For many people who want to learn how to make videogames, the Internet seems to be all they need- a wonderful place with lots of learning resources such as YouTube videos and free/low-priced online game-making courses found on generic E-learning platforms.
Truth be told, these are great options to start with, especially for those with limited financial resources. One can easily learn the fundamentals of tools such as Game Engines like Unity and Unreal, or creative software such as Photoshop, Gimp and Blender.
It's quite common (and actually a good idea) to start off by making a few small games by oneself with the guidance found using YouTube and generic E-learning resources. This creates familiarity with tools, and the basic workflow of making games.
However, as a lot of beginner Gamedevs find out, this is where things get tricky.
As a Game career mentor, I meet many people who start their journey of game-making using online resources such as these, but soon hit a wall.
"I'm stuck and don't know what to do next."
"I made a couple of games through my Udemy course but I can't seem to find a job in a game company." "I keep starting game projects on my own but can't finish them or break into the game industry."
I often receive messages/comments such as these on my Instagram, YouTube channel and Discord server.
The reason most people 'get stuck' after starting learning game-making on the internet is because they hit what I call the Gamedev Iceberg: the hidden processes of game-making that you don't see on the internet!
There are a few processes like coming up with a game idea, coding and art asset creation that are visible for all to see, and can be learned/taught on the internet.
These are literally the tip of the iceberg, and the remaining processes such as pre-production and project management, remain hidden from the beginner game-maker's vision.
Even though every game team follows their own practices and workflow, there is a method to the madness that is game-making.
In the Gamer2maker method, I teach my students that there are fundamentally 4 Ps that need to be followed to make something of a high-quality, world-class game. These are:
PLAN / PRODUCE / POLISH / PUSH
This is a rigorous process of pre-production; it involves market and player research, conceptualization, scoping, documentation, prototyping and concept art.
Producing the game involves actually building the game-coding the mechanics/functionality of the game, and creating/implementing the art and sound assets. Beginners usually start here, skipping all or part of the PLAN phase. It's usually a recipe for disaster, and the reason why most beginner game projects fail.
This is among the hardest phases of the game development process, and involves rigorous testing of the game (by the team and external testers) and improvement of the game on the basis of this feedback, just prior to release.
This is where one needs put the game out there to get people to play it! Call it marketing or selling, it starts well before the game releases and involves building a marketing strategy and effectively implementing it. It's another phase that beginner Gamedevs are notoriously poor at.
Here are a few points that need to be kept in mind while deciding between self-learning and taking a Gamedev course:
Unless these 4 Ps are understood (and followed), it is not possible to make the transition from an amateur to a professional game-maker, be it establishing a game studio or getting a job at one.
One needs a STRUCTURED LEARNING program to learn the process of Gamedev, and that only through a PRACTICAL program that involves a MENTOR from the game industry who has experience making games.
The internet seems to be a promising resource for learning game development, yet provides disconnected, fragmented knowledge and information that leaves significant learning gaps.
And while it may be possible to break into the game industry through self-learning, and then learn on the job at a game studio...I would argue that it would be a far more difficult path and probably take much longer to reach the same level of competence as a game-maker.
One tends to make faster progress by making a strong start. Learning the fundamentals of game-making at the beginning of one's career from experienced instructors and mentors is definitely the ideal career path for a prospective game-maker.
Having said this, I will also have to admit that there are a LOT of bad game courses out there; unless one knows how to choose a GOOD game course, one could end up wasting a significant amount of time and money and not make much progress.
Here, It's probably relevant to mention my experience of attending a good game course: In 2008, I was a Merchant Naval officer when I decided that I wanted to learn how to make games. I enrolled at the Game Design Program at VFS, which is a year-long diploma course and very intense indeed!
I had to really work hard and push myself, but it was money and time well spent. Within a year, I went from absolute novice to someone who had a good idea about how games are made.
Right after I graduated, I joined Piranha games as an Intern and a few months later, I was hired as Game Designer at Gameloft. This rapid career transition was only possible because I was part of an intensive, structured course closely mentored by Game industry professionals.
That's it for now, do let me know your thoughts on the matter!