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Does working in a games development company sound like an impossible dream? Does the allure of building the next Homeworld or God of War weigh on your shoulders as you trudge to your 9 to 5?
Good news; It's not as unreachable as you think!
It’s not always a smooth 60 FPS, and the industry isn't for the faint of heart, but read on and you might find that your dream job isn't actually in another castle after all.
My name's Chris Wood, the COO at Pixelmatic, and here are 7 ways to help you get into the game industry.
1: Meet People
As the old adage goes: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. If you feel that sitting at home grinding platinum trophies is going to get you a job in the industry, you are sorely mistaken.
I got my job at Pixelmatic from meeting our CTO at the gym, of all places. We spoke and when he told me he worked at a games company I just got so excited that I offered to buy him a beer. So we went to a bar later that week and just chatted about games all night. It was awesome. And the rest is history.
Try to go to meetups in your town, board game groups, competitions, or big events such as GDC or E3, etc. and just get in front or a wide range of people. Somebody always knows somebody who’s cousin has a friend that works in video games.
It really helps to put yourself out there a bit, and when it comes to widening your circles, you'll quickly find that efficiently networking is king.
2: Find Awesome Projects and Get Into Their Community
We recently hired a member of our Discord community to be our community manager. Why? Because he was with us from the very beginning. He supported our project, engaged the community, developed friendships and became a personality on our Discord server.
Whether it was his strategy to do this, I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t feel like it. He was genuinely engaged with us and the community. So, one day we just said, “Hey, this guy would be perfect for this role”
So, get on Discord, Reddit, or your social media network of choice and find communities for projects that resonate with you. Find teams that you relate to and have a passion for their project and actively engage with them. You may get drowned out in the triple-A’s. But you can get started in cool indie projects driven by small studios that will appreciate the extra help you are giving.
Just remember that you won't see job offers overnight - this takes a while, but you get out what you put in.
3: Make Games
You can make a game.
Seriously. I know it sounds hard (it is) and will take time and effort. But there are so many great courses online that will help you get a kick start. Check out Udemy.com and look for a bestselling Unity3D or Unreal Engine course. There are countless free courses out there too, they just a click and the tapping of some keys away.
If you start making your own game and post regular updates online through social media and blogging, you can get yourself a following, and you may get noticed by a few studios. At the very least, it'll help you build up an initial portfolio!
Especially if you want to be a game designer, you have to design some games. Head over to gamedev.net or gamasutra.com and start reading articles about how to truly be a dev. You can do this in your spare time and it will elevate your resume way above other candidates looking to get a foot in the door.
This is a really great thing to do in general as someone who loves games. It gives you a different appreciation of what goes into the art of game dev. It’s an amazing journey.
4: Get an Internship or Entry-Level Job
I started at Pixelmatic as a part-time game designer. At the time, I was working at an English Language training school in Shanghai as an operations director. It had always been my dream to work in video games but I really didn’t know how!
I worked one day a week at Pixelmatic. They took a bit of a risk with me as I had zero experience. I didn’t ask for much in the way of my daily rate. But when I was in, I worked hard and made sure that my one day a week counted. They were going to get serious value for money.
Eventually, I got a full-time job as a project manager.
Get your foot in the door however you can. You might need to work two jobs. You might need to live up to the stereotype and dwell in your mum’s basement for a while. But it’s worth it.
Sidenote - Also, make sure you have a timeline, learning goals, and a path in mind. Don’t let companies take advantage of you and be ready to leave if you aren’t happy.
5: Work on Your Social Media
This is especially true if you are making games yourself. Or any kind of game-related content (music, art, animation, design, etc.)
Twitter and Facebook are amazing resources for game developers. The communities are supportive and strong. Show your work, get feedback and give back to the community. This feeds into your networking. Make sure to engage with other developers and support them too.
Always be professional. Always be polite. Avoid engaging in things that could be seen as toxic, because while it's good to have opinions, people are generally less willing to mention your work if they've had a negative experience with you. You don't have to be a different person, just keep in mind that perception makes all the difference!
Pro-tip: Update your status to “looking for gamedev jobs in [field]” If you have good content, you’ll catch people’s attention. Announce that you’re looking for work!
6: There are More Opportunities Than You Think
Keep in mind, video game companies are the same as any other company. There are HR departments, marketing, operations, admin, and loads more.
If you can get a job as an administrative assistant at an insurance company, there’s no reason you can’t at a game company! And unlike the insurance company, your passion for games will only benefit you at an interview with a games company.
You just need to look. Make it a regular thing. Mark down a few companies that you’d love to work for and sign up for job vacancy alerts. Who knows, the perfect job might pop up for you, or a gateway might just open that will allow you to reposition later.
7: Be Persistent
Job hunting is a job.
This goes for anything really. But if you want to get into the industry, which can be tough, you have to be absolutely tenacious. Here are some quick tips:
- Write cover letters (I know they’re annoying, but this is your chance to smarm your audience)
- Attention to detail is important in this industry. Don’t make silly spelling or grammar mistakes
- Include keywords on your resume that will pop-up with recruiters. Google is your friend
- Find staff from the company you are applying for on LinkedIn and connect with them
- Go through your steam library, what games do you like? Find out who made them and connect
- Send resumes to companies that you like. It doesn’t even matter if they aren’t hiring
- Send thank you notes for making amazing games to developers. And cake
- Go to as many interviews as you can get, and don't let rejection get you down! So turn it into a learning experience. Find out what went wrong, and switch it up so things go right!
- Write down the questions you were asked and think about how to better answer them next time
- Researching the company you are interviewing for is vital. You can really impress the interviewer by asking a question that relates uniquely to the position you are interviewing for and the situation the company may be in currently
- Protip - you can always follow up with failed interviews and ask for advice or other industry contacts. Turn failures into successes
It’s not impossible to get into the game industry and find the job of your dreams. Stop doubting yourself, and get out there and make it happen. If you want it, all you need is some tenacity and hard work. Frankly speaking, if you aren’t willing to work hard, this industry is not for you. Push yourself.
Get that experience.
- Chris Wood,
USF Combined Fleet Commander.
Read all that and think you've got what it takes to join the team? Send us your cover letter and resume email@example.com and check out our jobs page for more info!