Developing games can be an exciting way of expressing yourself and your ideas, no matter your age. Everyone has to start somewhere, and this guide gives you a good overview of where you can start.
Making games is something that everyone should try. It's fun and exciting to make things that you and your friends can play together, and it helps you build up skills that can help you in the future.
Making games can involve pretty much every type of skill, including math, art, drama, programming, design and music. By learning to make games, you'll flex your creativity and problem-solving skills while building something you can be really proud of.
Making your first game isn’t as hard as it sounds, and in this quick guide, we’ll give you some ideas, links, and tools to get started straight away…
Remixing Games You Know
Firstly, you should start playing a wide variety of games. This is so you can understand how they each work and why they are fun. By doing this, you will begin to build up your ‘language of game design’. So whether it's puzzles, action, stealth, text-based or board games, every one of them will have something to teach you.
Why not have a go at ‘remixing’ games, you know? A good one to start is Paper, Rock, Scissors. Try changing certain things about the game to mix up the play style. You could make a version that you play with your feet (!), add an extra hand gesture or do something wildly different, it's up to you, have fun!
We put together a 4 part workshop to help you remix games you know and build your first board game, this is a brilliant first step on your route to becoming a games developer.
Coming up with ideas
Ideas are all around you, you have them all the time. Ideas can be inspired by anything from the books, TV and games you already watch and play to your real-life experiences like going to school or having a holiday!
There are many ways to come up with ideas, but the first step is to write them down! Get a pen and paper and start making notes.
Let‘s explore one way of coming up with ideas below;
Generate a basic idea with this formula: Adjective (describing word) + Genre (a type of game) + environment (the place) + setting (the world it’s in) = the foundation of a game idea.
For example, you could have:
A Happy (adjective), Action Game (genre) based in a Supermarket (environment) in the Future (setting)
A Scary (adjective), RPG Game (genre) based in an English village (environment) in a parallel dimension (setting)
If you’d like more ideas for coming up with game ideas, check out our big guide here.
Once you have a game idea, you can start to write the story, draw characters, outline levels, work out what the goal of the game is and start to come up with different powerups, enemies or puzzles. This can all be done on paper first, or if you have some skills already, you can start to create your characters in a digital design program, ready for putting in your final game.
You could even have a go at writing a Game Design Document. This document outlines exactly how your game will play and look. The game development process is a constantly changing one, and the game you start making will often not be the one you end up with, so while its great to be as detailed as you can, its also ok to start with a basic idea and flesh it out as you go.
One last thing to remember with game ideas is to try and make them as simple as possible, at least when you are just starting out. Don’t try and make a massive, sprawling open-world game, start with a simple idea that is achievable at your skill level and build towards your bigger ideas as you improve your knowledge. It’s not a race, do everything at your own pace and remember to have fun.
Now that you have your idea all planned out, it's time to start building it…
Tools to use
When deciding what game tools you want to use, if possible, start with something you know that’s at your skill level. Some of the main game development tools are called ‘game engines’, these are programs that let you pull together all the art, animation and sounds you’ve created into something that’s playable.
The best way to start using these tools is to play around with them. We’ve listed some of our favourite beginner tools below, each with a link to a getting started tutorial that will set you up with the basics;
Dreams is a game where you can create your own games, animations, music, and art and share them with others. This is for Playstation 4 & 5 and offers a free trial.
Gamemaker 2 is a program where you can make your own video games without knowing how to code. You can use this on PC and Mac and offers a free trial.
Construct 3 is a game-making program that lets you create your own games without coding. You can use this in your web browser and it offers a free trial to get started.
Core is a free-to-use game creation platform where you can make your own games or play games created by others using a library of assets and simple scripting tools. It is built on top of the popular Unreal engine.
Twine is a free tool that lets you create interactive stories and games that can be played on a computer or online using a simple visual interface.
You can learn to use any game development tool given enough time, and over your game-making career, you’ll probably use quite a few. For the moment, our suggestion is to pick one and stick with it, try and get as good as possible using whatever starter game engine you choose, you’ll be surprised at how you can often transfer your skills from one to another.
If you still need help deciding on what tools to use, you can use our Tool Picker here.
Game development is something you can do on your own, but most games you play are made by lots of different people coming together to create something awesome. The game-making community is huge, with thousands of people worldwide - many of these communities are open, friendly and provide a great way of getting skills and connecting to others.
As ever, if you are engaging with online communities, make sure you are old enough and stay safe by not giving away any personal details and abiding by the rules of any platform you choose. You can read more about staying safe online here.
Here’s a list of some UK events and online communities you might think about taking part in;
Going to games events is a great way to learn how to make games because you can meet other people who love games and learn from their experiences. You can also see what other people are making, get inspired, and get feedback on your own ideas. Here are some gooduns’;
W.A.S.D is the central playable and interactive feature of the London Games Festival. Expect a broad range of playable games, some great presentations from game developers, and a chance to meet studios and learn how to start a career in games.
EGX (previously named Eurogamer Expo) is a trade fair for video games organised by Gamer Network and held annually in the United Kingdom and Germany. It also offers lots of talks and chances to play the latest titles.
Games Careers Week is a free non-profit event organised and funded by the National Videogame Museum, Into Games and Grads in Games. It's a free, week-long programme of mostly online talks and events to get you as much career knowledge as possible.
The Yorkshire Games Festival is a celebration of games culture, design and production in Bradford. It has special guests, workshops, master classes, and fun-packed activities for gamers of all ages.
Now Play This is a festival of experimental games that takes place at Somerset House in London. It’s a great way to explore new and unusual games you might not have seen before!
The Norwich Games Festival is a celebration of video games that the entire family can enjoy. It lasts for six days and is presented by The Forum Trust. You can learn about the code that makes video games happen and try out the latest releases. It’s a great way to delve deep into the world of gaming and meet the people behind the pixels.
A game jam is a creative challenge where people come together to make a video game in a short amount of time, usually just a few days. Participants have to work fast and use their imaginations to develop ideas for their games and then work hard to bring those ideas to life.
It's a chance to learn new skills, meet other game designers, and have fun making something new. At the end of the jam, everyone gets to show off their games and see what other people have created. It's like a big game-making party!
If you are considering a career in games, we recommend you take part in as many game jams as possible. Here is a list of game jams you can join;
Big list of regular game jams you can join anytime. This is the definitive list of online competitions and your go-to place for getting started with your first jam.
If you only participate in one jam a year, this is the one to do. Thousands of people globally participate in this jam that’s open to anyone at any level. There are often local hubs where you can meet people in real life, including developers who often volunteer their time to help young game makers.
Ludem Dare is a game jam where participants create games from scratch in 48 hours. It’s held three times a year and is open to anyone who wants to participate. It's one of the oldest and most respected game jams going.
The Game Makers Toolkit is one of the most popular Youtube channels for game developers. It covers a wide variety of topics and is great for beginners.
Into Games Discord
We may be a bit biased, but one of the best Discord communities for aspiring game developers is the Into Games Discord server, where you can access different discipline channels, regular online events and challenges to help you develop your skills, all for free.
Getting a Job in Games
Getting a job making games or immersive experiences is an excellent career choice. There are lots of different options for you to choose from because making a game involves so many different skills. You could be someone that programs the game, makes the art, comes up with the story or manages the game's online community. There are hundreds of options, and all are open to you!
The skills that it takes to make a game are also applicable in lots of different job roles outside of game development. Game skills are now used in architecture, product design, health, theatre, fashion, and anywhere you have to be organised and create virtual environments.
If you are serious about a career in games, your first step should be to start making as many tiny games as possible to build up a broad understanding of game making. Then you should look at what specialism you would like to focus on.
It can take anywhere from 2-5 years of training to have a portfolio of work that will get you hired in games, and at the moment, it is best to try and do a university degree in your chosen specialism. It's never too early to get started, and we would suggest looking through our list of games careers to help you spot an area that might interest you,
Ask Us Anything
We hope that’s been helpful and if you’d like to know more about a career in games or have any questions at all, please contact us here, and we’ll get right back to you - we are here to help!