Path to becoming a game coder!(?)

I’ve decided it’s time for a career change. I work in finance as a administrator for retirement plans. It’s not a bad gig but it’s not something I want to do long term.

I’ve been looking into software engineering and IT in general the last few years, I finally decided to bite the bullet and go for it after talking about it for two years now.

I signed up at General Assembly and am scheduled to start their Software Engineering 6 month boot camp. It’s going to be hard with working full time and having to young kids but I feel like in the long run I’ll be happier.

With that said, a part of me really wants to become a coder for a gaming studio. I would love to work on games.

I guess the question to my XboxEra brothers and sisters, is software engineering the right path to get into coding for gaming? With that said, will developers give me a shot after a 6 month boot camp?


I’m not in game development so you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I have been in software for 18 years and some of that has been spent doing plenty of interviews and hiring.

I think gaming is a pretty specific domain and just knowing how to program doesn’t mean you can make games. I think you’ll want to take what you learn and apply it to game development on your own and actually gain experience building games. I gotta imagine entry levels going into game development have projects that demonstrate their knowledge.

FWIW I think that’s the case for moving into software development from another career in general. Just some classes isn’t enough, I typically expect someone that is playing catch up to have more to show.

Again, just my view. I’ve only worked at one company and it’s a huge one. Might not be the same everywhere.


Software development is a fine gig (been doing it for over a quarter century). But if you are older and have a family, stay as far away from game development as you can. It has the worst payment and benefits in all of software development afaik. Add to that long hours and crunch.

If you want to do a game, install Unity and experiment with that in you spare time. As a profession there are better avenues.


Sounds to me like you may be in a good position to do some indie development on your own time and dime.

Once your six month boot camp is up, maybe take the time slots in your weekly schedule you used for that and apply it towards making your own game. Once you’ve got some solo dev time under your belt, you’ll be better equipped to apply for gigs with proper outfits. Not only experience wise, but you’ll hopefully have a bit of a portfolio to show for it, too.

Or who knows, maybe you’ll be the next solo sensation à la Stardew Valley. :slight_smile: Then you might not need or want to sign up to work for someone else.

As someone who changed career mid-stream myself (IT → Film & TV) I know you’re at an exciting crossroads. I wish you luck and success.

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Thank you all for the replies, the gaming thing is a passion maybe down the line i da possibly work on small personal projects. I just wasn’t sure if software engineering translated well into game development.

With that said, the goal of the 6 month boot camp is to learn all the fundamentals etc and work on personal projects and develop a portfolio.

The good thing about General Assembly is they give me a job coach as I run through the courses and set up my portfolio. I know currently the job market for I.T jobs is wide open. What are some fields I should look into with Some software engineering training.

Certainly I’ll be entering the market at the entry level. As I mentioned before, I have two small children; I’m looking for something that pays well and won’t require me to work 80 hours a week.

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I would not expect too much from learning software development for 6 months. You said you have worked in finance and have domain knowledge there. Maybe thats a good way to start? From my experience banks and financial services need lots of custom software in their line of business applications. Someone who can code (even a little) and has an understanding of the business processes is useful. I don’t think 6 months is enough to learn full stack dev, so maybe start with web frontend stuff.

Just looked at GAs courses. Thats a lot of money, make sure you are prepared. If you will allow me to ask which prior software engineering knowledge do you have?


I agree with others that you may want to go the indie route, and install Unity and learn on your own. You’ll always learn new things in Software development. Gaming has its own issues and a lot of it isn’t as mature as traditional software development though it is getting better. Doing it on your own (and there’s a lot of tutorials out there for unity, I recommend Brackeys videos) gives you the best idea on how to game development.

You will definitely look at games differently. I do recommend trying it out, it’s a fun experience.

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That’s the thing, I don’t have any knowledge at all, I’m starting from scratch and taking their Flex Software Engineering class.

Here is a description of the course:

Pre-Work: Software Engineering Fundamentals

Unit 1: Front-End Development

Unit 2: Full-Stack Development

Unit 3: Front-End Frameworks

Unit 4: APIs & Full-Stack Development

My young brother is actually an I.T software recruiter. His company finds prospects for clients. When I spoke to him about my desire for a career change, he’s the one that actually pointed me towards General Assembly.

He’s had candidates whom completed their boot camps move forward into jobs.

Some of the listings he see a lot are usually Contract to possible permanent hire, but he says the market is certainly open though.

Then youre in for 6 very intense months. I don’t want to scare you, just be real. My advise would be to prepare yourself with some basic knowledge (how computers work internally, beginner javascript course, etc.) beforehand if there is some time till the course starts.

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One of the good things, general Assembly sent me a 15 hour assessment to teach me basics of tags, CSS and some light JavaScript. To see if it makes sense for me and how I would respond.

I created a webpage, a blog and a business page with links, images, and even appropriated it so it would fit on different size screens depending on resolutions which I found really cool.

They said I did well enough where it was up to me to determine if I wanted to move forward. I said yes and now classes start March 22nd. Now I have another 20 hours or so of more fundamentals to work on and get done before classes officially start.

They did tell me, it would be hard but as long as I’m willing to put in the work!


Not being in game development myself (I’ve been in enterprise software development for 20 years), I can’t really say for certain but I don’t think software engineering as a discipline would translate well to “traditional” game development. It would focus mostly on software and systems design. Not to say there wouldn’t be career paths in game development that would make use of those skills. Especially in the AAA space where cloud services and DevOps would be critical. The more traditional “I made a game” would be more focused on scripting, visual and audio design, etc.

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Thank you all for the comments, I wasn’t sure if soft engineered could lead to game development, so it’s good to know it’s not a direct line.

With that said, I’m still digging software engineering. I’m still doing assignments just to learn more and get the fundamentals now.

A few of you from the thread have mentioned your experience in the field, if I may ask, what are your positions/ titles?

And what are some good entry level gigs?

There are a million ways to get into the industry and hundreds of ways to get into each role. I think if you show a proficiency in any area they will consider you for that role.

Software Engineering gives you a good overarching understanding of software development. I studied computer science with a “concentration” in software engineering (essentially a distinction on my degree when I took 8 software engineering classes). Think of computer science as giving you the baseline understanding of programming, compilers, hardware (in terms of chipset design), AI, maths, etc. and SE in understanding how software comes together through requirements gathering, planning, coordination, testing, and so on.

Think of baking a cake with 30 other people. There is a lot of coordination that needs to happen for it to go smoothly. On top of that you have to make sure you’re making the right sort of cake, and that the cake holds up to certain standards. That’s where the importance of software engineering lies.

So I don’t think it lends itself particularly well to a coding job, but if in your classes you show a profficiency for coding it is something you can build upon in your spare time to land that coding job.

Coding is one of the many, many jobs required to create a game. If that truly is the one thing that you really like to do then I would suggest looking at some coding specific classes or courses after you’ve done this one.

There’s more I can say but I have a few questions for you so I can focus my statements to be relevant to your situation: what do you find appealing about coding in particular? Does the idea of creating an inventory system for a character something you find appealing? How about ensuring that a weapons projectile physics works properly? How about coding an emote wheel where a player can choose and perform an emote?

In some cases people mix up “coding” with “design”, and it’s likely you haven’t but I want to put this out there in case anyone else reading this is interested, but a design role puts one in a position where they create how the gameplay/controls work, what sort of stuff the character can carry in their inventory, how the weapons work, etc. So maybe a design wall would appeal to you a bit more? Ironically to demonstrate proficiency in design you have to know how to code your own stuff to kind of show that you can do it, but the distinction is something to keep in mind.

I haven’t looked at how these large developers hire people but I get the impression that your relevant education takes a backseat to your portfolio. Like with any job where you create stuff, you need to have a decent portfolio of your own stuff to show.

So say you take this course (and maybe if you other courses after) and then you use engines like Unity or Unreal Engine to help you create some games, prototypes, and Game Jam entries. I think you will find you will learn as much in that phase as you will in the formal education phase. This portfolio shows everyone that you are adept at certain parts of game development.


Much like nrXic mentioned I would first decide if you’re a games programmer or designer and then look into the tech that will help you achieve that. For example Unreal Engine has a great system called blueprints that can actually mean you may never actually need to learn to code.

The key to reaching your goal is by actually doing it. I would recommend just picking a games engine and finding a tutorial that will teach you how to make a game. Start playing around from there by making little minigames. That is truly the best way to learn this.

Unreal uses a blueprinting tool which means you may never actually need to learn to code. As someone who is also looking to get into the games industry here are some resources I have found while doing research:


@nrXic and @Topp thank you both for the insight. So far in the pre work it’s been a lot of web development. I’ve created a few websites for fake businesses.

A lot of HTML and getting familiar with CSS and JavaScript. That’s been the gist of my 20+ hours so far and I’m finding it really intriguing. I like seeing code producing visual results.

I took a few free courses with General Assembly before finally deciding on doing full stack. I figure full stack gives me the most options for a career path.

I like front-end development, with that said I’m not really creative. If I had to create my own website I would freeze because I’m very indecisive with my own creativity. But someone giving me a layout and having me create the page sounds like something I would enjoy.

The gaming portion I guess is more like a “pipe dream.” Something I would love to eventually do but it’s not a necessity at this point in time. I’ll be 35 this year, I would love to establish myself on a path were I can gain much more knowledge before shifting into gaming.

You’ve both provided awesome resources though. With my lack of prior knowledge I assumed software engineering could lead directly into gaming but I’m finding it’s not so likely, some of the same concepts and language may apply but there’s a lot of differences.

My goal is to get into some type of career/job to gain my experience and on the side start looking at theee gaming resources and putting them into practice.

I hope I’m not reading too much into this and oversimplifying things but it does sound like you would enjoy a scenario where an artist comes up with a weapon model, sound effects person comes up with some sounds, a designer comes up with how the weapon works, and you would be the one coding things so It all works and becomes a reality. So it sounds like you have a good and accurate idea of what you want to be doing.

I personally think you can turn any life experience into relevant experience related to your goals, but more than that the current courses you are doing are a good way to get your feet wet to understand software development, especially because you are coming from a completely different field. Sure the language may not be used in games but everything else from requirements gathering, to execution, to testing is a part of software/game dev. I think the course you are doing is giving you a good and realistic understanding of taking a product from conception to reality. Something that specific coding classes will not teach you.

After this you do this you could always do a free or paid Unity or Unreal course if you wanted something directly related to games.

I’m not a rock climber so maybe this is a poor allusion but I think you chose a solid thing to grab onto as you begin this journey. I’ll give you a good basis of understanding software as you grab the next thing to climb higher.


I hate to say this but how old are you? Software development is a young person’s game. If you look at any large software dev team, it looks like a college dorm. Keep that in mind.

I used to work in game dev in the 90’s. It was great fun getting to work with a lot of people your age and going to events like E3 but the pay was really bad compared to what other industry was paying for programmers. If you do end up with a job at someplace like EA be prepared to work on things that may seem really distance from the actual game itself. Be prepared to work on tools that may seem insignificant but that’s where they put junior programmers. If you are really serious about engineering, I would recommend you not learn Unity or Unreal at first. Learn things like SDL/Raylib/MonoGame. These are tools that people use to create their own game engine. Make a simple game engine yourself. Then when you move to Unity or Unreal you have a good background.


I currently work as a webdev and none of the devs I work with would consider themselves creative! :smiley: Keep in mind you have endless different website designs shown to you on a daily basis. Consider setting yourself a task to create a site that looks like this forum. Or even as a future project creating you own forum web app based on something you see.

For web development once you understand JS & CSS I would recommend looking into different JS frameworks. Namely VueJS/React and NodeJS. These are what alot of the industry are using or are looking to use on newer websites/apps.

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You’re probably more likely / better off getting through that course and working in tech rather than games, unless you want to apply to companies like EA, whatever that use those skills (re: web, APIs, online cloud infra, whatever). Lots of them need those more “typical” software roles especially as things go GaaS.

Gameplay programming? That’s going to be a tough sell without pretty strong math, linear algebra, physics type backgrounds and C++ OOP skills. You can do hobbyist stuff in Unity or UE to learn, but unless you were in school and got an internship as a potential foot in the door any established studio is going to want multiple shipped titles, years of exp, or a good portfolio to demonstrate your skills. That could take years starting from scratch.

If you wanted to get into games I think your best bet is finding a more traditional SWE role at a game/game adjacent company and if you get in, use your foot in the door to show interest in other disciplines. Engine programming, QA, AI, tools, whatever. That seems to be the most realistic path given your current status rn.

A lot of game dev can get away with just basic high school math. Things like basic trig and vector math can all be learned in high school. While the math is not complicated you better know it well and why you are using doing it. Back in the day of software 3d renderer you had to do vector dot product to cull triangles. That could be written in one line of code. Now even directx does it for you…

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