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We get lots of e-mails asking, "How do I become a video game developer?" So we asked Blue Sky Ranger David Warhol, founder and president of Realtime Associates, a leading independent video game production house, for some words of wisdom:

1. Have a passion for games. Play games extensively. Not only play them but constantly try to mentally reverse-engineer them: "How did they do that?" "What must the underlying systems be like?" etc.

2. College work in C, C++, graphics programming and related courses. You may want to look into DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington, which offers a two-year video game diploma course. It's tough to get into but its graduates are highly regarded. I'd hire a DigiPen grad sight unseen, except for the ever-important personality match.

3. Customize some games. A number of books are available on the topic of game programming that come with sample code. Compile, link, go; but then pick some sort of aspect to modify. For example, if you're more interested in "the fun factor," use the sample code to undertake a personal project that is funner than the dickens to play. Or if you're more interested in graphics engines, write a graphics demo that, for example, exercises each and every Direct-X video call with as many polygons on the screen as possible. Game Developer Magazine has somewhat current (but probably much more advanced) in-depth studies of game technology; use some of those principles in a demo program.

4. Get a job as a tester at one of the major publishers, developers or independent testing agencies. Requires good language/communication skills. Use this to get familiar with the structures and issues that go into creating a game. Work from there into level designing, scripting or assistant programming.

5. Attend the Game Developers Conference held each spring in San Jose. Has a 3-day conference track along the lines of "so you'd like to break into video/computer games" and a job fair with dozens of companies recruiting.

Where do I look to hire entry level? Word of mouth and college job recruiting boards (there's a service called JobTrak that most schools use where employers list job openings and students respond). Sometimes we recruit at the Game Developers Conference. And "cold calls" to our web site - we get lots of inquiries, but every so often someone stands out in articulating their passion for game development.

David Warhol designed and programmed the Intellivision games Mind Strike and Thunder Castle at Mattel Electronics. For INTV Corp. he produced over a dozen Intellivision titles including Commando, Pole Position and the Super Pro Sports series. Today, he's president of Realtime Associates, a leading independent producer of console-based games. Recent Realtime titles include Rugrats Scavenger Hunt and GEX 2 for Nintendo 64 and All Star Baseball 2000 and Barbie's Ocean Discovery for Game Boy. But most importantly, in 2003 Realtime developed the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Intellivision Lives!

Need more? Check out Break into the Game Industry: How to Get a Job Making Video Games by Ernest Adams. Ernest wasn't a Blue Sky Ranger, but he's the founder of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), and we've known him for years.

We also recommend the book Dombrower's Art of Interactive Entertainment Design, by Blue Sky Ranger Eddie Dombrower (World Series Major League Baseball).

Good games involve more than good programming. Eddie shares his experiences fromMattel, Electronics Arts, Activision and Jim Henson Interactive on how to design games, software and stories that are compelling, involving and successful!

Hey, we've known Eddie for over 15 years - he knows what he's talking about!


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