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Advice Career Advice: What jobs do you think I should be looking for given my current skillset?

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hi people!

I'm trying to land a job in the video games industry (I don't mind if it's a low end mobile studio as long as it's a stable job)

I have a BSc in CS, and some years of work experience in programming, graphics design and UI/UX design. I also have some game prototypes (art/animation/scripted by myself) and I'm hoping of doing 2D art (characters/environment) on video games. However I'm willing to put to use any one and all of my other skills if my character/environment drawing skills are not up to the task, whereas something else makes me a candidate. After all I need to get my foot through the door!

I seriously lack industry insight, so it would be very helpful if you could have a look at my portfolio and come up with some feedback/critique and some suggestions on what job positions/company sizes should I be tailoring my search towards! Feel free to be blunt/honest, I am in serious need of a reality check :-)

Thank you so much,

-Fotis

Edited by FotisK
added comma

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What do you want to do? Programming, graphics design, UI work? That's the most important thing. Decide what you enjoy most, and focus your search there.

Company size does not actually dictate how "skilled" you have to be to work there; it's not true that a smaller company will accept less skilled or less experienced people, and a bigger one will only accept super-experienced people. It's very possible for the opposite to be true as well (for example, for a small company not to want to have to deal with the overhead of interviewing and training newbie developers, and thus only wanting to look for experienced people who can hit the ground running). It varies by company. So, you also have to consider what kind of work environment you're most interested in -- the size of the company can impact that quite a bit.

Basically, here are questions you should ask yourself:

  • What field do I most enjoy, or do I think I will most enjoy when I have to do it as a job?
  • What kind of environment do I want to work in? Small, where you know everybody? Large, where you can vanish into the cogs of the machine if you want?
  • Where do I live, what's near me, and how far am I willing to move for a job?

I'm only a programmer, so I don't feel comfortable advising you on the non-programming aspects of your portfolio. They look fine to me. I would suggest that you provide some code or a link to a GitHub account or whatever in your portfolio if you want to pursue a job as a programmer.

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It all looks good, but I think you need to pick what interests you most and focus on that, and tailor it for the job. As an employer, I'd want to know what you can do for my project, more than to see how good an all-round artist you are. For example, for either the Environment Artist or Character Artist roles you want to be explicitly showing 3D characters and 3D environments designed and modelled with games in mind. Right now I have to wade through a lot of less relevant stuff to try and find things of that nature in your portfolio.

You also potentially have the skills for concept art or UI art, and again you'd need to show that you're producing work suitable for games.

Your diverse skill set makes you a great candidate for smaller/indie companies, who often need their artists to cover a lot of different sub-disciplines - but by their very nature jobs there are limited, so it's not always practical to aim for that.

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Company size does not actually dictate how "skilled" you have to be to work there; it's not true that a smaller company will accept less skilled or less experienced people, and a bigger one will only accept super-experienced people. It's very possible for the opposite to be true as well [...]

Basically, here are questions you should ask yourself:

  • What field do I most enjoy, or do I think I will most enjoy when I have to do it as a job?
  • What kind of environment do I want to work in? Small, where you know everybody? Large, where you can vanish into the cogs of the machine if you want?
  • Where do I live, what's near me, and how far am I willing to move for a job?

hey @jpetrie thanks for the kind feedback! Actually these are very good points about company sizes and skill demands!

In my very crude way of thinking I had assumed that small studios could benefit from the ability to wear multiple hats (UI,UX,2D, some 3D graphics and my coding ability even though I'd rather not focus on that) so I thought that, that a less specialized level in all of these skills would be expected! Whereas in a bigger studio I'd have to pick one where I'm good at and compete with specialists - would you say there is some misunderstanding here? 

Now to the questions,

- ideally I'd love to be doing 2D concept art, followed by 2d environment and 2d character art - that is definitely graphics design, not UI/UX or programming - but I am not sure of how competitive I am. I've heard that UI/UX is my strongest (that's where I have most experience too, but would rather focus doing art).

- My work experience thus far has mostly been small teams (never more than 7 people) where I was the only one hired for my job  (ie the sole IT guy in the office, the sole developer, the sole designer working on the project) so I'm used to wearing multiple hats and be working unsupervised - but I crave for scaling-up, the motivation and learning opportunities that having peers and a big project can give you. So any 7+ people company that is financially stable sounds interesting as long as as there are 3+ people doing art on the project  - I no longer wish to be the lone wolf in the design :P

- As for relocating, I don't mind going any place (even though staying within the EU seems easier for the interviewing process). 

Edited by FotisK

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1 hour ago, Kylotan said:

Your diverse skill set makes you a great candidate for smaller/indie companies, who often need their artists to cover a lot of different sub-disciplines - but by their very nature jobs there are limited, so it's not always practical to aim for that.

Thank you @Kylotan for the feedback! Interesting point on smaller/indie companies - I imagined that I might be more suitable to them, but hadn't thought of how easy/difficult it would be to approach them! 

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8 minutes ago, FotisK said:

In my very crude way of thinking I had assumed that small studios could benefit from the ability to wear multiple hats

That's certainly possible. It's probably more likely to be a benefit in a smaller studio, but it's not impossible for it to be helpful in a larger studio as well. I don't think you're misunderstanding anything.

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49 minutes ago, Tom Sloper said:

As the other said, you should trust your own preferences. And see http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson7.htm and get yourself a copy of "What Color Is Your Parachute" 

Thank you Tom, very empowering! I've discovered your site a few days now and have been reading through - I had missed that particular lesson/article! thank you for putting all that out there your work, your website is a treasure trove!

As for the book What Color is your Parachute - well, I've seen so many mentions of it, but never directed towards me! I'm definitely getting a copy now! :D

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8 minutes ago, jpetrie said:

That's certainly possible. It's probably more likely to be a benefit in a smaller studio, but it's not impossible for it to be helpful in a larger studio as well. I don't think you're misunderstanding anything.

that's a good point too @jpetrie!

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1 hour ago, FotisK said:

ideally I'd love to be doing 2D concept art, followed by 2d environment and 2d character art - that is definitely design

No, it isn't. What it definitely is is art.

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2 minutes ago, Tom Sloper said:

No, it isn't. What it definitely is is art.

good catch Tom; my bad! I meant graphics design (answering jpetrie's question whether I'm interested in "Programming, graphics design or UI work") - never meant to imply game design ;) 

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16 hours ago, FotisK said:

ideally I'd love to be doing 2D concept art, followed by 2d environment and 2d character art - that is definitely graphics design, not UI/UX or programming - but I am not sure of how competitive I am. I've heard that UI/UX is my strongest (that's where I have most experience too, but would rather focus doing art).

Here's my suggestion (although I am a programmer and rarely get to hire artists):

  • focus on a concept art portfolio. Make it totally game-focused, and show some concepts for environments, characters, and ideally vehicles, weapons, objects, etc. Consider things like:
    • different themes for the same character or object (this is the kind of work that is common during the pitching/preproduction stage when the team is trying to agree on an art direction)
    • consistent theme across several different pieces (e.g. a character and environment from the same setting - this is the kind of work that you'll do as a project progresses)
  • add in a smaller amount of other 2D work to show some versatility, maybe some of the following:
    • UI mockups (don't get too focused on UX - chances are, you're limited by the tech anyway)
    • splash screens
    • icons
    • logos

I'm not going to comment on 2D environments and 2D characters, because the market for that is pretty small and mostly limited to the indie market, which generally is not hiring many people, and is rarely "financially stable" or has "3+ people doing art on the project".

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