So, you’re interested in coding and want to make a career out of it. You’ve got your eyes set on two paths, and are comparing them to see which one suits you better- game development vs web development. I’m here to lay down the pros and cons of both options so you can make an informed choice.
So, what should you choose? In short, you should choose whatever you more passionate about. If you don’t have a passion for one nor the other then you should choose web development. Game development generally is more channeling. Although both of them are high paid jobs, web development pays a bit more and easier to get into.
The game development industry is more channeling then web development. Some can see these are advantages while others as disadvantages.
What Do Game Developers Do?
Game development as a whole is the art of conceptualizing, designing, coding, and releasing games. There are several components that go into a modern video game- art, character models, sound, physics, AI, core logic, environment, etc. As a game developer, you could be tasked with working on any of these components.
You could be a 3D artists, a creative lead, a network programmer, an engine developer, etc. Depending on the complexity and budget of a game, it can have anywhere between 1 to several dozen teams of people working on it for a period of a few months to several years. There are often two roles people talk about the most within game development- designer vs programmer.
A game designer is the one tasked with creating the look and feel of a game, conceptualizing its theme and setting up a creative vision for how the end product should play like. Designers are like directors in a movie; they coordinate and lead everyone else within the team. A designer will come up with ideas for gameplay mechanics and work on things like character design.
A game programmer brings this vision to life using the game engine, a core framework around which the entire game is built. Programmers work on core logic, AI, physics, multiplayer networking, and much more. Their job is the most time-consuming, and often the hardest.
What Do Web Developers Do?
In simple terms, web development is the process of creating websites and related content for the internet. As a web developer, you are tasked with designing, maintaining, and fixing websites ranging from simple blogs to complex social networks such as Facebook. You’ll have to build functionality into the website, so it performs the tasks you need it to.
Finally, you’ve got the full-stack developer- one experienced guy who excels at all stages of development and can contribute functionality in every step of the process. This person can do both front and back-end coding, including planning and design.
How Hard Is Game Development?
There are a few things that make game development a particularly challenging field. Though at first glance it doesn’t seem that different from any other form of software development, except you’re designing an interactive piece of entertainment. Well, the first and probably major hurdle is time. You have to put in 10 to 12 hours a day, working on the game as your entire life revolves around perfecting it.
Working with passionate and skilled colleagues in an established and highly respected game studio might be your dream now. But wait till you find yourself slogging away for months on end. Fixing every little bug, paying attention to detail in a way that ends up taking entire days just to make sure something works as intended.
Another problem you’ll face in game development is the language- most books and online educational content is in English. So if you’re from a part of the world where English isn’t a 2nd or even 3rd language, you’re in trouble. Not only will you be at a disadvantage in terms of learning, but you’ll also have trouble communicating with your colleagues. And the game you’re designing is also going to be in English.
How Does Web Development Compare To Game Development?
Yes, web development is easier than game development, there I said it. There’s not nearly as much math involved (ever tried designing a game engine?), and you’ve got a lot fewer algorithms and libraries to worry about. You don’t have to be some sort of C/ C++ guru and top of your class to get a decent web development job.
Plus, the talent pool/ competition is much less in web development. There are a lot more jobs, and a lot fewer people competing for those jobs. Unlike game development which is a highly sought after career with as many applicants as there are stars in the sky.
In web development the skills you learn are much more portable, and there is more opportunity for career growth. There is more job security, unlike game development in which you participate in something called a “death march” work ethic. You slog overtime, working on new features and cool gameplay mechanics, while your labor is extorted from you at cut-rate prices.
And when your game doesn’t work out as intended, or if the profit margins are lower than predicted, chances are you’ll get the axe. The learning curve for being a web developer is a lot smoother, and you’ll probably get a higher pay right out of the school/ university.
Oh, and if you think all web development is boring, rest assured- there are some really fun jobs in web development too. Like developing the management software for an automated warehouse where your code controls dozens of robots, stacking cranes, laser guided vehicles, etc.
How Much Does A Game Developer Make?
The thing with game development is that it’s often viewed as a cool and exciting job. Mostly by young gamers in school who are interested in coding and dream of working in Ubisoft or Activision one day. They probably dream about making millions a year, creating the next Assassin’s Creed or Call of Duty.
The truth is quite different… and often disappointing. Look, you definitely can get paid 250k+ USD yearly without even including benefits and bonuses. But not as your first, second, or even third gig. It will take time, and effort. Lots of effort. In the start, you probably don’t even care about the company, you’re happy just to get your feet wet and some experience under your belt.
Plus, wages can vary wildly. From as low as 12 bucks an hour for game testers to 150k a year if you’re a senior developer. Rates vary based on position and company, plus you also have to factor in living costs if you’re moving to a new city. For example, your home town in the countryside might be a cheap place to live in but Seattle and L.A aren’t.
As a senior software engineer, you can easily make 130,000 dollars or more every year. Payscale shows the average video game programmer salary to be over 60k per year in the U.S. which is a significant bit higher than the average wage over there.
How Much Does A Web Developer Make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a web developer is a solid 1.85x that of the average. You can easily make $70,000+ or 35+ dollars an hour as a web developer. And the job outlook is looking better with each passing day as demand for new web developers is on the rise.
The U.S. News & World Report publication did a study, and they found that web development is one of the lowest stress yet highest paying jobs in the States. While the average job growth rate is 5% for all occupations, the web development industry is speeding ahead with a projected 13% job growth by 2028.
The “low stress” aspect of this job comes from the fact that you’re mostly building phone apps and maintaining websites, which isn’t nearly as hard as designing a AAA game. Plus, you get cash bonuses, commissions, and much more along with the higher job security compared to game development. On top of that, you don’t even need a postgraduate degree.
What Qualifications Do You Need To Be A Game Developer?
Now, you don’t have to attend game development school to become a game developer. Nor do you need to have some kind of formal training/ certificate. Many popular game developers, mainly in the indie sector, are self-taught. The first and most important requirement to become a game developer is passion for gaming.
Once you’ve got a strong will to be a part of the gaming industry, you need to set yourself on the right path by learning appropriate skills based on the job you want. Are you interested in becoming a designer who directs a team and comes up with the theme of the game? Or do you want to be a programmer who creates the engine, codes the mechanics, fixes bugs, etc.?
Perhaps you’re interested in bringing characters and environments to life in a 3D world as a game artist. Or maybe you’re into sound engineering and want to work on game audio. All of these jobs have different, specialized requirements. On a base level, you need some sort of diploma or bachelor’s degree in computer science.
You should be familiar with languages such as C, C++, C#, Java, Python, etc. on a fundamental level. Even if you’re an aspiring designer whose role is mostly that of a creative lead. If you’re interested in becoming a game programmer, you’ll need master level proficiency in multiple languages along with strong critical thinking and problem solving skills.
What Qualifications Do You Need To Be A Web Developer?
As a web developer, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree related to computer science although some exceptions are made for those who already have a useful skill set and/or experience. For entry-level jobs, a 2-year associate’s degree is often enough.
There are many who become web developers after their high school diploma, but understand that you’ll need knowledge of both programming as well as graphics design.
In short, you don’t need to spend a ton of money and time in some prestigious college to become a web developer. You’re investing less, and getting more at the end compared to game development. You can also take specialized web development courses, either through a university or online. You can get industry certification from vendors like Microsoft, Adobe, Zend, Amazon Web Services, etc.
Courses included training on programming, database management, mathematics, web design, networking, etc. Even if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, you can get the industry certification from a vendor by passing their test and combine that with work experience to land a decent job.
The World Organization of Webmasters is one such vendor org, it provides three different certification levels. All these levels have common verification standards, they test your proficiency in the following fields- programming, web design, web security, database management, servers, and networking.
Comparing The Career Prospects For Game Development And Web Development
The video game industry has been experiencing growth at an accelerated rate over the past few decades, and it shows no signs of stopping. The game industry chugged on even though recessions, and it seems relatively unaffected by outbreaks that would normally crater other industries such as movies and music.
Big studios are hiring more junior designers than before, both for new IPs and to maintain existing ones. Often, junior programmers and artists are recruited before they even know what they’ll be working on.
In addition to all of that, indie games have advanced and no longer are the product of a lone programmer working in his bedroom during spare time. Now, indies are often produced by actual studios- groups of people divided into roles based on specializations and skill.
Often these studios are backed by large publishers who see promise in their ideas. There is more funding to play with, and as a result, you can see yourself getting hired by one of these indie developers. They probably won’t demand 10+ years of experience and a Ph.D. in programming as prerequisites.
Web development and design in contrast, is a lot more robust if we’re talking about career prospects. You don’t need to be a talented coder to get in, but it doesn’t hurt to put in that extra time and effort so you can use your skills in other IT sectors. You could be an applications developer, SEO specialist, UX designer, database administrator, software tester, etc.
Web development is one of the fastest growing sectors, and new jobs are popping up all over the place, driving demand and increasing wages. It is estimated to register a 13% job growth by 2028 according to various polls, and you can always step up to software development later in your career.
I hope this article shed some light on what it’s truly like to be a game developer/ web developer, and the career prospects of both options. In the end, choose a profession that you feel will make you happy. As long as you enjoy what you do, it won’t feel like a drag and you will be able to progress at a faster rate within the industry.
Learn skills relevant to what you want to be. And understand that while it’s good to dream, you should also consider what’s practical. Sometimes you’re out of luck and just don’t live in the right country or city to become a game developer. One way to go about it is to be a web developer and do some indie work in your spare time, on the side.