During the pandemic, the video games industry has been one of the few markets which have not only survived but thrived. During the last year, global gaming revenues grew 20% year-on-year to $174.9bn and are expected to hit $217.9bn by 2023.
But the popularity of gaming has been on the rise for many years now - which has made careers within the industry increasingly desirable. As a result, the number of students undertaking game design qualifications has skyrocketed in recent years. In addition, the number of would-be game designers downloading GameMaker as an introduction to game development has also experienced an upward swing during the pandemic. "We are seeing a huge increase in the number of young people that want to start a career in game design, which is great, as the sector needs a more diverse range of voices,” explains Declan Cassidy, Chief Executive of Into Games - a not-for-profit organisation which supports young people in finding rewarding careers in the games industry.
To understand why so many new recruits are deciding to start making games, we recently surveyed over a thousand GameMaker users to try and get the lowdown.
It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that almost all (89.9%) of new GameMaker users we spoke with already love playing games. Just over half (57.3%) have had some prior experience of making games before, while 43.7% had never made a video game before.
We don’t know whether the pandemic has served as a catalyst for gamers to decide to follow their passion and pursue a career in game design. But with 53.7% of users admitting to initially downloading GameMaker with the aim of learning enough to enable them to start a career in the games industry, it’s clear that a significant percentage of new game makers certainly have their eyes on the prize.
Game design students looking to make a game as part of their studies accounted for 11.1% of new recruits, while 49.9% said they wanted to use GameMaker to create something amazing to show their family and friends.
Making games can be challenging and mastering the tools and techniques needed to turn ideas into reality can take years. However, GameMaker has been developed as the ideal introduction to the world of coding and creation, combining easy-to-use drag-and-drop tools, tutorials and game assets alongside our powerful game-focused GameMaker Language (GML).
So how have our new recruits found their first experiences? “A bit overwhelming at first, like any other major software,” admits Alec, who’s been thankful for all supporting material available to new users: “There are plenty of project-based tutorials on YouTube (my personal favourite being Shaun Spalding's tutorials). After learning the basics, the tools are all within reach and easy to pick up on, and there's truly no limits when the engine is combined with ingenuity and imagination.”
Teno has never made a game before and hopes that learning to use GameMaker will enable him to one day make games for a living. He’s found using GameMaker to be an “incredibly positive” experience, adding: ”I had a little past experience with coding and wanted to make the jump into doing it for real. GameMaker has provided everything I could have wanted and more and I've made tons of progress learning with it.”
Also new to the world of game making is Bailey, who like Teno also has designs on a career in games: “I was surprised as someone who has never coded before, that after only a few sessions of cs50 and a video series about the software itself I was able to create games largely unguided only using the GMS2 reference pages to see how some built-in scripts work.
Declan Cassidy from Into Games also sees GameMaker as the perfect platform for giving new game makers a solid grounding in game design: “GameMaker is the perfect first step into game design, teaching many of the core skills that are required to succeed in the industry while providing a low barrier to entry with a high ceiling in terms of functionality.”
However, not everyone wants to be a game designer. Many people just really enjoy the process of making games as a hobby and get a thrill out of creating something they feel proud of, like Arthur Kneis: “I had almost no experience at all coding or doing much on the computer beyond browsing websites,” he explains, adding: “GameMaker's super accessible drag-and-drop functionality and tutorials helped me create a small game far beyond what I ever thought I'd be able to do.” Andy is also enjoying building on previous coding experience, but for him, using GameMaker is a family affair: “Having great fun learning along with my 12-year-old daughter. I really like the interface and have found some really good tutorials on the Gamemaker website and community tutorials on YouTube.”
Many game designers use GameMaker because it provides the tools and functionality to rapidly turn creative ideas into workable prototypes. Although he’s new to game design, Alex describes the creative freedom GameMaker gives him perfectly: “GameMaker is like going from building Lego sets only using instructions to using all the pieces you've acquired to build your own world.”
Like Alex, Rab is another game design newbie. But as someone who draws cartoons and makes his own music, making games was surely just a natural progression? “One of the most interesting aspects of GameMaker for me is as a medium for manifesting my visions and dreams, humour and music, interests and friends in one package,” he says. “It is quite straightforward to create and animate characters, and being able to use our own music and histories and characters in the programme is a joy,” he adds.
Juan’s first got a taste for programming from a school club he used to attend. Keen to learn more about coding and the process of making games, his path has led him (naturally) to GameMaker: “Using GameMaker Studio 2 is similar to having a caring teacher that provides easy to learn concepts for their students as well as a channel for transition,” he says, adding: “I also appreciate the welcoming community with the vast number of available tutorials and the extensive documentation that provides straight to the point explanation of using GML with examples.”
The fact that users with little or no experience can easily create their own games, is why GameMaker is used to teach students in thousands of schools. Ate is a teacher who also appreciates this ease-of-use: “GameMaker is enormously user friendly. One gets results within sheer minutes. I use GameMaker as an excellent educational tool for my students and consider the creative experience very rewarding indeed.”
Stuart Poole, General Manager at GameMaker said, “We are constantly striving to make the creation of beautiful games easier, more accessible and quicker. The speed with which you can learn how to make games is an important part of our vision, along with having a smooth workflow and then being able to export your game across all platforms, from just a single version of it, with only a few clicks”.
Over a third of the world’s population now play video games. And with the games industry on course to grow significantly for many years to come, more and more gamers are going to view working in the games industry as the ideal career.
Not every new GameMaker user will go on to make games for a living. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Life is a journey, not a destination.” This is certainly the mantra of MoltenWater, who hopes to work in games one day, but is finding his GameMaker journey “very exciting and inspiring - I haven't been this happy in years.”