How to: Get a job in the games industry

How to get a job in the games industry

The next generation of console wars is undoubtedly underway.

‘The Big Three’ (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo) continually strive for the next enhancement and technological breakthrough. Gamers can now experience the year’s top titles in 3D, HD, using motion sensors and more. The visuals are enhanced; the audio is enhanced; the game play is enhanced.

To put it simply, they’re video games, Jim. But not as we know them.

But, just as with the latest generation of consoles, work does not stop as soon as they hit the high-street shelves. A new generation of gamers are needed to continue the development. That’s where you come in…

But what happens if you’re interested in the video games industry, but have no idea how to break in to it? If you’re more comfortable with your controller in your hand (stop sniggering at the back), here are a few tips on how to get a job in the games industry….

To quote a famous Brooklyn plumber, lets-a-go…

Market Research

Already a level 80 Mage? If so, you can probably move on to step two.

It goes without saying that to be successful in this industry, you need to like computer games. Actually, you need to love computer games. You need to eat, breathe and sleep computer games (N.B. this is meant purely metaphorically – video game disks DO NOT taste good).

But, beyond being a mere fan of the latest Fifa instalment, you will need to have an understanding of computer games, and how they’re played. Know what new games are out there, what the most popular and innovative games of all time are, and why. The different styles of gameplay, and what their advantages and/or limitations are.

Make Something

This is, without doubt, the single most important piece of advice you need to know.

Unfortunately, passion alone will not pave the way for a successful career in the games industry. There are literally thousands of people in the same position, and your job is to set yourself apart. Unfortunately, luck alone will not be enough.

Instead, start developing mini-games, games and trailers of your own. There are a whole host of free sites out there to help you learn and develop your skills in different programs, from iPhone apps and Flash games through to concept art and even creating additional levels (mods) for popular games (famous examples include Left 4 Dead, Half-Life, Civilisation and Doom).

Start small, and be realistic. But actually having something to show to potential recruiters could be the difference between getting the job and missing out.

Bonus points if your game has an Easter egg waiting to be revealed when you enter The Konami Code (if we have to tell you what this is, you may be looking in the wrong industry).

Get qualified

If you’re serious about getting into the industry and progressing your career quickly, getting an industry recognised qualification will be a must.

Even if you’re already familiar with some of the professional tools used, there may be a host of useful software that you aren’t aware of, and a professional qualification could undoubtedly help boost your career prospects

Photoshop, 3ds Max, Maya, Java and C++ are all useful qualifications, depending on your desired career path (e.g. 3D Modelling Artist, Developer, Programmer etc.).

Browse courses

Network Connection

This is useful for any jobseeker, but especially so when it comes to this particular industry. Techies and gamers tend to be quite a close-knit breed, and are especially vocal when it comes to social media. In short, geeks stick together.

If you don’t currently know anyone else into games development other than a few friends playing Fallout 3 on X-Box Live, don’t panic. There are a range of events, fairs and conventions you can visit to help starting building your networks.

Knowing the right people and making the right connections should never be underestimated, whether you’ve been in the industry for years, or you’re just starting out.

Start at Level 1

Finally, if all else fails, don’t be afraid to start out at the bottom. Before free software and shiny courses became readily available, the old-fashioned route was to work your way up the career ladder by taking an entry-level position. And the entry-position for gaming was Games Tester.

That’s right. Going against everything our mother ever told us, you can actually be paid to play computer games all day. If you spend most of your time doing that anyway, it may be the perfect career move.

However, before setting off on your future career, spare a thought for the practicalities. Becoming a games tester isn’t all about glitz and glamour. It will require you to play the same level, sometimes for days at a time, in an effort to find every possible bug before it can go live (and by live, we mean viral).

If you still think you can struggle through the latest Street Fighter reboot (CVXI, Ryu’s Revenge, if you’re counting) after playing it for the five-hundreth consecutive time, then start applying now.

Have any tips of your own? Let us know below…

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