How To Break Into The Industry, Part 3

By Destin Bales [03.22.12]

 [Destin Bales' series of articles for aspiring developers concludes with some essential tips for finding a job and achieving long-term success in game development. The following text comes from Bales' blog, "I Need To Make Games."

Parts one and two are also available on GameCareerGuide.]

Step 7: Finding Your First GameDev Job

The time has come to achieve your goal! This article discusses both traditional and non-traditional ways to be noticed and get your foot in the door.

Before you jump straight to sending off your resume though a last bit of research is in order. It is important that you set your expectations appropriately regarding potential salary, viable job duties, and physical location, before beginning your search in earnest.

Let's start with location. Are you aware of the key hubs of game development today? Gamedevmap is an outstanding resource for finding active game companies, and it is frequently updated to reflect the latest in the industry. If you have any illusions about being able to work from home you should promptly eliminate those from your thoughts. It is a requirement that you relocate to the area of your new job, most likely even at your own expense for your first position. Therefore consider your options carefully.

Average salary information is gathered and shared online each year, providing you with a rough idea of the traditional ranges for each role. There are two things that you must keep in mind when reviewing these numbers. First, as an inexperienced candidate you will most likely fall at the low end of the pay scale. Second, many game studios are located in areas that inherently have a high cost of living. Be sure to thoroughly evaluate the differences between where you currently live and where the studio is located to understand how far each dollar will take you. For those in the states, this cost of living calculator will come in handy for this evaluation.

Now that you have some desired studios in mind it is time to dig deeper on them specifically and take note of the following information:

Finally, the most important part of your research is to play their games. Do not expect to be hired by any established game company if you have not played the games that they have created.

"A studio's heart and soul goes into the games they create. Players spend hundreds of hours with these games. Playing the game, I mean really playing the game is the best way for you to connect with the studio and understand their players. Would you walk into an interview with Google or Facebook and be unfamiliar with their products?"

- Manu Diwakar, Business Development Manager | Riot Games

City of Heroes

"As an avid player of City of Heroes I created weekly story arcs through the CoH Mission Architect system in game. These arcs were recognized by the developers and ultimately served as my way to break into the industry. My work showed the team that I had a passion for the game, experience in storytelling, and the ability to ship a product on a reliable and consistent schedule.

You can have passion and be a good designer, but it won't matter if you can't focus yourself and get your work finished."

- Sean McCann, Designer | Paragon Studios  


Next, create a spreadsheet that includes all of the game companies that you would be willing to work at and track columns for location, released products, contact information and currently posted positions. Additionally, use a column to track when you submitted your resume and to whom. Lastly, evaluate the minimum amount of money it will take to support yourself or your family for each specific location and track that information as well for future reference. This collection of information will prove instrumental in the process of juggling your submissions and keeping each company straight in your mind.

At long last it is finally time to submit your resume. Regardless of whether or not a company that you have interest in is openly hiring submit your cover letter, resume and portfolio to the contact listed on their website. Staffing in game studios is an ongoing process and many times positions are indeed available even if they are not posted as such online.

Remember to tailor your cover letter and resume to the company in which you are applying. If they have job postings online use similar terminology found in those postings on your cover letter and resume to reflect your capability to fill the position. The premier resource for finding game development job postings is Make sure that you triple check your submission before hitting send! Every year people errantly submit resumes to companies filled with information on how much they desire to work for a direct competitor.

Job boards on sites like Gamasutra can prove an invaluable resource

After sending off your submissions there is still much that can be done to improve the odds of landing your job. Don't just sit back and wait passively for a reply. Here are some suggestions to keep things moving and help you create opportunities:

"I was set on being a programmer for a long time but didn't even consider games until the last minute of my job search in college. I'd had some internships at other software companies and there was something ever so slightly dull about them.

It was pure luck that I saw a game programming job advert and it sounded intriguing. I was totally hooked from the studio tour at the interview, seeing all of the artwork up on the walls and people in the process of making games. For some reason I'd never thought about how cool that would be before then... and that feeling never really went away."

- Luke Halliwell, Software Engineer | PDI/Dreamworks

If you have followed each step above and are still unable to land a job, do not give up! Volunteer, apply for an internship, beta test products and provide well-written feedback, and/or continue modding and creating games with others online. Re-apply to your desired companies of choice every 60 days, continue to gain hands-on experience in game development, and grow your personal network through continued collaboration and communication with others online and you will eventually get the opportunity that you have been working so hard for.

Step 8: Keys to Continued Success

Congratulations, you are now working in the games industry! However, now is not the time to be complacent. Behind you are hundreds of thousands more with similar aspirations, some of whom would gladly do your job for free. If you're just getting started, you likely have far-reaching aspirations that you've only just begun to achieve. Outlined below are the keys to being successful over the life of your career.

The unfortunate reality of developing games today is that positions are often added and just as frequently dropped at a moment's notice due to the volatility and relative youth of the overall industry. Though getting your foot in the door is cause for celebration, it is likely that you will once again be looking for employment in the future.

"As a kid, I was always reading programming books or making simple games on the computer. I got into the industry after studying Computer Science in college and having a job outside of the gaming industry for a couple of years to build up base skills. Having a solid C/C++ background helped a lot.

Later on I left the normal sector to become an independent iOS developer, since I wanted the fun and challenge of running everything on my own. It's been a blast, and I'd say the most important thing is to do what you love, and put high quality into everything you do. If you can choose a niche and own it, money and success is sure to follow."

- Ray Wenderlich, Founder | Razeware

Thank you for taking the time to read through the information presented on this site. We appreciate any feedback that you may have, and are always striving to improve the presentation and substance of this information.

In conclusion we will leave you with this one last thought. When hiring developers of all disciplines we look long and hard for three key characteristics:

Passion. Attitude. Drive.

"Continued success is never easily achieved in the games industry. A strong foundation for repeatable success begins with each team member having an unwavering passion for their craft, a collaborative and positive attitude regardless of the state of play, and a drive that leads to creative problem-solving and total accountability to your team, studio and ultimately the customer.

Always strive to expand your sphere of influence within a team by bettering yourself through researching, networking, and developing new skills. Borrow best practices from the most successful companies in the world (regardless of industry) and adapt them to your team's needs.

These are the guiding principles we've used to achieve continued success with our games year after year."

- Brian Clayton, General Manager and Executive Producer | Paragon Studios

Continue to grow your wealth of experience, play nice with others, and hang on tight to that desire that brought you here in the first place and you will have a long and rewarding career in game development.

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