With the sheer number of software development firms and game studios that are opening their doors here in Australia, it’s no wonder you’re here looking up the differences between software engineers vs game developers.
So what really are the differences between traditional software engineering and game development? Join us as we explore the major fundamentals of being a software engineer or a game developer to help you decide which career path to take.
The Differences Between Software Engineers & Game Developers
Often confused, software engineers and game developers work within very similar environments and often will collaborate on the production of video games. However, there are a few fundamental differences between the two.
The differences between a software engineer and a game developer include:
Let’s start with outlining the shared professional responsibilities that accompany both the careers of software engineers and game developers. Both game developers and software engineers are tasked with writing code in order to direct the design of software, as well as testing and debugging software to ensure that it’s suitable for release to the public.
However, there are some differences in job duties between the two.
Where game developers are primarily more concerned with form (or visual elements of gameplay), software engineers are likely to be more focused on enhancing the functionality of their software products.
That being said, game developers are likely to have more design variables to consider than software engineers. Whilst software engineers will likely spend their days optimising their user experience with regards to improving loading speeds and the user-friendliness of functional elements like buttons or menus, game developers will be working more with dynamic graphic and audio elements. This is why the latter often choose to go for an on-site or online degree in game design.
Game developers are also likely to work in larger teams, whereas software engineers will be more inclined to work in smaller and perhaps even remote teams, consisting of a few developers and some UX professionals.
As for the job requirements of software engineers and game developers, both of these professional pathways require proficiency in programming languages. Although it is possible to be a self-taught programmer, the level of competency that you’ll need to work in a dedicated game development studio or software development firm will likely require you to gain some tertiary qualifications in software engineering.
It’s common for many game developers to start off in a software development role, or even study software engineering at school. You will likely be using software such as Unreal Engine right from the get-go when you begin to study to develop games.
If you didn’t study software development at a tertiary institution, then enrolling in some short courses and seeking out an internship or other work placement opportunities could help you equip yourself with all the required experience to start applying for jobs at both software development firms as well as game studios.
Regardless of which career pathway you choose, both of these disciplines will also see you having to collaborate with a handful of professionals, ranging from UX designers and researchers in the software engineering sphere, as well as artists, digital designers, and writers in the world of game development. Honing your team-building skills is key for a long and satisfying career in either of these divergent tech streams.
Exploring the unique work environments of both game developers and software engineers is likely to showcase some of the most visible differences between the two disciplines.
For starters, game developers traditionally work in eclectic game studio environments, where they can feel free to jump between working with fellow game developers, as well as concept artists, designers, and even storyboards, all busily creating a world so that it can be collectively brought to life.
The artistry required in the world-building process will likely also mean that game studios are a touch more colourful than your typical software engineer’s office space. Imagine walls lined with concept art and maps of the world alongside overviews of game environments. Your game studio may even boast facilities for 3D modelling and even motion capture, for studios looking to develop realistic RPG games.
Contrastingly, a software engineer’s office is likely to be a bit more streamlined. Instead of walls lined with concept art, you’re more likely to find whiteboards and pinboards for easy brainstorming and user journey mapping.
Proficiency with programming languages isn’t the only skill required for both game development and software engineering. Both of these disciplines also require exceptional problem-solving and diagnostics skills, just to make sure that any potential bugs are picked up nicely and early in the development process.
Both software engineers and game developers are also required to possess a strong awareness and understanding of cybersecurity in order to make sure that their software products are as secure as possible for their target markets to use. Game developers should be aware of security measures that can be used to make their game applications more secure and less likely to fall victim to hacks of cyber attacks.
Similarly, both software engineers and game developers must be prepared to provide security patches and updates for their software on a routine basis. Developing software and game updates requires both software engineers and game developers to engage with user metrics in order to find opportunities for improving their software.
Game developers are also likely to require graphic design skills and perhaps even digital audio skills to help simplify the process of working with visual and audio elements. These skills are also likely to come in quite handy for any dedicated software engineers who are looking to dabble with more complex concepts for software applications.
Average Salary Differences
According to Seek, the average salary of a software engineer, the average salary of a software engineer working in Australia can range between $110,000 to $130,000 per annum. An entry-level software engineering position can have a salary of around $90,000 per annum.
Conversely, as a game developer, there is a lot more variation in salary for professionals working in this industry. Entry-level game developers can earn around $60,000 to $70,000 per annum in Australia, with average salary expectations for a mid-range game developer ranging between $90,000 to $110,000 per annum.
But it is possible to earn a lot more in royalties or advances if any of the video games you’re credited with developing really take off!
The reason for this larger salary range is primarily due to the presence of indie game development studios. As indie game developers are typically self-funded and possess smaller game libraries, it’s common for game developers working at these independent enterprises to be making a little less than those at big-name game development studios.
The Final Word
Having now read through our guide on the differences between software engineers and game developers, as you can see, there aren’t too many differences between the two. It’s perfectly possible to flit from one to the other over the course of your programming career.
At the end of the day, the core skills required for each of these devs’ disciplines are actually pretty similar, and you can easily equip yourself with the experience and foundational knowledge required to do both jobs by simply signing up for a software engineering course.
So which direction will your programming career take you?
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Do you still have some questions? No sweat! Here are the most common questions we are asked about the differences between software engineers and game developers
Are game developers software engineers?
Technically speaking, yes, game developers are software engineers, as they’re tasked with producing game software. Some even consider game development to be a subcategory of software engineering. There’s no denying, however, that game development can easily be a touch more complicated than producing a lot of the software we use today. It’s a lot easier to build a static mobile app than it is to build your own expansive open-world video games!
Can a software engineer make games?
Anybody who knows how to code can make their own video games which means that . As a result, it is possible for software engineers to branch out into game development, whether it be by creating their own PC-friendly version of the classic mobile game ‘Snake’, or by producing an epic RPG game complete with its own animations, art style, and sweeping soundtrack. Of course, a project of that size could demand some collaboration with other software engineers, game developers, and independent artists.
Do gaming companies hire software engineers?
Yes, gaming companies frequently hire software engineers in Australia. As many game developers often get their start as passionate software engineers, it’s actually not as difficult as you think to get hired by a gaming company or studio with a background in software engineering. That being said, game development studios are likely to hire candidates that are experienced with designing software that utilise both video and audio elements, as this is characteristic of most games today across a variety of different platforms.
Do gamers make good coders?
Theorectically, yes, gamers will make good coders. After all, having a strong understanding of how computer applications work from a user’s perspective can help budding coders better contextualise the incremental changes or amendments they make when editing code for a piece of software. In other words, having plenty of hands-on experience with game software can actually help you become a talented coder down the line, for any gamers out there who think that they’d like to dabble in coding.
Keep in mind, however, that although you can teach yourself how to code, it’s always best to secure a tertiary qualification or two for those who are seeking to work as a full-time game developer. This is a highly competitive industry even here in Australia, so it certainly pays to make sure that you have qualifications to back up your own personal and professional experience.
What is the difference between a software engineer and a game developer?
All things considered, there aren’t too many differences between a game developer and a software engineer. The major point of distinction that needs to be made is that game developers produce video games, whereas software engineers are more likely to produce business software or more simple mobile or computer applications that serve a variety of purposes outside of entertainment. Game developers are also guaranteed to be working in the video game production and development industries, whereas software engineers can work within a far larger variety of industries, spanning from education and finance, to healthcare and governance.
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