Graduate and RedLynx project coordinator Julius Fondem on what he learned about making games when studying the craft

5 game development lessons for students

Finding a job in games can be incredibly difficult, and it’s something we’ve just covered in detail on Develop.

If you’ve gone down the university route, this provides a critical time to learn the skills you need to go out and develop a game, be that in a team or on your own. Speaking at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki, RedLynx project coordinator Julius Fondem, who is employed as part of Ubisoft’s graduate programme, discussed five things he learned as a game dev student at the Kajaani University of Applied Sciences that helped give him a solid foundation to begin his career.

1. Failing is really important

"It really is the best teacher you can have during your time at university, or in life in general."

Fondem explained that failing at something allows you to reflect on what went wrong and learn from it. He added that failure should not be considered a bad thing, even though many people are brought up believing that’s the case.

"If you fail, you learn, and learning is always good," he said.

2. Classes are not where you learn how to make games

Fondem claimed that while people may think the classroom might teach you everything you need to know to make games, that’s not really the case.

He suggested that game dev courses should be treated as a jumping off point. No one is going to teach you how to make a great game, he said.

Fondem added that while some teachers are great at what they do and can be very supportive of students, getting enough competent teachers into game development studies, at least in Finland, is a tough task.

To make a great game, Fondem said the most important thing was to go and develop them, as that’s where you really learn. At Kajaani University, students spent two days going to classes and courses, and three days working on game projects in cross-discipline teams.

3. ‘Big things’ are totally doable

Doing something like attending a large event not local to your area is completely possible for students who may lack the funds to consider it, Fondem said.

In his own experience trying to attend the Nordic Game conference as a student, he said he organised a trip for a number of students to travel there and attend. To do this, he worked out the budget he would need – including travel cots to Malmo, rooms to stay in, event tickets – and contacted numerous companies asking if they could assist with the costs. As a thank you to anyone who offered money, the students pledged to put their logo on their shirts.

Some firms then responded positively and provided the funds that enabled them to attend the conference.

Fondem also suggested that another way to get to events is to simply ask to take part and volunteer your services, as organisers are often open to receiving assistance on the day.

4. Having limits

Fondem said that during his studies, he learned to realise he had his own limits. After working nine to 12 hour days consistently during university, while he admitted he found it fun at the time, he ended up burning out slightly last year at the end of his course.

"It wasn’t fun, but at the same time I wouldn’t have found my limits if i hadn’t done that," he said.

He added that he’s since learned the importance of remembering to take care of yourself and leaving time for things other than work.

5. A support network is crucial

"During those times when things get rough, that’s when you really need people to be there to support you."

Fondem explained the importance of being able to open up to friends around you, rather than bottling up negative emotions. Though it may feel awkward asking a friend to discuss things you are unhappy about, he stated that good friends care and are always there to help.

"You’ll lose nothing if you ask for help," he said.

Image credit: Kajaani University

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