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Student Writes About Job Shadow

posted Feb 21, 2018, 7:55 AM by Chris Cooney   [ updated Feb 21, 2018, 8:55 AM ]
Game design clipart
See below an article written by student Bryan McKenny about his job shadow regarding Video Game Design...

Greetings, good citizens of Newmarket! As your newest humble news writer, I will today be sharing my job shadow experience at Skymap Games with you all.* Everyone** loves to play video games, but I also enjoy designing and programming them. I started making games on Sploder.com in 5th grade (including the famous EAT ANCHOVIES), and then I migrated to the program Gamemaker, which I used to put three games on the Google Play Store.*** The job shadow at Skymap helped me think about my next steps into the real gaming industry.

I was able to job shadow at Skymap Games through Newmarket’s Extended Learning Opportunities program. Skymap Games is located inside a glassed-off room somewhere in Manchester, NH. There are about five other different video game companies/contractors in that same room, so Skymap has only one long table, covered with computers, to work at. I had the opportunity to talk to five out of the six members that comprise Skymap, as well as some other programmers in the room, and everyone was very friendly. I learned quite a few useful facts during that job shadow, and I will try to dutifully compile them below, for your viewing pleasure:****
The two best engines for 3D game making are Unity and Unreal Engine. Unity is better for mobile games and other such performance-intensive projects, while Unreal is better for pretty much everything else (according to Skymap Games, at least). Unity is also easier to get into because it uses C# instead of C++, although Unreal does have a Blueprint block-coding mode which is easy to understand and useful for even the programmers at Skymap.

Networking is everything. This I learned the hard way (by getting only $4 out of all three of my Google Play apps), but it was ground into my brain even deeper by Neal Laurenza, the managing director of Skymap Games. Networking is essential if you want your game to get recognition, and I learned the best ways to advertise: social media (obviously) and going to events. Lots and lots of events. Neal went to PAX with his company’s game, Bacon Man, as well as other gaming conventions, and even a bacon festival in Canada. He also published the game’s preorder on the Humble Bundle store, which gets lots of traffic.

If you are not organized when making a game with others, you will perish by fire fail. Skymap uses the program Trello (which is basically a million sticky notes that can be commented on and moved between “Ideas”, “To-Do”, and “Done”sections) to stay organized as a team, and they also use Google Drive for collectively editing the game script. To keep everyone on the same version of Bacon Man, the team uses a server that they constantly update with the latest version of the game, and other members can download it from there.
It is better to get a job as a game programmer and then work up to becoming a designer than to try to apply as a designer immediately, because “ideas are like farts; everyone has them, and they usually stink” (this was the wisdom imparted to me by Neal).
This may seem obvious, but you need good self-management and problem-solving skills to become a programmer (of any sort).

To anyone***** who made it this far, I applaud you. And I will reward you with a FAQ session that I created myself:

Q: Do I have to go to school to become a video game programmer?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: Well, concepts such as trigonometry, physics, and geometry are very useful when creating video games, especially 3D ones.
Q: Fine. Do I have to go to college then?
A: Yes.
Q: Why?
A: Well, you need a bachelor's degree in Computer Science or Video Game Programming (yes, that is a real major) to even be considered for a programming position.
Q: Wait, you mean playing video games isn’t enough to get the job?
A: ...

And there you have it, folks. This job shadow was extremely valuable to me, and it was also quite enjoyable. I even got to play Bacon Man! Now, it’s time for a final call to action: “Reach for the skies,” which is the slogan of Skymap Games, and can be interpreted here as: “Do a job shadow to explore your career interests!”

*you all - Archaic term that roughly translates as “the couple of random people who happen to look at the front page of the school website and are so shocked by seeing a post by anyone other than Chris Cooney that they decide to click on it.”

***https://play.google.com/store/apps/developer?id=Anjosustrakr+Games&hl=en (Fun Fact: This link doesn’t work if you’re signed into a school account, because the Newmarket School District is counted as a different country where Google Play games are not available (or maybe it’s just blocked).)

****Because who reads paragraphs these days, anyway?

*****Probably only Mr. Levasseur.