Two Ways to Get A Career In the Games Industry

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Image: iStock/EvgeniyShkolenko

This article has been sponsored by Billy Blue College of Design at Torrens University Australia.

I’d wager almost every video game lover has pondered a career in the industry at one point or another. Whether it’s the state of the industry in their home city or simply not having the right skills, most tend to write off the idea entirely.

Whatever the case may be, there are plenty of ways to get into the industry and not all of them require lengthy training or coding knowledge.

The way I see it, there are two trains of thought here.

Look at the obvious

Making video games is an art and if you wanna run with the artists, you’ve gotta have the right skills. The good news is there are so many ways to learn these skills.

The first question you have to ask yourself is which aspect of video game production would you like to be involved in? If you’re good at maths and enjoy the logic of coding, the programming side of development will be right up your ally. On the other hand, you might be more interested in game strategy, environmental design or character design. Or maybe you’d like to learn a little bit of everything. Go wild.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, you need to work out where you’re going to get those skills. There are a plethora of great online resources available but your best bet is an actual qualification you can smack on your resume. Billy Blue College of Design at Torrens University Australia has a number of game-specific courses that’ll get you where you want to be. There’s a Diploma or Bachelor of Game Design and Development and a Bachelor of Software Engineering (Game Programming), all of which you can study full-time or part-time from Sydney or Melbourne or online.

The Aussie game development industry is definitely growing. Need I remind you of the insanely successful Untitled Goose Game or Crossy Road?

Once you have the skills you need, start using them, even if it’s just in your bedroom. There’s no way to sugar coat it — the industry is very competitive, so showing some actual experience is a great way to get a leg up, even if it is your own homebrewed creations. If you go with the courses offered by Billy Blue, you’ll get to take part in work-integrated learning such as internships or live briefs, and actually engage with the industry, as well as learning how to develop games on massive platforms like PlayStation.

In fact, work internships or networks developed whilst studying are often how Billy Blue grads get their break.

You can also check out resources like the GDC Vault and start learning from veterans in the field, how they work and how they solve real-world problems.

Look outside of the obvious

The video game industry is a goddamn behemoth worth almost $US159 billion worldwide. Something that size doesn’t just run off the back of studios creating games, it has many, many moving parts that require all kinds of people, skills and expertise.

There’s marketing, project management, musical composing, sound design, public relations and other fields that fit into the gaming industry as well as outside of it. Hell, Unreal Engine 4 was used to help create The Mandalorian series, which is a good example of gaming reaching beyond gaming.

What I’m saying is, there’s a high chance you already have some skills that could get you into the industry in one way or another. And if your main goal is to get into the creative side of things, getting a foot in the door and learning the industry in a gaming-adjacent role while you study isn’t a bad way to kick things off.

To use myself as an example, I always wanted to do something with video games but because the industry was a lot smaller when I left high school and almost non-existent in Australia, I decided against it. I worked a bunch of average IT jobs and eventually decided I wanted to do something that was relevant to my passions — gaming and music. I didn’t really have the skills to make games and my band was never going to “make it” so I decided to start writing. That way, I could write about both my passions.

After a year of freelancing while still working full-time, I had built up a portfolio that allowed me to change my career completely, eventually ending up where I wanted to be — writing about the things I love. Hell, I’ve even been lucky enough to travel to E3 a few times, which was a real bucket list item for me.

What I’m getting at is that there’s a job in the industry for anyone who wants it, you just have to figure out what you’re good at and how you can use it to get you there. And if you need to upskill, no sweat. There are tons of ways to get the skills you need to work in the thick of the industry, whether it’s game-specific programming or design.

And then, of course, there’s making a living out of streaming or going pro, which is much easier said than done these days. I’d say kick that off as a hobby and see how you go before making any plans to quit your day job.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can do just about anything you want to do, you just have to want it bad enough to start taking the steps.

Comments

  • Want to get into developing games? Write a game. Then write another game.

    Look at Hollow Knight. Two guys wrote a game about eating bugs. It wasnt very good. So they wrote another game (with another two guys) and now they’re arguably Australia’s best know game devs.

    Want to get in Game Journalism? Write a blog.

    If you go looking for a job in either of these areas without doing this you’re just a name on a list. Names on Lists have to be lucky to get jobs. Names on Games stand out.

    • Up vote!! Great comment and spot on.

      My own 2 cents? There is no easy path. The hard path is the best path, only because it sets you up for the probable set-backs you’ll encounter. Those set-backs make you stronger (cliched as it sounds and is). STEM is being pushed hard right now in Aussie, and for good reason – its the future.

  • Want a career in games? Get another career first where you can make lots of money so that you have some savings to fall back on and an alternative job option for those regular periods where your 14 hour days in your below minimum wage game dev job are punctuated by long periods of unemployment and the occasional interstate relocation.

  • I recruited a guy fresh out of Curtin Uni (Perth) for an IT company I was Dev Manager of a few years back. After 3 months of working with us he resigned and I asked why. His response was “I’ve been offered a job in Seattle at XBOX game studios”. I simply said I was very envious and best of luck!

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