2010 at 16:39

@rouncer

sure thing, some people here are useless at programming, youd be suprised who with the odd posting actually can finish a whole game.

I love when people take ideas out of context. Since you can’t relate to what I’m saying there’s no point in discussing this with you further. It has nothing to do with intellect.

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 30, 2010 at 16:42

@Sol_HSA

In all seriousness, I’ve interviewed random people and the happiest with their jobs seem to be those who ended up in said profession by accident.

All friends were applying for this school, so I applied as well. The only one who’s still doing that as their job. Or, I was so hung over that I missed the entrance exams for other fields and this one was still open. Seriously. In one case a person was living rental in a place that was only for students, and he had graduated; he didn’t want to move, so he applied to something random, and ended up liking it more.

For me, I didn’t pick anything, and ended up programming. I’ve been relatively happy with it.

I agree. When you accept that you have no control over your life and just let life take you where it’s going to take you, more often than not it ends up being better than trying to force your way into happiness.

Thank you for everyone’s help. I realize programming isn’t for me. I can’t sit in front of a computer all day anymore. While I love the logic aspect there are more important things to do outside.

Gardon

8676d29610e6c98d6dd2d9c38528cd9c
0
alphadog 101 Aug 30, 2010 at 17:36

@gardon

there are more important things to do outside.

I’m hoping you meant it as “…there are things that I’d personally rather be doing that writing software…” The way you said sounds extremely condescending, as if developers never do anything “important”.

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 30, 2010 at 17:39

@gardon

Thank you for everyone’s help. I realize programming isn’t for me. I can’t sit in front of a computer all day anymore. While I love the logic aspect there are more important things to do outside. Gardon

I don’t know how much more graciously I can leave when I thank everyone for their help and note that this is a personal issue, since I can’t sit all day any longer. I don’t understand the confusion.

8676d29610e6c98d6dd2d9c38528cd9c
0
alphadog 101 Aug 30, 2010 at 17:44

@gardon

I don’t know how much more graciously I can leave when I thank everyone for their help and note that this is a personal issue, since I can’t sit all day any longer. I don’t understand the confusion.

It’s just a heads up on how it sounded to me. Take it for whatever what it’s worth to you. No hard feelings.

Enjoy your future trials and tribulations. :)

F69b3a361c26467022ed3c31589d2bfa
0
gardon 101 Aug 30, 2010 at 17:46

Same to you.

6837d514b487de395be51432d9cdd078
0
TheNut 179 Aug 30, 2010 at 19:44

Sitting down isn’t the hard part. It’s getting back up after a couple hours :lol:

46d18dc92ae7cd35698347bd4b97f0fb
0
andyharglesis 101 Jan 03, 2012 at 08:24

I guess if you truly like it and can do it it’s worth it to some extent.

Not everything has to be a career, you know?

Some hobbyists, unpaid, are better than professional programmers who work daily at their jobs for long hours.

Not everything in life is just a decisive passion that is taken in exchange for hourly rate pay.

Some may LOVE building things, do it as a hobby always, but that’s not their career; not their profession.

I could build every day, but that’s not what I work for to earn money.

Sometimes things are just what you love, do and enjoy. Money for passion isn’t always life. Hope I’m made clear here.

B5262118b588a5a420230bfbef4a2cdf
0
Stainless 151 Jan 03, 2012 at 10:26

I wrote my first commercial program when I was 12, then wrote my first game when I was 14 (Got paid £8.00 for it! yippee) got involved with Codemasters when they first got started, hated working with them and gave up.

Went to uni and had to do a six months placement, ended up in a company called British Ropes which made steel cables for things like suspension bridges. Since I was the lowest of the low I got all the horrible jobs, but we had a lot of fun and I got my first experience of working in a real commercial environment.

Ok I was working with 1000 amp switching panels, if I needed a cable to go from a to b I had to draw it out by hand on an old fashioned technical drawing table, then send away for it to be made out of pure copper and wait a week. They made me do fault diagnostics on a wire drawing machine that had just chopped someone’s head off, and crawl inside a lime kiln, they even had me prepared to go to Iran to commission a wire drawing machine there that had just been rebuilt after the Iraq’s bombed it (luckily they bombed it again before I got there), but I learned a hell of a lot.

They then invested in an Apple II and had no one that knew how to program it. They found out that I had written a couple of games and put me on the job. If they hadn’t I would have continued working with electronics, but after the month’s of sh1t I had been through up to that point I realised that coding was the job for me.

You don’t know what is right for you until you try, and you will probably change your mind a few times before you settle into something.

Don’t worry, be happy.

46d18dc92ae7cd35698347bd4b97f0fb
0
andyharglesis 101 Jan 04, 2012 at 07:44

Stop following me around, Stainless.

B5262118b588a5a420230bfbef4a2cdf
0
Stainless 151 Jan 04, 2012 at 10:35

;) Big brother is watching :lol: