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How to get a Job in the Game industry?

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I was just curious if anyone would care to share their opinons on how hard or easy it is to get into the game industry? Speaking from personal experience I find it hard and trying. I believe myself to be a decent level designer that is just seeking her first job in the industry. But mostly I have been shot down due to lack of experience. I have done internships and free lance, but still it isn't enough to land me that one job opportunity. So please give all input that you have. Or just talk about your experience, either way it will be helpful.

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Brittany,

I can tell you from personal experience that it can be very difficult to get into the game industry depending on your timing, skill set, and work experience. Your ability or inability to enter the industry has as much to do with timing and luck sometimes as it does with anything else.

In your case, it seems like you're heading in the right direction. To make yourself an attractive candidate you need to demonstrate both skill and will. That is, you need to show you've got the skill to do the work, but also the will and determination to get the job done, and to finish what you start.

Regarding skill, the best way to demonstrate you're a good level designer is by showcasing levels. I notice you've already got a portfolio created on your website, this is a good thing. Keep going with it. Pick your favorite genre of game and use the level building tools to make mods. Publish your mods on the internet at regularly visited websites and use the popularity of your mods to gauge your skill and to demonstrate proficiency.

Also, designers, and level designers in specific should have varied skill sets. You should be able to demonstrate proficiency with writing, level layout and game-player, as well as proficiency with popular world editors, modeling packages, and some scripting languages.

For modeling packages you'll definitely want exposure with Maya and SoftImage|XSI. They both have freely available versions which you can use to take screenshots for your portfolio.

As for scripting languages - both Lua and Python on very common right now in the game industry. A basic understanding of javascript or C# programming will also enable you to read C++-like style coding.

As for the will...the best way to demonstrate you've got the will is start projects and finish them. Your levels and sketches are great, but try and get involved with a community project as well, something that Hiring Managers can pass along to the Lead Designer to play. Presentation is everything. Next, be persistent, send out resumes to the major companies, along with attached portfolios presented on nice sheen paper. Or if you prefer digital, have a digital portfolio created which really shows off your work.

Finally, you need to work on improving your resume. There's nothing on it that tells me as an HR person what makes you unique among your peers. Show me you understand the industry and the tools and techniques available.

You do provide a list of software, but that doesn't mean anything to me. Do you know how to use these programs? If so, at what proficiency? Also, although you say in your resume that references/reels are available upon request, most HR people aren't going to waste their time asking. Send THEM! And at the same time, there's nothing on your resume that describes what you do as a level designer, projects you've worked on, or any of the levels/mods etc...you've created which are in wide use by your peers.

Your "Work Experience" only covers about 4 years, none of which is relevant for the job you're applying for. In my opinion, scrap those from your resume, and use that space instead to highlight some of the the projects you've worked on, what tools you used, what design techniques you focused on, and how successful the mod/map is in the community.

Lastly, check regular websites such as GDNet, Gamasutra, etc...which have job postings. You dont need to apply for every level designer position, but you should pay attention to the job requirements people are listing and the work-experience they're looking for. If you see something that matches you, send a resume and printing of your maps, etc... If you see something that doesn't match your skills, figure out a way to obtain the skills they're looking for.

Hope this is helpful.

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From what I've read here and there, it's a tough battle getting the exact job you want. However, it's not as difficult to get an entry-level position (still tough, but much easier than going straight to level designer or the likes). Most people who get into the higher-up jobs have gotten there from working through the ranks, usually starting as a QA, game tester, or similar, where they spent several years applying themselves and proving that they were capable of more.

There are other ways into the game industry, of course. Contacts is a big loophole. Couple people I've read about knew someone in the industry and were offered a job through that friend's recommendation. Knowing the right people to talk to via various contacts can also help to move your resume into friendlier hands. If you want to build this list of contacts, consider attending a local game development conference in your area, if there is one, or join a mailing list. The more people you know, the better.

Having prior experience is the other biggie, as you hinted at, bmaxey. But, this doesn't always have to be game industry experience. A lot of studios simply like to see a demo or a completed project as proof that you have done something, which can often say more about you than a reference to another company will. Without coding experience, though, getting a demo can be difficult--if you haven't already, consider joining a mod team and putting your design skills to use there.

Overall, the game industry is a fairly challenging place to get into, as there are many others who are also seeking the very same career path as you. Getting clear of the flock and getting others to notice you will do wonders to get you ahead. However, how that's done, exactly, is probably a bigger challenge than any career choice.

Ask yourself what puts you apart from everyone, and what you have to offer. If you can define that, you may find that your luck isn't so bad after all. :)

(That last line totally made this post sound like a motivational speech...)

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As previously said, it can just be a matter of timing. Most level designers are usually employed on contract and at the start of full production. Also bear in mind that level designers will also need some experience in programming for scripting purposes.

Looking through your website I noticed that the layout was very heavily image based ~11 images per page which can take a while to load on low bandwidth devices. The main part that worries me is that the resume cannot be downloaded in a Word doc, html or txt format therefore it makes it harder for HR to deal with for storage or cross matching. It wouldn't be something that I would bother with if I had to re-type the resume to enter it into a database.

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Well, you all have some great ideas and responses, in which I haven't thought of. Speaking of the resume part, I was told by many recruiters not to how to say blab on about yourself and talent but mostly talk about boring mondane details. Which I take your side on I think if should reflect the person and not the tools of use.

Ask for the website, I'm not good at designing or putting one together it was just through dreamweaver. I don't understand how to documents on it to upload because my levels are pretty much over 3Gs or more. Also, the reason one part of my website is filled with things is it is my flatbook presentation: meaning when I am interview it's like a many profolio restating what I have on my website. I know the pages are big and hard to load but most of my pages are screenshots from Unreal, using Fraps. So it's hard to make the resolution below 300 or it becomes choppy and well just bad looking.

Ask for the reason my demo reel is choppy is for file size and if I shrek it anymore it will break and become skippy.


But I thank you for all your opinons and options. I haven't really thought of a lot of those ideas. And not to sound stupid I know there are mod communities but which one would you recommend for Unreal Engine, i know some Half life but not as good as Unreal.

Also I do know scripting of AI bots through the unreal engine I know very well. Plus, I know Python, Bash, Pearl, and some C++. But I didn't want to put them on my resume due to the fact I know so little of them.

I can do scripting but it's not my best thing. I model a lot and build levels alot I have some scripting levels were I control the bot and the jester I built is all scripting through motionbuilder and unreal. I just never get the chance to talk to someone about it because most colleges don't have their own motion capture lab. VXF, ITGM, and Technical Direction were my minors, I would guess not technically but they would be if i stayed for one more year.

Personally speaking I love critism and I will try to utilize all of the great ideas. Some I won't due to fact of not having the knowledge or the fact of personal format.

But again thank you and keep responing with new, invent ways.


:)

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Firstly, don't listen to your recruiter. If you've got skills (no matter how small), that apply to your career in the game industry, put it on your resume. Your resume is your one and only shot at getting an interview. If it doesnt impress the hiring manager, you wont get the interview.

Second, fire your recruiters. Here's a little known fact about the game industry and recruiters. There are about 15 billion (true story) artists, programmers, and designers graduating from college every year. Most of them are suitable to be employed as a junior artist, designer, programmer, etc...at the majority of game companies, if they can demonstrate a passion for doing so.

In economics we call this a near perfect competition. You have to do everything you can to stand ahead of your peers. Now, what you may not realize is that by going to recruiters, ANY game company that works with that recruiter has signed a contract to pay them some % of your annual salary if they choose to hire you. And that's on TOP of what they have to pay you.

So lets think about this carefully. I, as a game company, can either hire one of the 15 billion people who just graduated, or I can hire you, another person who just graduated, but whom I also have to pay an extra cost to hire. See the problem? Unless you're super qualified, and stand out from the crowd significantly, hiring a recruiter as a Junior Artist, Programmer, Designer, etc...is the fastest way of guaranteeing you WONT get into the industry.

With all of that aside, once you've got a few years experience in the industry and 2 or 3 published titles, recruiters are GREAT. They get your name out quickly, and your experience immediately brings you to the forefront, making employers willing to pay the extra recruiting fees in order to gain your services.

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I would avoid trying to get into the industry through QA. You'll wind up stuck in QA for a while and not guaranteed a spot at anything.

My recommendation is to aim at start-ups. It's how I got started in the industry, mind you not as a level designer but as an engineer. Just apply to every start-up in your area, hopefully there's a few, because once you have real industry experience on your resume it's so much easier to get in at other company's.

When I was first trying to get a job it took me probably a month of applying to dozens and dozens of company's. When I left my first job, it took me exactly a week to apply, interview, and acquire a job.

Pretty much the same thing when I got hired at the current company I work for, though it was more like two weeks.

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Another dirty industry secret: a lot of openings exist but are not actively advertised. That is to say, there are quite a few opportunities where you could get a job with a given team, but that team isn't specifically out looking for new employees.

The trick, as JWalsh so thoroughly covered it, is to stand out from the crowd. Applying on your own initiative to a studio and impressing them will make your name stick in their minds. If they don't already have a spot to bring you on board, you can bet they'll have you on a list to look you up again when a spot does become available.

An especially effective tactic here (at least from what I've seen) is to build a mod (in your case, probably a couple of well-built levels would be sufficient) based on one of the studio's games. Not having to train you on their technology and tools is a bonus for the studio, and of course having the passion and interest to undertake such a project always says good things.

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Hey guys, I'm new to the forums and I had a few questions about the same topic. I'm entering my senior year of college as a computer science major, and I am planning on entering the game industry at some point. After I receive my B.S. I plan on going to graduate school. All the while, trying to develop some game projects on my own.

Ok, my questions are how much of a chance do I have after I get out of grad school against other people in the field applying for a job as a game programmer? What kind of projects/games should I work on to try and improve my portfolio? My ultimate goal, which has been somewhat a dream of mine, is to work for Blizzard. Would I be better off trying to mod their games then say trying to make some from scratch? Do game industries even look at people without game programming experience, or do they look at people with programming in general.

I appreciate any response and hopefully some of the answers I receive will help out bmaxey as well!

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Well, as long as you're determined to get into the game industry you will. You may have to relocate to a city with more company's but if you're determined, you have some kind of college degree you will get in, at least to say this has been my experience.

Out of say around 10 of the friends I graduated with that wanted to go into the games industry, maybe 1 of them isn't working for some form of game company right now.

One thing to remember, at least in the CS program I took, a very small amount of programmers actually want to get into the games industry. The rest are looking for IT and DB and stuff like that kind of jobs.

What it comes down to in the end is your determination to get into the industry.

*EDIT* One thing I want to add though, I'm from vancouver and there is a ton, of game company's here, so that might make it a little easier. I think I remember applying to a good 20 different local game company's when I was first trying to get a job 2 years ago, I know that number's grown since then.

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Quote:
Original post by JacksonEMG
Hey guys, I'm new to the forums and I had a few questions about the same topic. I'm entering my senior year of college as a computer science major, and I am planning on entering the game industry at some point. After I receive my B.S. I plan on going to graduate school. All the while, trying to develop some game projects on my own.

Ok, my questions are how much of a chance do I have after I get out of grad school against other people in the field applying for a job as a game programmer? What kind of projects/games should I work on to try and improve my portfolio? My ultimate goal, which has been somewhat a dream of mine, is to work for Blizzard. Would I be better off trying to mod their games then say trying to make some from scratch? Do game industries even look at people without game programming experience, or do they look at people with programming in general.

I appreciate any response and hopefully some of the answers I receive will help out bmaxey as well!


Jackson, congratulations on making it to your Senior Year. =) To answer your questions, a Graduate degree can actually be a detriment to you in the game industry. Ever heard the term "over qualified?"

When you finish your Master's degree you're going to be looking to get into the game industry. You'd think that your advanced degree would make you more qualified, and as such, you're likely going to request more money, etc...In reality, your degree DOESN'T make you any more qualified.

And unfortunately, you've got no more work experience in the game industry than the person next to you who just graduated with their Bachelor's Degree. They acknowledge they're a Junior, and are willing to take lower pay than someone who continued their education for M.S.

The end result, the game company takes the B.Sc. I'm not saying dont pursue the M.S. if that's what you want to do. I'm just saying dont use your advanced degree as leverage to try to get into the industry. Similar to the problem with recruiters, if you've got 2-3 titles under your belt, and you go back to school for an advanced degree, you'll have no problem getting re-hired, etc...but until you've proven you've got the will to get the job done, how academically inclined you are really doesnt have much of an impact. And in fact, some companies avoid people who are overly "academic" in favor of those people who've tried to enter the industry sooner. Now, this is just one way to look at it, I'm quite certain there are many people who can speak in favor of an M.S. degree. This is just my personal experience.

As for what kinds of projects, that depends on whether you want to be an engine programmer, or a gameplay programmer. If you want to be an engine programmer, then work on developing a quality engine with decent graphics, user input, audio, etc...will it be commercial quality? Probably not. However it'll get you familiar with the fundamentals of engine design, and in your interview you'll know what you're talking about.

If you want to be a gameplay programmer, than work on games. By this I mean, bypass the engine development and use a commercially or freely available game engine such as Torque, Ogre3D, etc...Then, use the engine to make games...many games. Each with different styles, look and feel. This demonstrates to potential employers that you can do something creative, and that you can finish what you start.

No, dont mod Blizzard's games. That's what designers do who are trying to get into the industry. Programmers need to program. And no, in general game companies do not hire people without game programming experience. You're going to need tech demos and completed hobby games to show them you're the candidate they're looking for.

Cheers!

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This may seem like a blatently obvious answer but, the levels in your portfolio all seemm to be using the Unreal Engine. Give a lot of attention to companies that are licensing unreal technology for their upcoming games. There are a lot of companies.
I'm not saying forget about applying to other companies but a little focus can't do any harm to your application process.

As already mentioned there are lots of job openings but they either don't get advertised or they get advertised through specific channels. So send speculative applications to any company without a specific job advertisment. Send your demo real on CD with a copy of your CV/resume and try to jazz things up to make things stand out. don't just have a CD that has your demo clips on it. Try to create an interactive menu for selecting the different clips etc.

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JWalsh, thanks for the response! It was really helpful. Well ideally I would like to move onto engine development, but where should I start first? Would developing a simple game using Ogre3D give me a better understanding of how an engine works before jumping right in?

Thanks!

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Well not to be a downer, but unless you have some titles under your belt, I don't see anyway you're going to be doing engine development starting out as a jr. programmer.

Just try to write some game demo's. Anything that show's you can program. The other thing is when you write these demo's make sure you understand how everything works. I've seen interviews where the interviewee had some cool demo's but when asked to explain how he did them, he couldn't answer.

It takes time to get into a good spot in a company. It's worth the tolling of bug fixing and writing score counters and what not, once you're in and have moved up a few levels :D.

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Absolutely, JWalsh has been excellent responding, and so have others.

Dancin_Fool, thanks for the reply! Where do you suggest I should begin? Should I write the game demos from scratch using OpenGL or DirectX or should I use Ogre3D along with OpenGL?

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Quote:
Original post by JacksonEMG
Absolutely, JWalsh has been excellent responding, and so have others.

Dancin_Fool, thanks for the reply! Where do you suggest I should begin? Should I write the game demos from scratch using OpenGL or DirectX or should I use Ogre3D along with OpenGL?



I'd suggest a couple of projects on top of existing engines; try and use multiple engines if you can. Get a feel for the elements that absolutely are required, and also for the various ways that certain things can be done. The more engines you can look at the better. Try to identify things they all are doing, and how they approach those problems differently. Write this all down. Also, make lists of everything you like and dislike about each engine, and why.

This information will give you a pretty reasonable head start for building your own engine.

If you want to be an engine programmer, you have to be able to write your own from more or less the ground up. However, that's a dangerous place to start if you've never really worked with a pre-existing engine before.

Emphasize whatever you are most interested in: shader effects, terrain algorithms, whatever it may be. Build yourself an engine demo that really shows that off, and use it as the centerpiece of your portfolio. That will effectively communicate to employers where your skills lie and what sort of work you're best suited to doing.

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ApochPiQ, thanks for the advice! What specific engines do you suggest? Should I focus mainly on Ogre3D, Horde3D, and Irrlicht (the 3 open source ones that Wikipedia listed)? Of course, as a college student, I'm on a budget. ;p

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Actually, I'm probably not a good person to ask [smile]

I'm spoiled by industrial-strength commercial engines so I haven't really followed the free/cheap/open-source engines at all for years. Anything and everything you can get your hands on would probably be useful.

Ogre and Irrlicht are fairly popular and definitely worth looking at. Torque is also pretty cheap and widespread, and could be very educational as well. Keep in mind that these engines are going to be mainly lessons in what can go wrong, rather than designs you want to emulate.

Once you're comfortable with things, definitely check out the free engine code that id software has released; Quake 2's engine in particular is great for seeing the difference between real-world industrial engines and off-the-shelf middleware engines.

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