How To Get Hired In The Gaming Space

At the AIE Alumni conference in Tuscany, several veteran developers were interviewed, with a few common questions -- one of them being, “What advice would you give new graduates?” Here are some of their answers.

It’s a fresh issue for Matt Davidson, who is in the process of hiring engineers:

I look for self-starters. Young engineers who aren’t looking for the full solution. I want them to be well versed in fundamentals. Computer Science fundamentals and software engineering fundamentals. I am worried about Unity becoming so popular because it does extract quite a lot of the architecture from game engineers. And it’s great for game developers to script things, but I really think that strong fundamentals are incredibly important.

Other than that, Davidson said to “Program, program, program.”

Kate Kerrigan, who has worked on many titles in a visual effects/animation role, wants you to stay sane:

Don’t be stressed when you’re not working on something. When I’m not working, I take at least half a day to work on something of my own, and send out emails to keep in contact with people for potential work, and the rest of the day I’ll take me time. Just don’t stress about it.

Other than that, no job starts until you turn up to the job, and no bankrolls.

Valuable advice for freelancers there. She also says you never know which bits of contract work might actually be fun, even when you don’t expect it.

Jeremy Howden comes from a position of overseeing a large art team at Animal Logic:

Probably the good skills are the business skills at the moment, to get work. Because it’s pretty quiet out there in Australia, at the moment. A lot of my friend are overseas at the moment because they can’t find work.

It’s those communication skills. You would put up with someone who’s difficult to work with because they’re talented, but there’s lots of talent out there now, so you don’t have to. You want to have people you can work with. Reliability is always a good thing.

He also stresses the importance of creating that beautiful piece of work that will get you in the door. A sentiment that Eddie Prickett agrees with:

A demo reel is a passport. A passport into your first job, and into your next job. So you’ve gotta be honest with yourself about where that sits. The way to do that is to look at the calibre of work that’s out there. And honestly say “Where does my work fit in this spectrum?” And you just have to put your love and blood and sweat and tears, to where your work can stand in the room with everyone else, because then you have a chance. With animation, it’s becoming saturated with the level of learning, so you’ve got to put something in that first 10 seconds. There’s gotta be something that impresses.

[Jobseekers] via Shutterstock


Comments

    Tuscany seems like an awful long way to go for an Australian games college conference.

    More importantly though, why was I not invited?

    When I was still interested in entering the industry I did a lot of research and footwork meeting up with well known developers in the Brisbane/Sydney scenes (Morgan Jaffit, John Passfield, etc), and by far the most common theme was "Just make games", so totally agree with this article. I'd also add that you REALLY need to do it in your own time and not just submit the portfolio you accumulated through uni (if you take that route). Networking plays a big part too (IGDA is great for that).

    Also a really good point from the article, "She also says you never know which bits of contract work might actually be fun, even when you don’t expect it." You can have the best work in your life on a Barbie game as far as a game developer goes. But also this goes beyond games, and I find it way more fun developing applications than games.

      Funny thing is, game testers love Barbie or those childrens "easy" games because their jobs are taken much more seriously.

    I've been in the industry for over 10 years and my advice to anyone who wants to break into the industry is always the same:

    Pick a discipline.

    You may think you're increasing your chance of being employed if you can code, create art, design levels, do animations, test. But it has the opposite effect. Employers for the most part do not want a "jack of all trades", they want someone who is focused and specialises in one discipline.

    You want to be a programmer? Then do a programming course and show you can adapt your skills to make games. Artist, animator or designer? Do the relevant course then make an awesome showreel. Even as a tester you need a specific skillset and I would recommend you do some kind of computing or testing course to give yourself the technical background knowledge.

    Choose what you want to do, then go down that path. No use in saying "hey I can do anything, just hire me!" when there are plenty of good specialist candidates more suited to what the employer is looking for.

      I want to do the programming side of games development. I will be doing a games course and will specialise in the software technologies (programming) as well as learning some skill for design, would that be satisfactory instead of doing a programming specific course, or am I better off doing a computer science degree?

        Personally, I'd recommend you go down the line of a computer science or software engineering degree rather than a games specific thing. You can easily adapt your skillset to games but it's not so easy to try to adapt the other way. If you do the programming specific course, you have the fallback should your career in games not quite work out.

      That said, usually that advice works best for people who do actually have a particular passion, talent, or enjoyment of a specific discipline. For someone like me however, I enjoy those tasks all about equally, but not enough to make any one of them my discipline.

        Then what I'm saying applies directly to you.

        I completely understand that one of them may not be singled out as a particular passion, but what I'm saying is that if you want to break into the industry, you WILL need to pick one. You may not like it but that's what you'll need to do. Employers don't want candidates that can do a little of everything, they want you to be damn good at one discipline.

        There's nothing stopping you picking a discipline for your career and keeping the rest of the them as something you do on the side for your own enjoyment.

          I was just saying it 'works best' for people who a singular affinity. I don't really care either way.

            Yes, I understand what you're saying, but what I'm saying is that unless you choose to specialise in one, you likely won't land a job in game development. It doesn't really matter what "works best" for you - this is what employers are looking for.

            Very few employers out there, besides maybe some small indie studios, are on the lookout for a jack of all trades that's not a specialist in one particular field. Just take a look at the job listings out there, and try to find advertised positions that ask for you to know a bit of everything without specialising in something. They pretty much don't exist.

            The closest you'll get to some kind of hybrid position is something like a Technical Artist, but even that is a highly specialised role.

            "Hire me! I can do a bit of everything!" isn't going to cut it I'm afraid. However, "Hire me, I'm a kickarse programmer" will.

            Last edited 03/06/14 11:30 pm

      Oh WhitePointer, bearer of wisdom, bestow upon me your supreme advice: I'm but a lowly non-math brained, not-particularly-competent-creatively Year 12 student who wants desperately to get into the game industry in any way, shape or form. Having read all your advice on this page, I need a blunt answer. Do I have any hope in achieving my dream? I don't even care what I land in, my life goal would be a managerial position in a larger game company home or abroad. I know there's not a magic solution or path to take, but in your opinion, what's my best hope of achieving this?

        Hello, lucky I saw this message pop up in my notifications :)

        Okay, so you're in Year 12 and you want to make it into games. Your situation is honestly not that uncommon. I'm sure you realise that a student that's just finished Year 12 isn't just going to walk into a managerial position with no experience. So honestly, I'll just repeat what I said in my original post. You need to pick a discipline.

        You may not know what you want to do yet, and that's perfectly fine. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do when I was in Year 12 either. So try your hand at various things. You don't necessarily need a maths brain to be a programmer, as there are many different types of programmers out there. Physics programming is obviously very maths intensive, but gameplay programming tends to be less so (not saying you don't need maths, just comparatively less).

        You also may not believe you are creatively minded, but I think everyone is creatively minded in some way. Play around with something like Unity, or the free version of UDK, see how you go with it. Do some online tutorials to get the basics of it and then go from there. You never know, it might be something you pick up quickly and enjoy doing. Get involved with modding communities, see if you can contribute there. If you can't get the hang of art or animation, what about sound design?

        Do you have any hope in achieving your dream? Well yes, I'd never tell someone to give up on their dream. If I followed that mentality I wouldn't be where I am right now. There's many different avenues you can pursue, but there's no easy way in, and it's a very competitive industry. It's going to take a lot of hard work on your part, but where there's a will, there's a way. And remember there are positions out there that are not directly involved in development too, such as marketing, or community managers, or technical support.

        Whatever way you choose to go, you're in Year 12 and so you are at the perfect point in your life to choose where to go. Just don't approach it with the mentality of "well if I do a bit of everything I'll increase my chances", because the opposite is true. Also don't think "well I'm not much good at anything, I might as well give up", as that line of thinking will mean you'll never reach your goal. Try out a lot of different things, then pick the path you think best suits you from there. You may find something you are good at and you really enjoy doing.

        Good luck!

        Last edited 30/07/14 4:06 pm

          Thank you for your understanding and thoughtful advice Mr White, I'm very willing to put in the hard yards but as is I've been struggling to find time to commit to stuff like experimenting with Unity and the like but I'm very enthusiastic to do so! I chose Ext, 2 English as a possible aid for a portfolio application for AIE, but I'm less convinced that that's the place I should go. Can't wait till after Trial exams and major works to be finished and I have time to sort things out for myself.

          Again, thanks for your advice, it's very appreciated! :D

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