Making Games Your Career

A career path for games development.
Lots of young people have a passion for video games, an AIE bachelors gives them a pathway into the industry

Year 12 is a challenging time for students and educators alike. It’s a time when expectations about the future seem ever-present, and decisions about universities, vocations, and careers can feel almost like life-and-death choices. For those students whose passions sit outside of the traditional curriculum, it can be even more of a challenge – and educators often find themselves at a loss with how to help them.

I too was one of those students. I personally struggled with a degree course that looked good on paper but wasn’t my passion. It was going to provide me with a safe job, a well-planned future and make my parents happy. My degree was not something I wanted to accomplish; it was something that I had to do. My grades compelled me into it. It made sense in my head and my parents were happy with my choice. At some point, I wanted to switch courses, but my dad didn’t agree, so I continued to stick it out.

Many students find themselves in a similar situation. They have plenty of hobbies and interests, and yet none of them appear to fit into the ‘traditional career’ templates. In my case, I rebelled and decided that I had to follow my heart – and it was possibly the scariest moment in my life.

My own interests – as with many of today’s teenagers – were centred around video games. I had just witnessed the birth of the video games industry. Pong, Space Invaders and Pac-man were all the rage. I wanted to become a video games developer and my university friends wanted to do the same. How do you explain this to your parents? Mine had never even seen a video game, let alone played one.

It’s been 37 years since I and three like-minded friends started working on our first game. The games we went on to make have been played by millions of people. Along the way, we created Australia’s game industry association, the industry peak conference, and the AIE, the non-profit vocational educator that supported and fuelled Australia’s game and visual effects industry.

Thankfully, the video game industry has evolved massively since then, and today, the industry is a tried and tested career path for many. In order to help all those young students who love gaming but aren’t sure how to turn it into a career, we’ve recently launched AIE Institute, a higher education provider that will be offering a Bachelor of Game Development for the first time in 2023.

The degree will allow students to major in one of three areas: game art, game design and game programming, and provide them with specialised skill sets to enter the rapidly growing game development industry.

This degree takes the best aspects of the AIE’s industry focus and practical skills and combines them with the critical thinking and academic research required by higher education. AIE Institute’s degree gives students time to grow and develop the critical thinking, creative and technical skills to make a real impact when they graduate.

A key part of AIE Institute’s Bachelor of Game Development is the simulated studio environment on campus. A third of the program is spent working in teams of artists, programmers and designers working on projects and building games. In the last semester of the degree, students can opt into a work placement internship and spend a semester working in-game studio on real industry projects. It’s a fantastic opportunity and we expect that many of the students that undertake this internship will be hired.

Game development is rewarding but it’s not easy. Completing projects is hard when you’re in a team of highly creative people that think in different ways and have different approaches in how they tackle problems. So is maintaining the passion and dedication it takes to bring an idea to fruition. Many good ideas, storylines, game mechanics, characters, animation and lines of code do not make it to the final product.

It would have been amazing if this degree was available to me when I was a year 12 student all those years ago. Having the opportunity to learn the best practices from experienced professionals is invaluable for new developers and something we just couldn’t access when we were starting out.

If you know a year 12 student who loves gaming more than life itself, and would do anything to make games their career, then they’re lucky. Lucky to be entering higher education at a time when these kinds of degrees exist. AIE Institute’s Bachelor of Game Development might very well be the course they’ve been looking for.

Image by lena Darmel