So, you know you're interested in software, but you're wondering what career is a better fit, Game Development or Web Development. The idea of becoming a game developer is sexy, respectable, and sought after. However, you've heard that breaking into the industry is hard. On the other hand, you have web development, which can satisfy that coding itch and still pay the bills. Let's break down if game development is better than web development.
As a web developer moonlighting as a game developer, I can shed a little light on this.
Is Game Development Better than Web Development?
Game development and Web development are two very different disciplines. It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but they do have one thing in common: they're technical roles and are programming-heavy.
Game Developer vs. Web Developer
Here's a window into my world, and hopefully you can gain some insight into if either of these are the path for you.
Unlike backend development, there's an aspect of creativity when it comes to front-end web development. You have the unique opportunity to balance the creative with the technical.
Typically when you're working for a larger company, a designer will create a comp for you to build and then hand it off to you. Depending on how detailed that designer is, you may receive desktop, mobile, and tablet designs. If there's an existing design system, you'll use those components to build the feature you're working on. That includes button states, animations, components, you name it. If those systems are not present and you're building from scratch, you're left to fill in the gaps that the designers left out. Which, can be fun in itself. If you're working for a smaller company, you may have more creative license to play around with the UI and functionality, and you may be doing some of that designing yourself.
Web development is tedious, but can be challenging and rewarding. Making sure your product looks great on mobile, desktop, and all browsers while simultaneously keeping track of all of the idiosyncrasies of each in mind while developing with a library that's 10 years old can be very challenging.
On the other hand, when your products launch, you get to physically see your work in the world, and that can be a rewarding experience.
Languages to start learning as a Web Developer:
- PHP (if using Wordpress)
Learning to code and program is a lifelong journey, and the more you code the more you'll want to learn. That's why having the Web Developer Roadmap is such a useful tool.
Pros and Cons of Becoming a Web Developer
Web development can be a mixed bag, but overall it's a great field. 99% of the time, you're the last line of defense when it comes to anything launching. Hopefully, you have a supportive, respectful, and understanding team. However, I've been a part of projects that had a 3-month timeline and I was given the requirements and assets 2 days before it was due.
"Why is this project late?"
"Oh, we're waiting on development."
Not a great position to be in, but this happens more often than you'd think. Your choices are: stay up late and finish the project, or start setting some uncomfortable boundaries.
My biggest gripe about web development is that people find it hard to respect what they don't understand. It takes a great deal of evangelizing, trust building, and radical empathy on both sides to start breaking down those barriers.
On the other hand, it's a very stable, well-needed career path. Compared to other fields, developers and techies are spoiled when it comes to the job market. Developers get recruiters in their LinkedIn DMs weekly, if not daily reaching out about job openings. Since developers are highly sought after, there are huge benefits. Working remotely, new laptops and monitors, a flexible schedule, and competitive pay are just the top benefits among many others.
As a game developer, you'll be responsible for creating functionality for games. Depending on your role, you'll be responsible for knowing the constraints of each device and medium (think iOS vs. Android vs. PC and consoles). On top of that, knowing the intricacies of different game engines is really crucial to your role. Unity and Unreal are the two largest game commercial game engines and many AA and AAA games run on these engines. Some companies also have their own proprietary engines, like Guerrilla Games, creators of the Horizon series, but knowing other engines will give you a great starting point.
As a game developer, assuming you're working for a studio, you'll also be working in tandem with game designers, level designers, and lighting/environment artists.
Languages to start learning as a Game Developer:
- Objective C
Pros and Cons of Becoming a Game Developer
In my opinion, here is the biggest tradeoff: You get to work on awesome, groundbreaking projects that bring joy to the world. The catch is, that it's highly competitive in terms of demand, doesn't pay as well as other engineering roles, and overtime is essentially expected. Other tech industries don't have terms like "crunch time." If there's an industry-wide term for overworking employees, to the extent of sometimes 80-hour weeks, that's...a problem.
Web development is the opposite. You're (probably) working on boring projects, but you're compensated fairly, have good benefits, and have the occasional overtime ask (depending on the company).
It's also worth mentioning that most game developers are required to be in office, and those offices are going to be in or around big cities. San Francisco, New York, Dallas, Santa Monica, the list goes on. There are some more random locations, interestingly, like Plano TX (id software) and Bend, Oregon (Bend Studios).
While it seems like the cons are heavy, the upside is that you're a respected, professional game developer and you get to bring joy to potentially millions of people while doing what you love. And, you only live once right?
It's not all Doom and Gloom
Having the skills to become a professional game developer means that you have programming chops, and those are highly marketable skills in the gaming industry and far beyond. If you don't find yourself working for a studio, those skills are not wasted and are completely transferrable to another industry.