We all hit stages where we wonder if what we’re currently doing is what we really want to do, and never more so than while studying at college. There’s pressure to feel like you are making the right choice as it will define the rest of your life. Whilst college is important, you can always swap careers whenever you want, but making that decision earlier makes it easier. When thinking about what your passion truly is, many people look to games and their creation. But can you make the move into games development if you drop out of college?
As a Lead Artist, I’ve been responsible for hiring some of the Artists and Animators for my company, so I am able to depart some wisdom on what we look for and how to impress potential employers, no matter what your background is.
Do You Need A College Degree To Work In Games?
You don’t need a college degree to work in games, so it would be possible to drop out of college for a career in games. However, having a relevant degree will definitely help as it shows knowledge in the subject and shows you can work hard under your own supervision. To get a job without a degree, you need to prove that you can do the work more than someone with one.
You will need to have an impressive and consistent portfolio of work that you can show to a prospective employer to prove that you have the necessary skills. It will also be a good idea to show work in progress or have breakdowns of your thoughts, ideas, and concepts. This is because, by showing your work, it proves that you haven’t just stolen that work from the internet and portrayed it as your own. Unfortunately, some especially short-sighted people do attempt these, so people in charge of recruiting like myself have to watch out for that.
Can You Just Become An Indie Dev?
So far we have only spoken about getting a job at an established games company, as that is where my background lies. But what about going solo and becoming an indie developer? As you won’t have to go through a hiring process or anything like that, the question becomes less about if you can do it so much as if you can be successful. This answer is much harder to answer as there is so secret formula to success and it relies much more on the person and their skills than a salaried job.
Making games is hard (in fact we have a whole series on the parts of making a game here). It requires a lot of skills across multiple disciplines as well as an incredibly large amount of time. While it is possible for a knowledgeable dev to knock up a small indie game in a few weeks, most games are looking at a year or more of development, even more for someone just starting out, and a lot of devs find themselves working longer than usual hours due to their passion for the project. As such the decision to go indie should be backed up with enough funds, either working alongside it or having enough savings to last you, which makes this impossible for a lot of people.
Should You Drop Out Of College?
To choose to drop out of college is a big decision and one that shouldn’t be made lightly. If you are at the stage of considering this I am sure that you have thought long and hard about it, so I won’t labor the point, but something to consider is how it will look on your resume. You don’t have to put that you had an unfinished course if you don’t want to, but any gap in learning and working times will most likely come with questions that you will need to answer. If you are close to finishing a course, it might be best to get the qualification first even if it’s unrelated to games.
Some courses that you may not think are related to games definitely can be, due to the wide range of skills needed to make games. Things like physics can help with programming, psychology can help with game design and anatomy can help with art. Who knows what your unique knowledge can bring to a role in the games industry. So even if you want to switch career, consider if you would be best sticking with college before making the change.