[Looking for a job in the games industry? The Game Prodigy author Brice Morrison will help you build a solid resume with this collection of insider tips.]
Many students dream of working in the games industry and making games for a living. It's a great career with a lot of fun opportunities, growing job market, valuable skills to develop, and interesting people to meet. And part of the path to that career is the same as the path to any other career: putting together a resume to show prospective employers.
What are the keys to making a good game industry resume? How can you maximize your chances of being called in for an interview with a game studio?
There are a few keys that I recommend to students I advise: put game projects on your resume, focus around an objective, and put the most important information first. Let's go into detail with each one of these.
Imagine that you are a hiring manager for a game studio. The studio is working on its next (hopefully) big hit, "Mammoth Attack 2", and you are in charge of hiring an engineer to help program the game.
You have two resumes come across your desk. One says that they've worked at SafeWay Grocery as a Manager and Creative Solutions Inc as an Assistant Programmer. That's all they list. The other resume says they worked at Electronic Emporium as a sales associate, but they also list that they made two games, Jelly Wars, a 2D action game for PC, and Jump King, an iPhone game made with a team of 3 people for a class at their university.
Who will you hire? The choice is obvious.
As a Lead Game Designer and a game career advisor, I've seen a lot of resumes. With the games industry specifically, one of the big mistakes that students tend to make is discounting their experience on personal projects.
Students are always happy to put down any "real job experience" they have: "Assistant at Applied Dental Solutions", or "Programming Intern at Capitol One". If it was a real company and they have a paycheck for it, for some reason students think that this automatically makes it important to show to a hiring manager at a game studio.
Here's the thing: as someone looking this resume over, I don't care about any of these. I only care about the experience that has to do with games.
Students often discount their work they've done on games, because it was just a "hobby project" or a "personal project". That doesn't matter! If you're asking me to hire you to make games, then I want to hear about how you've already made games. It doesn't matter if you didn't get paid for it. It also doesn't matter if it wasn't for a company. What DOES matter is that you made a great game and you completed it. I want to hear about that.
That's why instead of having a section titled, "Job Experience" that then lists off everything that earned you a paycheck, I recommend my students have a section called "Relevant Experience". This section should include both jobs where you got paid, and any other projects, paid or not, where you made some games. Feel free to put items like, "Sky Fighter, Class Project, 3 months" and "Mummy Town, Personal Project, 1 year" and then expand on what they project is, what skills you used, and why it was valuable experience for becoming a game developer.
The best game resumes have "I have made games!" written all over them. You have plenty of time in your life to make money, now is the time to learn skills and share them.
What kind of job do you want, what what skills do you have that will let you do that job?
Your resume should be a written answer to this question. When you are applying to a job in the games industry, then it's important to be clear if you are looking to be an artist, software engineer, designer, product manager, or producer. This should be in a mission or objective statement up top, and the writing in each of the sections should point towards this. It should be crystal clear what you are going for.
For example, if you are looking to be an engineer, then I'd rather see "Built ray tracer from the ground up" rather than "Created textures with Adobe Photoshop". Both of these skills are used in game development, but in most studios they are two separate roles, one is an artist's skill and another is an engineering skill. All studios want their engineers to be incredible engineers. And they want their artists to be talented artists. So while as a student you are likely exploring lots of different avenues and career paths, when you are applying to a specific position it's important to stay focused on that position and what's needed for it.
You can also focus within disciplines as well. If you are an artist looking to go into character art, then make sure you talk about all your projects where you drew characters, whereas if you were applying to be an environment artist then make sure you talk about all the times you've done environment artwork. If you had no title on a team or class project, then call yourself an environment artist.
Just like your resume should scream, "I have made games!" it should also scream, "I am a character artist/programmer!" The more specific the better.
People are busy. Oftentimes, people making hiring decisions don't even have time to read the whole resume. So what do you do?
In journalism you are taught to put the most important information at the top of your article so that you get to the point immediately, called the "inverted pyramid". Your resume should follow the same rule: the information that is most important should be the first thing that the studio hiring manager should read.
This starts at a macro level. The first thing they should read is your name. Who you are is important. The second thing should be what you are applying to do. Typically this is in a personal mission statement describing who you are, what position you are specifically applying for, and what experience you have.
Then you should go into your relevant experience. The most important piece here is almost certainly going to be what school you are going to and what degree you are seeking. Then next is your biggest and baddest projects that show off what you can do. What is your best work? What have you done that is most impressive? List those off and don't skimp on the details, again putting the best up front.
Last, down at the bottom, it can be helpful to list skills that you have. Programming languages, tools, and so on. Again, putting the best and most useful skills first will get you noticed.
In each of these sections, ask yourself, "What is the most important information in this section?" and then make sure that information is first and foremost. You may only have a few seconds when someone is reading your resume - make sure they count by putting the good stuff up front.
Having a good resume comes down to preparing and a little common sense. Hopefully you've been building up the experience that you need to be a game developer, something that I discuss over at my site. If you have that and follow these three points, you should have a handful of job interviews in no time. Best of luck!
For more resume tips, interview prep, and game tools on how to get a career in games, visit The Game Prodigy.
[Photos courtesy of zane.hollingsworth, Balio85, joeduty, and seanhorwitz, used under Creative Commons License.]