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Game developer skills: Find out what you need to become a game developer!

Updated: Jun 12

The gaming industry is worth over 380 Billion Dollars as of 2023. Game developers make an average of $73K per annum. Add the right skills and a few years of experience and the salaries zoom past $200K per annum.

It should come as no surprise, then, that game developers are in huge demand and if you have the right skills, companies are willing to pay you extremely well.

In this blog, we’ll look at all the skills you need to become a game developer and the best path to becoming a game developer.

Let’s get started.

Technical skills needed for game developers

Job Description of game developers

At the most fundamental level, a game developer designs and programs video games for computers, consoles, and mobile devices.

Game developers are responsible for creating everything that makes up a game, from its initial concept to the final product.

This includes designing game mechanics (the rules and systems that govern the game world), developing storylines and characters, creating the artwork and animations, composing the music and sound effects, and, of course, writing the code that brings it all together.

Additionally, game developers also test the games to identify and fix bugs, make improvements, and ensure a smooth, enjoyable experience for the players.

They collaborate with other professionals, such as game designers, artists, and testers, to ensure the game is cohesive and aligns with the original vision.

Game Developer Skills


A key player in the gaming industry, C++ has earned a solid reputation for its high performance and control over hardware, often being the language of choice for many triple-A (AAA) games. Let's delve deeper into the nuances and complexities that make C++ a cornerstone in game development.

Here are some concepts that you should be familiar with:

Data Structures and Algorithms

Efficiently storing and manipulating data are the underpinnings of any high-performance software, games included.

You should have a firm grasp of data structures and algorithms.

Arrays, linked lists, trees, hash tables, stacks, queues, and graphs are the fundamental structures you'll likely encounter.

Understanding sorting algorithms (like quicksort and mergesort) and searching algorithms (like binary search, depth/breadth-first search) is critical, as it impacts the performance of a game. Additionally, knowing which data structure or algorithm is best suited to a particular task or problem in a game environment is an invaluable skill.

Object-Oriented Programming (OOP)

C++ is inherently object-oriented, which lends itself to the nature of game development, where various entities in a game are represented as objects.

Grasping OOP principles such as encapsulation, polymorphism, and inheritance is paramount. Encapsulation enables you to bundle data and methods that work on that data within objects, ensuring data integrity.

Polymorphism and inheritance allow for the creation of hierarchical structures and reusable code, enhancing the maintainability and scalability of game code.

Understanding how to design classes and objects that interact within a game, implement interfaces and abstract classes, and utilize principles like composition and aggregation, underlines an efficient C++ game programmer.

Memory Management

In the resource-intensive world of game development, understanding memory management is critical. C++ gives you control over system memory.

This control is a double-edged sword: it allows for highly optimized programs, but it also means it's easier to cause hard-to-find bugs.

Knowledge about dynamic memory allocation, constructors, destructors, copy constructors, and operator overloading is essential for memory management. In C++, you'll manage memory manually using `new` and `delete`, so knowing when to allocate and deallocate memory is vital.

Understanding how to prevent memory leaks—memory that has been allocated dynamically and is no longer needed but hasn't been freed—is another valuable skill.

Familiarity with smart pointers (`std::unique_ptr`, `std::shared_ptr`, and `std::weak_ptr`), which automatically manage object lifetimes, can help mitigate such issues.


A skill that’s becoming increasingly relevant with the rise of multi-core processors, multi-threading allows your game to perform multiple operations concurrently, leading to more efficient use of CPU resources. Mastery of threads, locks, mutexes, and condition variables will help you craft more performant and responsive games.


Templates enable generic programming by generalizing functions and classes. This allows functions and classes to work with many data types without needing to be rewritten for each one. Understanding templates can lead to more flexible, reusable, and maintainable code.

STL (Standard Template Library)

The STL is a powerful library of template classes such as containers, algorithms, and iterators. It provides several generic classes to manipulate data, such as `std::vector`, `std::list`, `std::map`, etc.

Proficiency with STL can significantly enhance the productivity and performance of your game.

C++ skills for game developers


Python may not be the engine driving high-octane, performance-critical AAA games, but it shines in areas where simplicity, ease of use, and automation are paramount.

For scripting, automating tasks, rapid prototyping, and even game development in certain contexts, Python is the go-to choice.

Python Libraries for Game Development

Python's extensive range of libraries expands its capabilities, allowing developers to achieve more with fewer lines of code. For budding game developers, Pygame is a great starting point.

It's a set of Python modules designed for writing video games, providing the necessary functionalities to create interactive multimedia applications.

While Pygame might not have the horsepower to churn out the next generation of cutting-edge 3D games, its simplicity and accessibility make it perfect for simple 2D games or prototyping ideas.

Pygame teaches you the basics: handling user input, managing game states, collision detection, and rendering graphics.

For aspiring developers interested in the analytical side of gaming, Python offers libraries like NumPy and pandas.

NumPy is a library for the Python programming language, that adds support for large, multi-dimensional arrays and matrices, along with a large collection of high-level mathematical functions to operate on these arrays. It's ideal for numerical computations, which are often needed in simulations or AI behaviors.

Pandas, on the other hand, offers data structures and analysis tools that make handling and analyzing complex datasets easier. Game analytics can produce vast amounts of data, and libraries like pandas become crucial for tasks such as data cleaning, transformation, and visualization.

Python for Scripting and Automation

Python's straightforward syntax and extensive library support make it ideal for scripting tasks in game development. These tasks can range from asset pipeline management to test automation and build scripting.

Asset pipeline management is critical in game development. Assets like 3D models, textures, sounds, and other multimedia files need to be converted into a format that the game engine can use.

Python's excellent file I/O capabilities, along with its ability to interface with other programs, make it an excellent tool for managing this process.

Automated testing is another area where Python excels. By scripting test cases, developers can ensure that new changes don't break existing functionality.

This leads to more stable, reliable games and can drastically speed up the testing process.

Python for Backend Development

For popular MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games), a strong backend is needed to manage complex tasks like player matchmaking, game state management, real-time updates, and more.

Python, with its rich set of web development frameworks like Django and Flask, is a popular choice for building these server-side applications. Its scalability and simplicity allow for effective handling of user data and communication between servers and clients.

Prototyping with Python

One of the most significant advantages of Python is its ability to quickly transform ideas into a working model.

In game development, where iteration is key, Python's simplicity and speed can be invaluable. It allows developers to quickly prototype game mechanics and AI behaviors, get them tested, and iterate based on feedback.

It's not uncommon for game developers to prototype with Python before moving to a more performance-oriented language like C++ for the final product.

Python skills for game developers


Java, renowned for its "write once, run anywhere" portability, might not be the go-to language for AAA game development but holds its ground firmly in the domains of mobile, web-based, and indie games.

With its robust object-oriented principles and a rich ecosystem of libraries and frameworks, Java can be a versatile tool in a game developer's toolkit.

In fact, having a Java-based project in your portfolio is an excellent way of attracting top companies, these days. We have an in-depth guide on how to create a game developer portfolio here, if you’d like to take a look.

Object-Oriented Programming and Design Patterns in Java

Like C++, Java is inherently object-oriented, which is an essential paradigm in game development. Understanding the principles of object-oriented programming (OOP) such as encapsulation, inheritance, polymorphism, and abstraction is critical.

Java brings its unique flavor to OOP, with features such as interfaces and abstract classes that provide more flexibility in designing game components.

Moreover, the effective use of design patterns can significantly improve the quality of game code, making it more manageable, scalable, and maintainable.

Patterns like Singleton (for managing game states), Observer (for event handling), and Composite (for managing game entities) are commonly used in game development. Mastering these design patterns and knowing when to use them can drastically enhance the design of game architectures.

Java Libraries for Game Development

Java's ecosystem is rich with libraries that simplify various aspects of game development.

For instance, the Lightweight Java Game Library (LWJGL) is a popular choice among game developers. LWJGL provides developers with access to high-performance cross-platform libraries like OpenGL for graphics rendering, OpenAL for 3D audio, and GLFW for window management and input handling, giving Java games a much-needed boost in terms of performance and capability.

Similarly, another powerful tool at a Java game developer's disposal is LibGDX, a cross-platform game development framework. LibGDX provides an easy-to-use API and integrates with tools like Box2D for physics simulation and Tiled for creating game maps, making it easier to develop complex games.

Java for Mobile Game Development

The significance of Java in mobile game development is impossible to overlook because of Android. The Android SDK uses Java as its primary language for developing applications and games, making Java a must-know for anyone looking to delve into Android game development.

Knowledge of Android-specific concepts like Activity lifecycle, user input handling, graphics rendering using the Android Canvas API or OpenGL ES, and Android's threading model is critical.

Moreover, understanding how to optimize your game for various Android devices in terms of performance, resolution, and battery life is essential.

Java for Networking in Games

For multiplayer game development, understanding networking is crucial. Java's strong networking support simplifies the process of creating networked multiplayer games.

Key networking concepts in Java such as sockets, TCP/IP, and UDP communication, and handling network latency are essential to creating a smooth multiplayer gaming experience.

Java and Game AI

When it comes to creating Artificial Intelligence for games, Java provides excellent tools and libraries like Java ML (Machine Learning) and DL4J (Deep Learning).

Understanding AI principles and leveraging these libraries to create NPCs with decision-making abilities, pathfinding, and learning capability can set your game apart.

Java skills for game developers


Unity, with its ability to create a wide range of 2D and 3D games for almost every platform, is one of the most popular game engines available today.

Unity brings together a rich set of features and a user-friendly interface, making it an ideal choice for both beginners and experienced developers.

C# Programming in Unity

At the core of Unity game development is C#, a versatile object-oriented programming language.

While Unity previously supported JavaScript (UnityScript), C# is now its primary scripting language. A solid understanding of C# fundamentals, such as variables, loops, conditionals, classes, methods, and especially events and delegates is crucial for Unity development.

Moreover, understanding specific C# features used extensively in Unity such as coroutines (for asynchronous programming), lambda expressions (for concise code), and LINQ (for data manipulation) can significantly enhance your programming skills in Unity.

Mastering the Unity API

Unity provides a comprehensive API that gives developers access to a plethora of game mechanics. This API allows you to control animations, physics, lighting, user input, and much more. The Unity API includes hundreds of classes and thousands of functions, so getting a grip on this API is a continuous learning process.

Key elements to understand include the Transform class (for object positioning, rotation, and scaling), the Input class (for handling user input), and the Physics and Physics2D classes (for implementing physics in 3D and 2D games respectively).

Additionally, mastering the use of Unity's event system, which controls the flow of input between game objects, is crucial for creating interactive games.

Harnessing the Power of Prefabs

Prefabs in Unity are pre-configured reusable game objects that can significantly improve your workflow and game performance.

These can be anything from complex characters with attached scripts and AI to simple game elements like coins or power-ups. By using prefabs, you can maintain consistency across your game, reduce memory usage, and make global changes to objects quickly.

Understanding how to create, instantiate, and manage prefabs can significantly speed up your development process and make your games more efficient. Furthermore, Prefab Variants and Nested Prefabs introduced in recent Unity versions add even more flexibility to the system.

Animation in Unity

Unity's animation system is a powerful tool that can bring life to your game characters and environment. It allows you to animate virtually any aspect of your game - from character movements and facial expressions to object transformations and UI transitions.

Understanding how to work with keyframes, animation curves, and the Animator Controller is vital. Unity uses a state machine for animations, so getting comfortable with transitioning between states, using animation blend trees, and controlling animations through C# code is essential.

Moreover, Unity's Mecanim system enables developers to create complex animation rigs for characters, simplifying the process of creating realistic movement.

Scene Management in Unity

Unity uses a scene-based model for game development, with each scene representing a different level or area in your game.

Mastering the use of Unity's SceneManager class for loading and unloading scenes, transitioning between scenes, and managing scene data is a critical skill for game developers.

Rendering and Shaders in Unity

Understanding Unity's rendering pipeline, including the use of materials, textures, and shaders, can help you create visually stunning games.

Unity offers both a high-definition render pipeline (HDRP) for high-end games and a universal render pipeline (URP) for games aiming at a wide range of platforms.

Unity uses a node-based system, Shader Graph, to create shaders visually. Familiarizing yourself with this system and learning how to write custom shaders can give you greater control over your game's visuals.

Unity skills for game developers

Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine, a game engine renowned for its high-fidelity graphics and advanced features, is the powerhouse behind numerous AAA games, such as "Fortnite", "Street Fighter V", and "Final Fantasy VII Remake".

Unreal is revered for its visual scripting system, impressive material system, robust lighting, and shadows, along with several other features that provide developers with the tools to create stunning, high-quality games.

Here are the key concepts to focus on when learning Unreal Engine:

Blueprint Visual Scripting

Blueprint Visual Scripting is a node-based system that enables you to create game logic without having to write code.

It is one of Unreal's most lauded features, allowing artists and designers to contribute to programming tasks or prototype ideas quickly.

While it's possible to develop a game solely with Blueprint, learning C++ alongside it expands your possibilities.

C++ can be used to expose new functionalities to Blueprint, optimize performance-critical parts of your game, or create reusable Blueprint nodes by defining custom functions or macros.

To master Blueprint, developers should familiarize themselves with commonly used nodes, such as those related to character movement, AI behavior, physics, and user interface creation. Furthermore, understanding Blueprint communication (casting, interfaces, and event dispatchers) is crucial for developing complex game logic.

Materials and Texturing in Unreal

Unreal Engine's powerful material system lets you create visually stunning and realistic textures for your game objects. Materials in Unreal are defined using a node-based editor, where nodes represent mathematical operations or inputs.

The engine supports various types of materials, such as basic, translucent, and emissive materials, among others. Furthermore, you can create detailed surface effects using normal, specular, and displacement maps. Mastering Unreal's material system includes learning about these material types, maps, material expressions, and shader models.

Unreal Engine also provides advanced features like Material Instances (for optimizing your game by reusing materials with different parameters) and Material Functions (for creating reusable parts of material graphs).

Lighting and Shadows

Unreal Engine provides a robust system for lighting and shadows, helping you set the right mood and atmosphere in your game. Understanding how to use the different types of lights (directional, point, spot, and area lights), how to use lightmaps for static lighting, and how to use post-processing effects can greatly enhance your game's aesthetics.

Unreal also supports advanced lighting features like ray tracing and global illumination for creating photorealistic scenes. Familiarity with these concepts, along with knowledge of how to optimize your game's lighting for better performance, is an essential part of mastering Unreal Engine.

Unreal's Particle System

Unreal Engine comes with a powerful particle system called Cascade for creating complex and dynamic visual effects such as fire, smoke, and explosions.

Learning how to work with emitters, particles, and modules in Cascade is crucial for adding impressive visual effects to your game.

Moreover, with Unreal Engine 4.25 and onwards, a new system called Niagara is available.

Niagara is more flexible and powerful than Cascade, providing increased interactivity with other game elements and improved simulation capabilities.

Level Design and World Building

Unreal Engine provides a set of tools for level design and world-building. Developers should understand how to use Unreal's level editor to add and transform objects, design landscapes, and create architectural structures.

Understanding the use of Unreal's World Composition tool for creating large, open-world environments, as well as learning how to use the procedural foliage system for populating these environments, is also vital.

Unreal Engine skills for game developers


Graphics are an essential aspect of game development, influencing a game's aesthetics, gameplay, and player engagement.

Understanding graphics, including 2D and 3D modeling, texturing, rigging and animation, and shading, is fundamental for any aspiring game developer.

These skills enable you to create visually captivating environments, characters, and effects that can help to immerse players in your game world.

2D and 3D Modeling

2D and 3D modeling are fundamental for creating game assets, whether they be characters, environments, or props.

For 2D games, graphic design tools like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop are commonly used. These tools allow you to design and manipulate vector graphics (in Illustrator) and raster images (in Photoshop), creating detailed and vivid 2D game assets.

For 3D games, tools such as Blender, Maya, or 3DS Max are prevalent. These tools provide comprehensive features for 3D modeling, such as mesh editing, sculpting, and retopology. In these tools, developers need to master the manipulation of vertices, edges, and faces to shape 3D models accurately.

Understanding the differences between high-poly and low-poly modeling is crucial, as each has its use cases in game development.

High-poly models, while more detailed, are resource-intensive, and used mostly for creating detailed assets in cinematic sequences or as a basis for creating textures for lower-poly models.

Low-poly models, on the other hand, are used in real-time gameplay where performance is a priority.

Texturing and UV Mapping

Once an object is modeled, it needs to be colored and textured – this is where UV mapping comes in. UV mapping is the process of projecting a 2D image onto a 3D model's surface.

This process involves unwrapping the model's surface, laying it out flat (the UV map), and then painting textures onto this flat representation. Understanding how to create efficient UV maps that minimize distortion and waste is an important skill.

Texturing itself is an art form. It involves not just color, but also creating maps for specular reflection (how shiny an object is), bump or normal maps (simulating surface detail), and ambient occlusion (how exposed each point in a scene is to ambient lighting), among others.

Software like Substance Painter, Substance Designer, or even Photoshop can be used to create realistic or stylized textures for your game assets.

Rigging and Animation

Rigging is the process of creating a bone structure (a "rig") for a 3D model, which can then be manipulated to animate the model.

These rigs can be simple, for static objects with minimal movement, or incredibly complex for characters, with facial rigs, muscle systems, and more.

Animation involves moving the rigged 3D model over time, often in a way that conveys personality and responds to the game's mechanics. This can range from basic movement cycles (like walking or running) to complex, narrative-driven animations.

Tools like Blender, Maya, and 3DS Max also provide features for rigging and animation. Understanding principles of animation, such as timing, squash, and stretch, and anticipation, is important for creating fluid, believable animations.


Shading defines how an object interacts with light, affecting its color, brightness, and texture. In other words, shading can make an object appear matte, glossy, translucent, etc.

Most game engines use shaders, small programs that run on the GPU, to determine how to render each pixel of an object.

As such, learning a shading language like GLSL or HLSL, and understanding concepts like diffuse shading, specular shading, ambient occlusion, and physically based rendering (PBR), is useful in making your game visually impressive.

Graphics skills for game developers


Physics in game development is all about making the virtual world mimic the real world, or indeed, any imagined world, in how objects move and interact.

These concepts offer the player a more immersive and convincing gameplay experience. From collision detection and body dynamics to particle systems, understanding game physics is fundamental for crafting believable and engaging game worlds.

Collision Detection

Collision detection is the process by which a game engine determines if two or more objects have intersected. The detection of these interactions is crucial for making games feel responsive and grounded in a physical reality.

In practice, collision detection involves a mix of bounding volumes, spatial partitioning, and fine-grained collision detection algorithms.

Bounding volumes, like spheres, boxes, or capsules, are used to encapsulate objects and provide a first-pass check to rule out distant objects quickly. Techniques like spatial partitioning help to further reduce the number of collision checks by dividing the game space into sectors.

More precise collision checks are then carried out only for objects that are likely to be in contact.

Understanding and implementing efficient collision detection can have a significant impact on a game's performance, particularly in physics-heavy games.

Rigid Body and Soft Body Dynamics

Rigid body dynamics deals with the motion and collision of solid, inflexible objects.

In a game, this could mean anything from a dice tumbling across a table to a car careening off a racetrack. The basics of rigid body dynamics involve concepts from classical mechanics, such as force, torque, inertia, and momentum.

Soft body dynamics, on the other hand, handle deformable objects - things that can bend, stretch, or squash. This could be used for simulating a character's flesh, clothing, or a water balloon bursting. The mathematics for soft body dynamics is generally more complex, involving topics like elasticity and stress-strain relationships.

Most modern game engines come with built-in physics engines that handle rigid and soft body dynamics. Understanding the underlying principles, however, can be beneficial in controlling the nuances of the simulation and for debugging when things go awry.

Particle Systems

Particle systems in games are a technique used to simulate complex fuzzy phenomena such as smoke, fire, explosions, sparks, or magic effects. Each particle in a system acts as a small, simplified simulation, responding to gravity, wind, turbulence, and other forces.

Particles can change over time, allowing for effects such as fading out smoke or sparks that change color as they cool. By controlling the behavior, lifespan, and visual characteristics of individual particles, game developers can create intricate and convincing effects.

The magic of particle systems lies in the balance of randomness and control – introducing enough variation to make the system feel organic, but with enough constraints to shape the effect convincingly.

Physics Engines and Real-time Simulations

Working with real-time physics in games often involves trade-offs between accuracy and performance. Game physics should typically "feel" right to the player rather than be scientifically accurate. This may involve tweaking or exaggerating physical constants, or employing "cheats" to create a desired gameplay effect.

Knowledge of physics engines such as Havok, PhysX, or the built-in engines in Unity or Unreal is also essential. These engines handle much of the heavy lifting for simulations and offer tools for controlling and tuning the physics in your game.

Physics needed for game developers


Gaming, as an industry, is fast-paced. There’s always something new. As a gaming developer, you sort of have to build your career on shifting sands. But it’s a fantastic career if you’re interested in the gaming world.

The job opportunities are only going to get better as technology improves.

When looking for a game developer job, make sure you check out Simple Job Listings. All jobs on Simple Job Listings are remote, most pay amazingly well, and a significant number of jobs that we post aren’t listed anywhere else.

Visit Simple Job Listings and find your dream remote game developer job. Good luck!

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