I just started my first job as a full stack developer after 5 years of studying and a BA in CIS. I probably could have got a job much earlier if I didn't invest so much time in to learning how to build game engines and just stuck to web development.

Much of my time was spent learning a lot of different programming languages, how to use adobe creative suit, and stuff like this not really getting deep into any subject.

After reading this article https://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-programmer/, I started to feel depressed. A few of the other people who recently got jobs at this meetup said they are also maintaining business apps. The only thing I can say that's positive about this experience is that I am working in a small company and I get to see a lot of how the business functions (which is interesting to me).

The question is, should I continue to build my web app skills focusing more on full stack development in order to maintain and possibly get higher paying jobs. Or should I keep dreaming of becoming an indie game developer and do enough work to get by while pursuing my passion on the side.

Has anyone else been in this situation and does it get better, or I am just being negative?

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    A) it's a pretty good and accurate article, you should certainly think hard about what it says and digest it, and B) I'm afraid the harsh reality is one of the reasons they call it work is because they have to pay you to do it. There are jobs that have mentally stimulating work, and ones where you feel like you actually help the people you work with/for, and ones where you feel like you do work that helps people in general, and ones that pay a lot - it is very hard to find jobs that do all the above, and they are especially hard when you are just starting your career. Many never find one.
    – BrianH
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 3:10
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    Only read about half the article but it was mostly true. Whats your question?
    – solarflare
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 3:43
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    Do what you can to pay the bills and use your free time for what you truely love? thecodelesscode.com/case/193 Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 4:05
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    Please note that questions asking for individualized career advice are off-topic here. Can you perhaps edit this to make it more generally applicable (rather than just asking about your specific situation)? Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 4:11
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    Can you narrow down what in this article is depressing you? It makes a great many points, and a comprehensive review would go well beyond the length of a stack exchange answer. Also, you may want to explain the assertion you want fact checked in your own words, so we can verify that you have understood the somewhat snarky tone of that article correctly.
    – meriton
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 12:46

4 Answers 4


My advice to you is that if you enjoy making games, keep it as a hobby. Here's why:

Working in the gaming industry is not all it's cracked up to be. One of the nice things about building games as a hobby instead of a career is that you can make design decisions based off of your design preferences rather than financial necessities. You can also work on the part of the project you want to, and work on the project you want to.

I've met one full-time engineer at one large gaming company who's entire job was modeling shoes for soccer players. I met them at a Game Jam (hackathon for building games). I strongly encourage you to attend a few of these. There, you will probably have the chance to meet several people who are in the gaming field and can give you a better idea of what it's really like there.

In my work in enterprise software development, I get to advance my software engineering skills, which I use for fun on little games I build for fun, usually from the luxury of my giant apartment on my abundantly relaxing evenings and weekends. If I want to abandon a game midway through because it's no fun, or I found another more interesting project I'd rather work on, or I want to go on vacation, I just do that without checking my (huge) bank account balance.

I'm passionate about making games too. I can build games because I have free time and I don't waste hundreds of hours on things that don't matter to me, like monetization or compatibility with lousy operating systems. I go to game developer meetups, they never ask for my License to Develop Games. They are lots of fun. Everytime I come back from one I'm glad I don't work in that industry.

(None of this is to say that I do not have enormous respect for my colleagues in that field. They are amazing. There do amazing work. They are very talented. Some of them get paid well for it. However, many of them are over worked and under paid precisely because they have prioritized working in that industry.)

By the way, this is a great article on this topic: https://blog.stephsmith.io/you-dont-need-to-quit-your-job-to-make/


You are doing an entry level job, because university has prepared you with the theoretical background to understand the problems you need to solve, but a large part of being a good programmer is experience, which you still lack, and can collect only over time.

If you are at a good company, they will give you a good mixture of tedious "tick-all-the-boxes" and slightly more interesting "learn-all-about-X-and-apply-it" work. Both of these are important learning experiences for you at this stage:

At university, software was finished when it would fulfill the task it was designed to, given proper input. Now your software will have non-expert users, so your program will be given invalid and contradictory input, and needs to recover adequately. Turning a proof-of-concept program into a finished product is an aspect of the job that isn't usually taught in depth at universities, because it is a moving target, and the feedback loop back into the university would be too slow.

At the same time, you are still a bit on probation. Your code output will be monitored and reviewed by more senior programmers, and ideally there will be a fast feedback loop that can tell you within a few minutes to hours whether your code meets acceptance criteria and how to still improve it even if it does. If there is no such mechanism, push for one.

It is in essence an extension of your studies, except that you get paid, and you add the time to your CV under "work experience" rather than "education". In this field, there is no such thing as being finished with learning, and the definition of "full stack" will look completely different in five years.

Last but not least: game development is not currently something I would recommend to anyone as a career. Yes, there are successful indie developers, but there is a lot of survivorship bias there.

Working for big publishing houses is bad enough that it got Americans to unionize, something I thought we wouldn't see for a long time, and you will have neither the time nor the energy nor the permission to work on personal projects if you ever go there (it might still be a valuable experience though).

Also, the obligatory follow-your-dreams advice: the market is big, and there is usually a niche off the mainstream that is fun to work in, where the relevant people know each other, and while there may not be many jobs going around, there is not too much competition for these jobs either.

For your specific case: If you are interested in computer graphics, it might be interesting for you to visit a Demoparty. Most of these are in Europe, but assuming you are in the US, @party would probably be the best option.

  • +1 for Survivor bias also good points on there is no such thing as being finished with learning and me to thought we wouldn't see dev unions
    – jean
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 10:02

You can't keep your belly full with air and dreams. I would love to get into the gaming industry as well, however I understand that in my case that would mean moving closer to Cambridge, where the gaming industry is larger than where I am, which would mean increased cost of living.

Instead, while I am at work I learn and use new languages, I learn more and more coding that I need at work and on my spare time I build other stuff. Find other people that also want to do the same. Keep an eye out for gaming companies in the area whenever they are hiring. In the meantime, keep the roof over your head by working where you are.

Remember that if you have a really good idea already that you want to develop into a game and feel you could get it done if you didn't have to worry about bills, then assess the risk, think of crowdfunding options, find other parties to help (in this, always seek legal advice for NDAs).

Other than that, just carry on learning with more experienced people for now, you may create good friendships that will help you with coding problems in your game as well.

Most importantly, have fun! I started coding 1 year ago after no IT related work experience and won't leave for anything now! If you stop enjoying coding....then what's the point?


As you have found out, working on software for business means that you'll probably spend a lot of your time maintaining existing software, implementing small changes, fixing bugs, updating frameworks, making text changes.

Hardly glamorous but you will accumulate a lot of knowledge and your skills will be sought after. There are much worse ways to earn a living.

I found the answers above very interesting because I also have a deep interest in graphics programming, I'm involved in the Demoscene (have been for nearly 30 years) and I also write games and plugins for minecraft. I don't make money off the fun stuff but I consider it time well spent because it's fun.

It's nice to keep the fun stuff separate from work and having experience in both disciplines will make you a better programmer on both sides so don't berate yourself for spending time on what you like to learn.

Just see each side for what it is, one pays the bills and the other is a hobby.

When I was a kid my heroes were people like the Oliver Twins, Jeff Minter and Archer Mclean who wrote games in their bedrooms. This kind of success can still happen - There are plenty of Indie games companies who have had success through crowd funding so if you have a really good idea, follow your dreams in your spare time, pay the bills with your enterprise web development job and see where you end up but don't lose heart.

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