How to become a game programmer?

Kirsten Tischer loves to play games. Gambling on the PC or console has accompanied her since her youth. Her job as a game programmer is her absolute dream job. What fascinates her to this day? When a program code on the screen turns into a colorful game world.

Anyone who thinks that the game programmer’s head is bubbling over with ideas and stories for new games is very much mistaken. “I don’t have the creativity myself. I need people around me for that, such as game designers, graphic artists or sound developers. However, if someone tells me what should happen in a game, then I can try to program that.”

Kirsten Tischer has acquired basic programming skills on her own, in addition to gambling. “I’ve had the drive to solve problems by writing small program codes since I was young. To understand more complex things, I watched free tutorials on YouTube, among other things, and soaked up the knowledge imparted there.”

Game developer Kirsten Tischer
Game developer Kirsten Tischer hat ihr Hobby zum Beruf gemacht. Photo: Kirsten Tischer

First vocational baccalaureate, then dual studies

After graduating from high school, Tischer tried to find a place to study computer science. She found what she was looking for at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences: a dual study program in computer science. “It was brilliant because I was able to gain my first professional experience directly at T-Systems. During semester breaks, I worked there and did smaller programming tasks.”

Kirsten Tischer, however, wanted nothing more than to finally program games. After her studies, the computer scientist worked in a small developer company and took care of web-based flash games. That’s how she got in touch with Keen Games in Frankfurt. “That’s where I first got involved with games for consoles. In my seven years there, I later added programming games for smartphones.”

In 2017, Tischer took a big personal and professional step: the game programmer moved to Sweden and has since been working for the games developer DICE. The company is part of the Electronic Arts family. “Here I develop games in globally networked teams. The nice thing is that I work with people with the same passion as me. When we encounter problems, we try to find a suitable solution together. I like that a lot.”

Most recently, there was a new release of the popular online shooter Battlefield. The new version took several hundred people around the world three years to tinker with. The game programmer took care of only a small part of the game. “I worked on the inventory and player progress, so that, for example, new weapons can be unlocked depending on the player level.”

Women wanted: Games are becoming more female

As a woman, Kirsten Tischer is no longer an exotic figure in the game developer scene, “but I was still the only woman in my studies. And even in many software companies, female programmers are still in the minority.” However, a change is taking place right now. Because many enthusiastic female and male gamers also want more diversity in games. As a result, many companies in the games sector are looking for women to represent this diversity in teamwork as well.

According to Kirsten Tischer, anyone who wants to gain a foothold in the field of games and app programming should “have courage, not be afraid of new tasks, throw themselves into their work with confidence and enjoy solving problems.”

A certain passion for gaming would also be helpful as a game programmer, but it’s not a must. “Whereby it is already important to me personally if people in my team have a similar enthusiasm for gaming and the job as I do. Then nothing can go wrong. For me, programming games is more than just a normal job. I love to give people fun with the games. For me there is nothing better. I’m working in my dream job.”