How To Become A Game Developer

Ross Bramble
3rd April 2023

The video game industry is booming: nearly 300,000 people work in the industry in the US alone - more than double the number employed in 2010.

Interest in becoming a game developer is as high as it’s ever been, but what does a game developer do, how do you become one, and what can you do today to help launch your own career in game development?

This article covers:

What is a game developer?

Video game developers are the technical wizards who bring a game’s designs, physics, mechanics, and art style to life. Coding and computer programming are the backbone of their profession.

Game developers can choose to be generalists, capable of working on many areas of a game’s code, or can specialise in certain aspects of game development, such as:

  • Game genres, like first-person shooters and management sims
  • Platforms, such as consoles, desktop, or mobile devices
  • Game engines, such as GameMaker
  • Coding languages like C++
  • Technical niches, like UI (user interface) or level design

Without game developers, Crash Bandicoot wouldn’t spin, Max Caulfield wouldn’t turn back time, and CJ wouldn’t have needed to follow the damn train (which, to be fair, would’ve saved us all a lot of grief).

How much does a video game developer make?

The average game developer salary is $71,295 a year in the United States, and £38,838 per annum in the UK.

Big Smoke’s infamous line from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, developed by Rockstar Games

What degree do you need to become a game developer?

Development studios often look for candidates with a degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. Some universities now offer standalone game design degrees that will serve you just as well.

Maths, physics, and coding are the major skills that underpin these degrees, and game development as a profession.

Can you become a game developer without a degree?

Absolutely you can.

If you’re hoping to work somewhere like Bethesda or Auroch Digital, a degree certainly helps, but it's perfectly possible to start a career in game development based solely on the strength of your portfolio.

What’s the best coding language to learn to become a game developer?

That depends on what kind of developer you’d like to be.

If you’re looking to work for the Bungie’s or Square Enix’s of this world, the majority of game development roles will require knowledge of the C, C#, or C++ coding languages:

  • C is the fundamental coding language that underpins # and ++
  • C# is widely considered the easier language to learn
  • C++ is commonly used in console and PC games

If you’re looking to become an indie game developer, or if you’d just like to make your own games for fun, you don’t need to learn how to code at all.

It’s perfectly possible to create games using visual or ‘drag-and-drop’ editors, which let you build games with pre-built blocks of code, rather than coding every aspect of your game line by line.


Tips on starting a career in game development

1. Start small

If you’re not ready to make your own game from scratch, start small.

Make a character move using keyboard inputs, create an old-school shooter like Asteroids, make an AI follow a certain path. It might not feel like much, but it all adds up.

2. Build a portfolio

Your portfolio is your biggest asset. Fill it to bursting with examples of your work: show potential employers what you’re capable of.

Whether you’re creating mods, code examples, or full-blown games, leave them in no doubt as to what you can do and the standard you can do it at.

3. Go indie

You don’t need to work for a AAA development studio to become a game developer. All you need is a game engine, an idea for a game, and the determination to make it happen.

We’ve written a comprehensive guide to the best game engines for beginners to help you determine which is right for your project.


Undertale, made in GameMaker, developed by Toby Fox

How to become an indie game developer with GameMaker

If you’re ready to begin your game development career, download GameMaker today!

GameMaker is a 2D game engine that’s completely free to download, perfect for beginners and professionals alike. The software has been used to develop well-known indie games such as Undertale, Hotline Miami, and the award-winning Spelunky series.

You can even create your first game within half an hour with our Hero’s Trail tutorial. We offer hundreds of guides and tutorials to help you grow your skills and become a fully-fledged indie game game developer.

You can also sign up to the GameMaker Forum and pose any game-making questions you may have to the indie game dev community.

Happy GameMaking!

Written by Ross Bramble
As GameMaker's resident gaming historian, Ross Bramble brings over a decade of writing experience to managing our blog and producing our gaming articles. In his spare time, he likes to complain about how long it's been since we last saw a new Kid Icarus game.
Back to blogs