Devin Kavanagh

Devin says his friends are more than a little envious of the work he does, and it’s no surprise.

He recently wrapped up three co-op work terms at Blackbird Interactive, a Vancouver-based game development company, where he worked on Homeworld: Shipbreakers. When this real-time strategy game is released, thousand of gamers worldwide will experience the features that Devin helped develop.

Since high school, Devin knew he wanted to turn gaming into more than a hobby. Like many burgeoning developers, he started off small – creating simple games like a tic-tac-toe clone. “I’ve always liked games and I’ve played since I was little,” he says. “When it comes to development, I learned by building and trying things out. I failed a lot of course, but that’s how you grow.”

To learn the ropes of the games industry, Devin wanted to find a placement within a smaller company, where he could try out various areas and discover his niche. When he saw a co-op board posting for Blackbird Interactive, he was quick on the trigger. It turned out to be a great fit for a keen gamer willing to get their feet wet.

“Blackbird was a very collaborative environment,” he says, “My day-to-day tasks were really varied and I got to work with different people from multiple areas of production.

“As a developer, I would frequently talk to the design team and the artists to clarify aspects of the game and refine requirements.”

At first, Devin worked on artificial intelligence aspects, ensuring the virtual characters that populate the game act in a realistic, intelligent manner. Later in the placement, he helped develop key features like a scripting tool, allowing the designers to create gaming missions. He also worked on unit movement and behaviours, figuring out how to get numerous units moving around a complex game in real-time.

Devin says co-op can help you get your foot in the door of the notoriously tough gaming industry. Although he still has a semester to complete before graduation, he has already landed an interview at a major game development company in Vancouver.

“You create important contacts and network with people in the field,” he says. “You also get the opportunity to apply everything you learn at school and hone your technical skills outside the classroom. Of course, making money while you’re still at school is an added bonus.”