How to Become a Professional Gamer

We asked a group of gaming experts what school leavers should do if they want a career in the industry. It’s ok; thank us later.

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During a live web Q&A organised by the Guardian, we asked the experts their advice to school leavers aged 16-18, hoping to break into the gaming industry. Here’s what they had to say:

AJ Grand-Scrutton – CEO of Dlala Studios, an award-winning game development company, who started out as a game content designer/programmer.

I would say whichever discipline you are going for, put your own time in to work on personal projects and portfolio work. I'm always more impressed by a strong portfolio then I am by a degree certificate (and that's coming from someone with a degree certificate!).”

Chris Child A games technology lecturer, computer science researcher and computer games course director at City University London. He also runs his own company, Childish Things Ltd.

“A degree is essential these days for a programming job, and you might find yourself competing with graduates with and MSc or MSci. Employers love students who program C++ or C# projects in the own time. Build a decent portfolio.”

Allison Salmon – Director of game programming for Creative Kingdoms, a Live Action Gaming company. Previously she worked both as an AAA game developer with Activision and as an independent game developer with The Learning Games Network.

“To become a programmer in the game industry the best uni course to get is probably a Computer Science degree.

“Programming isn't the only role by far, though. There is design, many kinds of art specialities, sound, and music and more.”

Byron Atkinson-Jones – A game developer who has worked for EA, SEGA Sports, Interactive, Lionhead Studios, and PomPom. He is now an independent developer and has released Blast Em! on Steam and is currently working on Caretaker.

 “Doing a degree is always a good idea because it's going to make you do something that is quite tough and demanding and if you finish it you are going to show people you have the ability to start and finish something quite important.

“As for games, now has never been a better time to actually just go and make games. Use tools like Unity and GameMaker to make something. It doesn't have to be perfect - I'm still learning how to design games and I do this by making games.

“These will also be useful to show any prospective employer or uni course director that you are keen and determined to do this.”

Mark Hastings – Co-founder and chief executive of Guerilla Tea, an advisory board member of the Computer Games Journal and the Board of Directors Treasurer for IGDA Scotland.

“As everyone has said a degree is a (near) necessity to work in the Games Industry. Now, which degree you do depends entirely on the role you would like to go into (art, code, design etc) but good things to look out for are courses that are SkillSet Accredited courses and degrees that have team based modules that let you work with the other courses.

“The most important thing though is to start making games straight away. It's gotten so much easier to do in the last few years and all the best developers I know started making games long before they got to university.”

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