As a young person interested in working within the game industry, it may be extremely daunting at first to choose a path that is right for you. Will you take the role of programmer, designer, musician, writer, artist, or one of the many other exciting roles? And what exactly do each of these roles entail? Allow me to enlighten you on some of these things.
A designer is not only an ‘idea guy’
You may be thinking to yourself “I can come up with great ideas! That makes me a great designer, right?” You’re partly correct in that game designers DO come up with ideas for game mechanics and concepts that wrap around a certain game’s theme. This isn’t the only thing designers are tasked with, however.
Once a game concept is pitched, it must be revised until the developers and producers agree that it in fact fits the game. At that point, designers start to work on game levels, identifying any potential design pitfalls.
Maintaining a knowledge of coding is also important for a design position (what is coding?). Although not all designers can code, it helps if they are able to speak to engineers from their point of view when pitching ideas for a game. Quickly showing something that is working through a prototype is always better than simply talking or drawing pretty pictures.
Writers and artists, please cater your portfolios
I’ve heard lots of stories about artists breaking into the industry, but more recently I have seen extremely talented artists get turned away for something as simple as a portfolio. Don't let that be you!
When you apply for a game industry job, you will be asked to provide a portfolio to showcase your work. For artists and writers, this means that the work you showcase should correlate with what the company’s recruiters think would work best with the type of project you would be working on. For example, a Blizzard portfolio will be vastly different from a Zynga portfolio. Meaning, at Blizzard, recruiters will want to see artwork that reflects the creatures and characters from their own games—as well as a nod or two towards the Blizzard style. At Zynga, recruiters will look for cartoony and mobile-friendly work, so perhaps your 3D models won’t necessarily apply here.
As for writers, your task is much more difficult. Writing jobs in the industry are tough to get into, but following the same guidelines of tapping into a certain company's “style” will help you tremendously.
Programmers, play to your strengths
When you apply for an industry job as a programmer, one of the first things people will ask you is “What sort of stuff do you like to code?” It pays to answer this question on your own and tailor both your resumé and portfolio to your answer as well. I personally enjoy front end coding and gameplay coding, and wouldn’t necessarily apply to handle large server data or processes in the background of a game. Others may find that they love that type of coding, and will go straight for something similar. Whatever the case may be, know your strengths and show them off!
Here is a short clip from game developer Naughty Dog.
Breaking into the game industry is one of toughest tasks for a recent college grad. In addition to following these tips above, here are some good ways to prepare yourself to enter the awesome world of game development:
- Connect with other game developers: Talk to those who have been through the process, and see if they know who’s hiring. Attend game studio tours on your own or through the iD Game Design and Development Academy to gain insights on what the job is like.
- Never stop learning: Keep working on what you love, and keep pushing yourself to learn more, and more, and more. Here is a free game design eBook that has some other good tidbits.
- Be motivated and excited about the company you trying to work for: You never know how far a little enthusiasm will go. Don't treat every company like the next company...treat it like the only company.
I hope this post inspires you to follow your dreams in working on video games. The industry is constantly changing, and it needs more keen and talented individuals to keep innovating and bringing great content to the masses!