If you’re a beginner in game development and believe you could use some kickoff for getting yourself fully immersed in that field, I highly recommend trying the Immersion Program offered by Glitch. I took it this summer and I am using this post to share my experiences with you.
First and foremost, Glitch is located at the heart of a blossoming diversity center of Minneapolis, MN, where a vibrant community of students live and work in the surroundings of the University of Minnesota. It was founded by the visionaries Evva Kraikul and Nic VanMeerten, who are leaders in the fields of game development and game user research, respectively. Their ingenious minds came together with the realization that innovation happens when you make yourself available for collaborating and teaching people to achieve the best of their potential.
This is basically what the Immersion Program I took is all about: over the period of 2 weeks, Glitch will mobilize various professionals currently working in the game industry who will act as mentors for you in the areas of game production, game design, programming, game art, storytelling, project management, game user research, and public relations. And they’re very good at what they do. You’ll meet mentors who are either currently working or have worked for companies like Blizzard and Activision or who have been developing something for Disney as service providers managing their own business.
Let me show you a little of what I learned.
Day 1: “let’s play” is the new “nice to meet you”
Everybody is meeting everybody for the first time and that’s a good opportunity for breaking the ice and networking a little. The other students will talk about their background and expectations about the program and students from previous years will be invited to talk about their experiences with the Immersion Program in the past.
How about playing some board games in the meantime? On coordinated and timed sessions of board gameplay, you’ll get to meet those people you’re going to spend the next 2-week journey with. Have some fun, meet other interesting professionals, and find out what’s ahead: you’ll be making a game with some of them in the end, so be ready to socialize and be friendly. You must find your team among those other game lovers.
Day 2: the anatomy of the dream factory
There’s some sort of anatomy about the game industry and you’d better be aware of it if you wish to join this field. You’ll learn who’s who in the game industry and the paths you’ll have to navigate if you wish to get your game idea published. You’ll be surprised to learn about many different ways to go about publishing your game when you don’t have the monies.
Day 3: introduction to game development in Unity
Time to face a game engine. You’ll be introduced to game development in Unity and knock down your fears about it as you’re guided with tricks and tips in the process of putting a game together.
Day 4: programming in Unity
If you ever feared programming languages, this session will scare that ghost away. You’ll understand how games are coded in Unity and learn how to make it work according to your needs. Get your hands dirty and find out what that powerful engine has in store for you. If you haven’t had any game ideas yet, you’ll start having some serious urges here.
Day 5: game boards and successful game studios
- Before bits and bytes, there was paper
Ok, so here’s the time to get ready and make something with those serious and growing urges you’ve been having about making a game. You’ll learn the essentials of game design and have them immediately applied on a prototype for a board game. You’ll have to combine rules, narrative, and conflict into something engaging enough for you to gaze upon and call a game. With some design thinking techniques, you’ll get to build your prototype collectively as you share your thoughts and opinions in group sessions of gameplay and decision making.
- A field trip to Monster Games
How’s the everyday life in a big game development studio? We found out about that and much more when we paid a visit to Monster Games, the guys who were the first ones to develop a game for Nintendo 3DS when it was still just an unstable prototype. Other than that, we also got amazing advice on how to find your way around the industry and get your resume shining and cute for the next job interview.
Day 6: everybody can do art
Why doesn’t your game look as good as that other one that sold millions of copies? You’ll learn about that as you dig into the techniques and trends in game art that could make your game look gorgeous when done right. You’ll also have a great time sketching your concept art according to the needs of digital games.
Day 7: learn how to tell good stories
Some game developers out there don’t spend much time on the narrative upon which their game characters come to life. In this session, you’ll learn how good stories are actually a powerful tool for both the experience and structure of your game.
Day 8: things, tasks, and people can be orchestrated too
How’s the to-do list working for you and your game development team? How about learning what big companies do when they have a team, a budget, a tight deadline for releasing the next big thing to the world? In this session, you’ll learn how to implement the Agile framework for making your teamwork magically in synchrony so your dreams can come true without too many worries and issues.
Day 9: thank science for your great gameplay experiences
What if you did some cool and careful research before releasing your game to the market? You might find out the cause of emerging patterns of behavior that could, in fact, define the very quality of your gameplay. In this session, you’ll learn everything about game user research methods.
Day 10: a marketing strategy is everything
Now that you have a game idea in the making, how’s your plan for selling your beautiful product in the end? In this session, you’ll learn everything about how to show your game to the world by mobilizing your networks and getting noticed by the world.
Days 11, 12 and 13: forget about the world, you have a game prototype to make
That’s right! After everything you learned, it’s time to pitch a game idea, gather a team and get your hands on a 3-day game jam. At the end of the last day, you’ll have to show your game to a group of judges and other people who will finally play it and give you great feedback.
Day 14: celebration
Now that you’re done making your game and putting it to the test of reality, it’s time to relax and recap. Maybe some good networking is waiting for you.