The frugal wizard handbook to surviving getting into gamedev.

Pixel art book

If you have been reading any of my entries (thanks for that!) and haven’t done any game development you might already be thinking “Hey why not me? I could do this stuff!”. And my friend, certainly you could. Nothing is stopping you from learning. So I plan to make this entry to give you some vague direction on where you can start. And also, before that, a big warning.


The first thing you must understand is that GameDev is a hard craft. You are not all day on your sofa playing videogames. Making games involve programming, hardware, QA, design, audio, art and legal requirements. It is a web so intricate that it is a surprise that games get made at all. Depending if you want to work for a big company, work for indies or make a hobby out of this you will find different hardships.

If you want to go for the big boys you need to know before anything else; applications can be extremely competitive. For entry positions, it can be 100+ applicants and I am not kidding there. But always remember, someone DOES get chosen. That could be you. If you are set on climbing that mountain, just remember, it can be a rocky one. On the other hand, indies experience another set of annoyances. Depending on the size of the team, you will struggle with money, getting SDK(Starter developer kits … basically, getting your game on consoles. It is not as easy as it seems), navigating the nightmare of licensing, keeping up with new tech., hiring contractors or learning new skills. As I mentioned, making games is hard as the sooner we accept this fact the better. Aaah, almost forgot, if you just want to learn as a hobby, you are cool :). Just remember, games will not look as pretty as you would expect on your first (or hundred) try.

Just to scale correctly how hard making games is; Grand Theft Auto 5 (unknown game, you might have not heard of it) had an estimated budget of 308 million dollars. Assuming money translates directly into work, if you value yourself at 1 million dollars a month (boi are you expensive ..) it would take you 25 years to release GTA5. A better estimate would most likely be 100 years. And that is considering you have all the experience and mastery of people working on GTA for 20 or more years!

Now for the good part of this section: you don’t need to make GTA5. You don’t need to make a gigantic AAA game with trillions of hours of content to make a good game, that people will enjoy and that will bring you money. But furthermore, you do not need to do it to enjoy Game Dev.


Hey, you are still here! That means I can mention the good stuff. Doing games is extremely fun. You will learn skills that can transfer to other jobs. You will work with other passionate people. You will able to play games and not just play them, but understand why they are fun and how they work. It can be like watching a movie but understanding how all the special effects are done. This is all, certainly, something you can 100% do.

Also if you get extremely good and lucky you can get paid for it. Yeah, in a capitalistic world, we need money. Had to mention it.

Finally, where you can start

First, you need to settle on what you want to do. As I mention games are extremely complex, so you need to start somewhere small. Do you want to program? To make art? To do 3D modelling? To do music? Do you want to be indie? Work for AAA? Do something in your spare time? Your journey will vary widely depending on your answer to those questions. And, sadly, that is something you need to figure out yourself. It will depend on your circumstances, your skills and what you want to achieve.

HOWEVER, assuming you just “want to make a game or two, man!” I can good a few pointers. The first is that I can do is recommend youtube. Surprisingly it has a lot of content on videogames tutorials … and if you know where you look you can find the good ones! The one that I like most is the GMTK video on making your first Unity game. It teaches not only the basic of how to do things on a game engine but also why. I am a believer that understanding why is more useful than anything else (and I am surprised how few videos emphasise this). After watching that video you will have tons of questions. Most likely “How do I do X game?”. Again, search “doing X game youtube tutorial” and you will find your answer. Making a couple of those will help you a ton to gain experience.

Another question you might have is “Welp, that video is a Unity Engine video .. but are there alternatives to Unity?” And yes, there are a bunch. Just google “game engine” and you will find tons of results! I can recommend Unreal Engine (which is the most common one in AAA companies if that is your thing) or Godot (which is my favourite and more suited to smaller projects … ie, for you if didn’t know alternatives to Unity :P). However, while using one engine or another will help make certain things easier, they won’t make your game for you. Each one will have quirks and annoyances, and each one will have something they are better than the alternatives. I recommend that at this point you download a couple of the engines and try to make a simple game (like the classic flappy bird). This will help you know what engine you are most comfortable working on.


If you ever get frustrated; don’t get discouraged! Your games will break all the time. You will be stuck with errors you don’t understand almost every day. That happens in big companies, it will happen to you. Try to make the most to enjoy this. Happy GameDeving! (Yes, that is a verb now. Now I will not elaborate).

Ps: Something that I should mention is that while youtube tutorials are a nice place to learn, they are never complete. They are simplifications of actual used techniques, see here. They are a good starting point nonetheless.