Also known as: Games programmer, Gameplay developer
What does a gameplay programmer do?
Gameplay programmers write the code for the interactions that make a game fun to play. While lead designers decide on the combat, gameplay programmers make it happen.
They work with level designers to see what needs to be done to make the gameplay work. They write the rules that govern what objects do and pay attention to balancing and tuning of the way the game plays. They also fix bugs and optimise the game for playing.
What is a gameplay programmer good at?
- Programming: be highly proficient in programming, finesse levels and seamlessly integrate scripts
- Knowledge of gameplay: imagine the best gameplay or game mechanics for the experience
- Knowledge of game engines: understand games engines and their abilities and limitations
- Collaboration: work closely with the lead designer, gameplay programmer, AI programmer, art department and other programmers
- Communication: work with the team, establish and document best practices for scripting and delivery of assets
Who does a gameplay programmer work with?
At the start of a game’s development, the gameplay programmer works with the writer and lead designer to figure out what needs to happen in the gameplay. They then work with the other programmers and artists. They also work with the QA technicians to improve the game.
How do you become a gameplay programmer?
To get into gameplay programming, it’s essential to have a degree in game design or computer science and gain some experience in the industry. A generalist programmer is a good place to begin. Go to the generalist programme job profile for details of how to do this. The most important thing is to demonstrate logical, tidy and efficient coding in any programming you might do.
At school or college:
Take A-levels or Highers in maths, physics and computer science. Or you might do a BTEC Diploma/Extended Diploma in Computing.
It’s good to keep art and design or graphic design in the mix if you enjoy those subjects as games is an industry where art and technology meet.
Build a portfolio:
Make some games or gameplay prototypes. Whatever your route you are going to need to build a portfolio to show to admissions tutors and employers. Go to build your games portfolio to learn how.
Have a go at modding:
Create your own levels of published games using software toolkits provided as part of these games.
Get a degree:
Get a degree in computer science or have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses in games. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the games industry.
Get to know people in the games industry by attending events, including games conferences and expos. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.
Search for jobs:
If you already have experience as a games programmer or artist, use the UK Games Map to find out if there are games companies near you. Then go to their websites directly and check out their open roles. Look for a generalist programmer or junior programmer role first.
You might also be interested in…
Being a gameplay designer, technical animator, graphics programmer, physics programmer, an artificial intelligence (AI) programmer, a virtual reality (VR) programmer, tools engineer, an engine programmer or a network programmer in the games industry. You might also be interested in being a software developer in visual effects (VFX). Alternatively, you could consider a technical director (TD) role in VFX or in the animation industry.
Film and TV drama
Covers genres ranging from period dramas to epic fantasies screened at the cinema, on TV or on streaming sites
Visual effects (VFX)
Involves making sequences on a computer that can't be created on set, like enormous crowds and fire-breathing dragons
Creates the illusion of movement, includes computer-generated, stop-motion and hand-drawn animation