For many of us growing up, our childhoods are spent very happily ensconced in the latest video game releases – whether that’s the hottest new releases on the PlayStation or Xbox these days, or for readers of a certain vintage, the joy of clacking a new cartridge into your Sega Mega Drive.
For the happy few, a childhood hobby can go on to become an adult vocation, and a survey by jobsite Indeed found video game designer to be the dream career among the respondents.
However, as millions share that aspiration, the jobs market in game development is incredibly competitive – some will never find a way in, sadly.
Maybe the smart thing to do is open your mind to related possibilities. You can develop your own titles in your spare time, building a loyal following as you release platform and RPG-style games via the Apple and Google Play stores.
Or you could break into video game design via a closely related niche, by becoming a casino game developer. There’s enough wiggle room here to express yourself creatively, and it will show development firms that you possess the skills to create scenarios and gameplay from scratch and then bring them to life via your coding.
Very few people stroll through life getting what they want – from a career perspective, hard work, dedication and thinking outside the box are typically necessary to get your foot in the door of your dream job.
For an aspiring games designer/developer, casino gaming could well be your happy halfway home that enables you to break into the industry. Here’s exactly how you can do it.
On the right course
For many creative industries, there are two general paths in: by attending a course of study and building the skills and knowledge required, or by being self-taught and showing potential employers a ‘body of work’ that you have developed in your own time.
The educational route is the path most trodden by aspiring game engineers, with plenty of degree-level courses available in all corners of the globe. These courses include games design specifically, or more general computer science and software engineering.
While casino game developers have that theoretical background in programming and coding, designers can often come from more artistic backgrounds. To that end, if you have a degree in art, animation or graphic design, you could apply for a ‘top-up’ course in games design based upon the skills you have displayed in the non-virtual world.
Want to try a different path? Some casino game development firms will employ testers to ensure that their games meet certain quality standards. If you can showcase your understanding of the unique game mechanics, then it could be another angle into an engineering position.
As is the case with many creative sectors, having a portfolio of work is essential, and if you can build your back catalog via a recognized firm or ‘on the job’ learning, then all the better. Keep a look out for apprenticeship programs in your area, and don’t be afraid to send cold-call emails to development firms offering your services (for free, of course).
Be courteous and polite, and you never know what might happen – after all, what’s the worst that can happen from sending a speculative email?
From idea to screen
The role of the game engineer is to bring to life the artistic ideas of a designer or visionary. You will know coding and programming basics, and be able to flesh out ideas by adding the ‘meat on the bones’ – that is, the code that brings design work to life in playable form.
Once upon a time, casino games were pretty basic – those fruit machine-style slots where there were three reels and common symbols such as lemons, cherries and BAR. However, the industry has moved on, and now casino titles feature video content, audio, side games, special features and AI in a bid to make them more appealing to a new audience.
To that end, casino game engineering has become more complex – but no less satisfactory as a result. You will have a wider spectrum of possibilities in your gaming, from graphical innovations to game mechanics where reels can collapse or expand to create chains of winning spins.
As is the case in all gaming sectors, mobile is taking over – online casinos are no different. The best of the emerging crop of new casinos are placing greater emphasis on designing and engineering games specifically for small-screen devices, and it goes without saying that you will give yourself a significant edge in the jobs market if you know how to code and develop mobile games in particular.
Mention should also be made of the live casino environment. This popular niche is where real-world dealers are filmed handing out the cards and spinning the roulette wheel from a studio, with the game graphics then overlaid on top. This synergy of the real with the virtual is growing in popularity – particularly in a sector likely to be dominated by augmented reality in years to come – so technical expertise in this area will certainly stand you in good stead.
So, you want to be a games engineer?
As we have learned, it’s not easy to break through into the gaming industry as a developer or an engineer, and so taking an indirect route in – via a niche such as casino gaming – comes highly recommended.
Once you are armed with the theoretical skills and practical application of them, you can break into game engineering – though it must be stressed just how competitive this niche is.
However, you might just get to see the world as an engineer, earn good money, and spend your days doing something that you genuinely enjoy – and you really can’t put a price on that.