Just about every person who has played a video game has wondered what it’s like to work behind the scenes in the video game industry. Most gamers agree, it would be pretty cool to be on the team that creates the latest Madden football game, or being part of the development department for Halo 6, among others.
The reality is, there are thousands of people who do have those cool jobs working in the video game industry. In fact, for those of you who were told by your parents to get off the couch and do something with your life, the reality is, playing video games can be a key to success in the gaming industry, says Marc Mencher, president of Game Recruiter, the premier search firm in the game industry.
For nearly 20 years, Game Recruiter has earned an international reputation for recruiting the top technical, production, and executive staff in the industry.
“To get into the games industry one must be a creative thinker and have a love/focus for playing video games,” says Mencher. “Someone who has played a ton of games on several different platforms makes the best candidate for the industry.”
A video game job goes far beyond just creating or testing games for a Wii, Xbox or Playstation, to name a few. Professionals are needed to create games for computers, hand-held devices, mobile devices, and through social media networks, as well as the traditional gaming systems. But the industry needs workers who do more than just create the games. There are numerous job opportunities and positions in the gaming industry, including these positions, according to Mencher:
- Artist: Create 2D concepts, 3D environments, textures, models, technical art and animation
- Audio: Create the music for the game
- Business Development: Acquiring IP’s and doing business deals with developers
- Customer support: Provide instruction, help and “support” to people using your product
- Game Designer: Create story and mechanics to develop gameplay
- Human Resources: hiring, staffing, benefits, etc.
- IT: Keep internal systems working
- Producer: Manage production teams, drive schedule and budget
- Programmer: Produce all code and tools for gameplay
- Quality Assurance: Squash bugs and enhance gameplay through testing process
- Sales and Marketing: Develop or implement strategies that include PR, brand management, product launch, etc.
- Web/Portal development: Create an online presence
While having experience playing video games does help, one common misconception, according to Mencher, is that this is an easy career and all one does is play video games all day. People interested in this industry need to identify what their area of expertise and interest is and then identify which segment of the industry matches that.
The industry can be broken up into several categories, says Mencher, including:
- Serious Games (Military & Medical)
Skill sets per category do vary but here is the general rule:
- All careers in the video game industry require an online demo.
- All job seekers should understand what a Game Engine is and have some experience working with at least one of the more popular ones like Unreal, Unity and Torque engine.
Here are some other skill sets needed for various positions:
- Artist: Illustrator, Photoshop, 3D Studio Max, Maya, XSI and ZBrush. Bonus points for learning the scripting languages in Max and Maya (MaxScript and MEL). A B.S. in art or a related field preferred – but it’s still all about your demo.
- Game Designer: Creative writing skill, 3D Studio Max, Maya, Level Editors (Unreal, Hammer, Torque, Quake, Unity or even Cry Engine). Knowledge and samples of constructing a Game Design Document’s (GDD’s) is also crucial.
- Producer: Ability to lead and run development teams. Scheduling and budgeting ability with PPM Certification or Agile Development is a definite plus.
Gaming Industry Hot Spots
The hottest segment of growth is in mass market appeal casual games, says Mencher. If you have a background or skill set that fits any of the bulleted career paths above “the industry is screaming for talented people,” says Mencher.
In the United States the hot employment spots in this industry are Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Austin, Texas. However you will find game development studios all over the USA in most any city.
Education helps – Demo Crucial
Mencher doesn’t hide the fact that your education and training will be a big bonus when trying to get into this industry. However a demo showing your skills and abilities in the path you would like to choose is what will set you apart.
“The reality is school gives you bonus points, but the demo is the key to your game job no matter what your prior experience,” says Mencher.
Are there Internships Available?
A few companies offer college internships most do not, says Mencher. So, you must “create’ your own experience through game development projects, volunteering to be part of a MOD group or using the development tools that most game companies release with the games themselves. Want to work for Epic Games or a Game Developer using the Unreal engine? Go purchase the last game created with Unreal – and have fun using the tools provided.
In other words, it takes some research and astute knowledge of the programs, processes and methods that are industry-standard. By showing you can work these standards, you can help set yourself from other gamers looking to get into the profession.
Related Skills Needed
You must also know how to use Microsoft Word, Excel and Project – not as a casual user but deeply trained on these products.
Since making a game is a team effort you’re English speaking and writing skills must be awesome or you will not be hired in our industry, says Mencher. Being too lazy to spell correctly translates to a hiring manager that you will be too lazy with art, coding or design skills.
In addition to the specialized technical skills one needs, people with a strong knowledge of current events, history and psychology also make good game industry employees as the job involves an understanding of real-life scenarios, in some cases. For example one could not make a game like Civilization without knowledge of history.
10 Tips on Succeeding the Gaming Industry
- Once you decide on a career discipline get a degree or training.
- Create a demo that is no longer than 3 minutes.
- Create a hit list of target game companies in the segment of industry you have interest in. Then…
- Network … Network … Network. Focus on meeting people working at your target company. They are easy to identify off the credits list of the game, through social networking sites or even focused publications like Industry Gamers, gamejobs.work, or Moby Games.
- Use LinkedIn to target companies and professionals in the industry.
- Keep up to date on current Game Industry issues.
- Develop a 1 minute “sales” pitch about yourself.
- Build a database of game industry professionals and manage it.
- Create a resume that is accomplishment-oriented and customized per game company you approach. This also means you must customize your demo.
- Don’t give up – job hunting is not easy.