One of the first things that I did when I decided I wanted to pursue game development was to ask Google how long it will take me to learn game development.
And here I am, after 4 years of making video games, answering that question to whoever is interested in game development as their career choice.
First of all it is important to determine what being a game developer actually means. There are game engines out there that are making video game development more accessible to people
That said, you can build a very simple video game in less than a few hours even if you have never written a single line of code in your life. If you count these games as professional work, then it takes you a few hours to become a game developer.
However, if we’re talking about earning a living as a game developer, then it’s going to take much more than a few hours, but how much time exactly?
How long does it take to become a professional game developer?
It generally takes 1 to 4 years to become a professional game developer if you dedicate enough time to it. The actual amount will vary depending on whether or not you decide to get a college degree and on how much time and effort you put into learning game development.
It personally took me almost 3 years to start calling myself a game developer. I was studying computer science, and I was learning game development during my free time.
I managed to land a job in game development at the time I finished my computer science degree, and I have been calling myself a game developer since then.
How much time it takes to become a game developer also depends on when you start counting. If I were to start counting from the day I started learning the Unity game engine, I would say it took me less than a year to become a professional game developer.
So to sum this whole thing up, if you are aiming to get a degree that is related to game development, then it’ll probably take you a while to start calling yourself a professional game developer (more than 3 years maybe), unless you manage to land a game development job while studying, which would be awesome.
However, if you are aiming to learn game development on your own, and you know that you will be dedicating most of your time to learning and making video games, then you might be able to start building video games professionally much earlier.
If you’re in doubt, and you don’t know whether you should pursue a degree or not, then you can check this article that goes into detail about what degree you’ll need for game development.
One of the options is actually not to get a degree at all. A degree might help you in some areas, however, it is completely possible to learn game development on your own, and if done right, you can reduce the time it takes you to actually become a professional game developer who either works at a company, or builds their own indie games.
One last thing that I want to mention here is that your passion for game development can heavily affect how much time it takes you to become a game developer.
During my college days, I was always eagerly waiting for any free time to be able to work on game prototypes, learn new game dev related things, and so on. I loved every single second of it too (I still do). That helped me reduce the time I needed to be able to build video games professionally.
That said, if the thought of learning how to program a video game gets you excited, then that is great news.
However, if you hate the idea of having to learn how to code, and how to solve problems that might be extremely difficult to deal with, then it will probably take you a bit more time to become a game developer.
Before I wrap up this article, I would like to mention that the engineering side of game development is not the only option. You have other options too, that’s what the last section of this article will discuss.
Non-engineering game development fields.
If you like the idea of building video games, but you’re not a fan of engineering the code behind the game, then you can still participate in building video games.
You can try to become a game tester for example, and I assume that becoming a game tester takes less time than becoming a game engineer.
However, do keep in mind that it can be difficult to land a game tester job (Quality assurance job) as a large number of people are interested in such a job, and large game development studios might pick people who at least know a bit about the engineering side of things.
Another option is to become a game designer.
I have written a full article about how to become a game designer without a degree so I won’t repeat myself here, but it can take you less time to start designing video games than to actually program them, especially if you love creating great experiences for people to enjoy.
It takes a few years to become a decent game developer, however, it takes forever to learn everything related to game development, so how long it actually takes you to call yourself a game developer depends on your definition of what a game developer is.
In my personal experience, it took me up to 3 years to land a job as a game developer. Though these 3 years included me getting a computer science degree, and it can take you less time if you decide to pursue learning game development on your own using online tutorials and books.
If you are interested in reading more, here are some articles you can check