Monday, 18 February 2013

Jobs in Our Community - Video Game Programmer

This afternoon Ms. Lirenman's friend Beth used FaceTime to visit into our classroom.  She is a video game programmer which means she makes video games.  What a cool job!  She talked to us about the three main types of people that work on video games.

The first part of making a video game is the game designer.  They are the ones that come up with the ideas behind the video games.  It is them who decide what should happen in a game, how many levels it should have, what special features it needs etc.

Then the design idea goes to  artists who work with computers and drawings and decide how everything should look.

The final step is what Beth does. She takes the ideas that the game designer comes up with, and the items the artist has  created and writes the code to make all the parts of the game do exactly what they should be doing.

She told us that some games can take up to six years to make and other games can take just a month or so. It really depends on how complicated a game is.  As the programmer you have to make sure that the game does exactly what you want it to do. If you push a button on your console to make a character jump, you have to make sure that the character doesn't just float in space.  There are a lot of things you have to program.  She told us that it was kind of like writing a recipe.  You have to have the right ingredients (or programming code) or the game doesn't work.  

Beth also told us that once a game is "ready to play" they have special video game testers test the game out before it can go to the public.  We all thought that would be a great job.  Beth told us that it isn't an easy job because there are always mistakes in a game and these people have to play it enough times so that them find it all. They have to write down what they were doing when it doesn't work.  It sounded fun but we agreed that it would be frustrating to have a game go wrong all the time.

But we weren't the only ones listening to Beth today.  Ms. Lirenman was talking to some teachers on twitter last night and one asked if her son could listen in on the conversation too.  Because the original call was a FaceTime call we couldn't have him join us on FaceTime so he joined us on Skype, from Ms. Lirenman's laptop.  He was right beside the iPad watching the big screen just like us.

Can you see the laptop on one little table and the iPad beside the projection device?

Here's a close up look at our guest joining us via Skype.

After Beth finished telling us about her job we had many questions for her.  Some of us wondered if she had made some of the Mario Games but she explained that they are only made by Nintendo and she doesn't work for Nintendo.  She did tell us about some of the games she was involved with.  She was involved with making the FIFA 2004 - 2008 games, a basketball game, and a game called Driver San Francisco.  Someone else was curious about when video games where first invented. She wasn't sure but looked it up on line while she was talking to us and it looks like something was invented in 1971, even before she was born.

Our visitor on the laptop also had a question. Ms. Lirenman brought the laptop to the iPad so he could as her his question.  He asked Beth  how much schooling she needed to do her job.  She talked about going to university and/or a technical school for the job.

As usual, Ms. Lirenman asked her two questions too.  Beth's favourite part of her job is getting to work with so many fun people.  Her least favourite part of the job is some of the long nights she has to put in. Sometimes she has to work past dinner and with a family waiting for her at home she'd much rather be with them.

Just before Beth had to go we took a few pictures so that we could use them on our blog posts.  Here are some links to some of our blog posts about what we learned from her visit. There are many more on our individual blogs so please go check them out.

Overall it was another great visitor in our room. Like with our other visitors we learned a lot from Beth.  There really are so many different jobs in our community.

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