I don't want to get into an argument on the topic as I'm obviously pretty biased, but I really disagree. If I sound offensive here I don't mean it to be, but a lot of people in here seem to be telling me my responses are harsh, so take this as a disclaimer.Originally posted by nvoigt
Don't kid yourself. Game development is development with another target. Not more or less challenging than programming applications.
In game programming you have a lot more concerns and different time constraints. When you make a game, there's a lot more to it than getting it to work. It has to look good, it has to sound good, it has to play well, it has to have replay value, and most of all it has to be fun. Sure, there's more to any application than "getting it to work," but on games, it's much moreso. A lot of it is objective but even more of it is subjective. Not only do you have to be smart, quick, and creative, but with games, it often times also means that you have to be an artist. You have to be a talented programmer, but you also have to be unqiue, you have to know what looks good, and you have to know what is "fun."
Not only that, but there's efficiency. That's something which is important to any application, but in games, it's usually moreso and in all areas. You need the game to be small, it's gotta tweak the most out of the hardware, and you have to get it to run in real time at fast speeds on an average computer (or on a console, etc.). Things like loadtimes don't become just a "downside" to your program, but can be what makes or breaks sales.
On top of all that, a game programmer can't just be a "programmer." He, in most cases, has to be a mathematician, a physicist, an artist, and, of course, a gamer. A game is often a complex model of real life that has to run in real time, and be more fun than real life as well . That's a very big task -- bigger than most other applications. There are always exceptions to that, but in most cases, this is true.
A game has to keep a player occupied and having fun for many hours. It's tough to make a game that retains the player's attention and keeps him wanting more after 20 hours. A game has to be detailed, interesting, and massive. You have to know what the player wants, you have to anticipate what the player will be feeling, and you have to be able to evoke emotion. You have to work with a team of artists, designers, musicians, etc. to have any hope of being successful. It's an incredible task with many sides, many more than an application in most other fields.
Ask an application programmer to make a game and he most often won't even know where to start; ask a game programmer to make an application and it's quite a different story.