‘Just dive in’: UW Game Dev Club helps students pursue careers in game development | Community
Microsoft is poised to become the world’s third-largest games company after defying antitrust regulators with a nearly $70 billion acquisition of popular game company Activision Blizzard.
The video game industry is growing exponentially, and UW currently lacks a significant academic pipeline for students interested in game development. UW Game Development Club, a social club designed to introduce students to game development as a hobby, has become a key resource in providing students with the experience necessary to enter professional game development on their own.
“I think right now at Game Dev Club we’re mostly focused on building interest in game development, giving people the basic tools to carry on in the field,” said club president Thomas. Nguyen. “We want to give people the tools they need to succeed.”
Although the club is geared towards building communities and developing indie games, many members join because of their interest in pursuing careers in game development. Club leaders hold weekly meetings dedicated to educational program tutorials, guest speakers, or studio tours of local businesses that provide strong networking opportunities.
“Believe it or not, people in the industry actually want to talk to students,” Nguyen said. “They really care about getting more people into the industry, which really surprised me.”
Club officer Michael Roberto Raftery explained that game development is incredibly multidisciplinary. Members most often study computer science and programming, although designers, artists, and musicians are often needed to create a compelling game.
To accommodate this, each of the club leaders specializes in a specific area of game development and alternates weekly presentations and tutorials for popular programs relevant to their specialty at club meetings.
Esau Abraham, one of the club’s leaders who specializes in the technical aspects of 3D graphics and programming, hosted a talk on January 19 where he presented custom slides, guiding members through the fundamentals of Unity, a popular game engine used for developing games of any scale.
Many club meetings revolve around complex software tutorials, Nguyen explained, so while officers are still able to host chats remotely via Discord, they aren’t able to deliver the same work by- over the shoulder that they would do it in person, which has been the biggest challenge since moving to remote operations.
“Remote was really tough,” Nguyen said. “We’ve done workshops and conferences and stuff, and it’s really hard to do that when people shut up and listen, it’s very hard to just present and not get any feedback. Interest drops a lot when online.
The club also hosts quarterly game jams to give members the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned and put it into practice with real game development. Events normally start on a Friday when a theme is announced and members are encouraged to team up to create a working game before a final presentation the following Wednesday.
These game jams are like homework, explained Abraham and fellow club officer Namit Singh.
“They’re meant to push you to further explore certain aspects of the game development genre,” Abraham said. “To figure things out for yourself and learn from them, which is why we really push people to do game jams.”
Club member Ayrton Muniz has been involved in game development from an early age. Muniz has been making games for game jams since middle school. Recently, he has used college game jams, such as those organized by the club, to bolster his portfolio, an essential resource for landing a game development job professionally.
“Game jams end up being a really great time to work with people you’ve never worked with before,” Muniz said. “You basically put yourself out there and go, ‘Hey, [does] anyone want to work with me?’ and that’s honestly how you connect.
A winter game jam is scheduled for February 4 and interested students of all levels are encouraged to participate.
“Don’t be afraid of your skill level,” Singh said. “Because you don’t have to know anything… There are so many people who have no idea how to make games, and yet they do awesome things in game jams, so don’t be afraid to throw a a look.”
Contact writer Hunter Bos at [email protected] Twitter: @_HunterBos
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