I had two separate strangers cold-email me this week looking for ways into the game industry. I was updating my About page to answer this frequently asked question, but I liked what I came up with, so it can get its own post as well:
Q: How do I get a job in the games industry?
A: There are many sites that can help you with this better than I can. Google is your friend. And since I’ve only done this once, I don’t consider myself a real expert, but I can give some tips as it related to me getting a job and things I’ve observed from our general hiring practices. The better question would be: “How do I position myself to succeed in the games industry?” Because if you just want to get just a job, I’m sure there are plenty of junior testing positions open.
So, right, tips:
- Get a degree from a respectable four-year institution in something other than “game design”. Computer science is usually a winner. My degree is in Information Systems. Math, engineering, business, art, illustration, architecture, English. These are all good majors to have. Prove you are a well-rounded individual (to use the cliche) rather than a one-trick pony. Businesses can teach you the latest tools and trends, but only if you have the base skill set to be taught. Game design programs can teach great skills, but employers want someone less narrowly defined.
- Be interesting. Game companies get a forest’s worth of resumes every year. They do tons of interviews. So why in the world should they pick you? There will probably be fifty candidates today with grades better than yours or fellowships or recommendations. Nobody cares about that. Have a project you can show. Have a blog with insights. Show that you not only can do the job, but can bring something immeasurable to the team. Have a personality.
- Know why you want to work in games. Because you play them is the worst possible answer. I won’t give you the best possible answer, because you should be telling the truth. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t get to play fun games when you work on making games. 99% of the time you work on something that is broken either in terms of code or design. Once those two things are shored up to a satisfactory level for whoever is pulling the strings, the game is shipped and you start over. The only time you really get to play fun games is when you are at home.
- Be prepared to sacrifice. I wouldn’t trade my job for a “real” job any day of the week. But realize that with the perks, there is also a lot of sacrifice. Working twelve-hour days is normal. Working three weeks or more without a weekend happens at most studios. You’ll be paid less than a similar job in a more dull field. You won’t have creative freedom. Think seriously about if this is what you want to do with your talents. To me, it is worth it. To many, they get in and realize they want a 40 hour a week gig. That’s cool too, just know what to expect.
- Be crafty and be persistent. When I was first looking for an internship, I sent my resume to over one hundred studios. Ninety-seven of them never even responded to say they weren’t interested. Most places have a formal policy of how they entertain employee applications. Fuck it. Find the name of someone in HR and personally email them. They don’t particularly like it, but it is effective.If that fails, find the name of someone else in the company (See Tip #6, though). Email them about something unrelated to you wanting a job. Ask questions. Something about which you are actually interested in learning. People can tell when you are lobbing bullshit questions. If you get a good relationship going over email, you may be able to sneak in that you are looking for an internship. If not, then you might still be able to learn from things from someone you wouldn’t really talk to normally.
It isn’t easy to get a job in this field, so you have to show that you are eager and qualified. Saying you are eager and qualified doesn’t amount to a hill of crap. Most places will tell you that they have no positions, which may or may not be true. But if you show them that they could really use you, then when a position does become available, maybe they will remember you.
- Don’t call me. I’d love to help, but I really have no pull whatsoever.