career decisions / Job market

How to develop a career in the games industry

Have you ever considered a career in Video Games? When I started making video games professionally after graduating 26 years ago, I didn’t really consider it as a life-long career, it was just something I fell into rather than a conscious career choice. I’d programmed my own games on my computer whilst at university, which helped me land my first job, but I never thought I’d still be doing it over 25 years on. As the industry continues to mature, there are numerous opportunities that the videogame industry can offer to people and provide a long and rewarding career in games.

Videogames are the world’s largest entertainment industry, even dwarfing films & music. In 2021 the value of the global videogame market was $138 billion, and the growth shows no sign of abating. As such, there is significant demand for talented and experienced people to bring games to market. The strong employment market means that many employees have good remuneration and benefits packages, particularly as they gain more experience in the industry.

There are myriad skills needed to create and sell videogames. Just as the credits list of Hollywood films have huge credits, modern games can often have many hundreds, and even thousands (!) of people working on them. Developer RockStar North claimed that over 1000 people worked on GTA V.

Some examples of roles in the videogame industry:

Artists (3D modelling, texturing, lighting, and more), Animators, Game designers, Level designers, Script writers, Audio engineers and musicians, Voice-Over cast members, Producers (who help organise schedules, budgets and task allocation, and much more), Programmers, Office support staff, Finance, Operations, Community managers, QA (Games testing), Managers and team leaders, Programmers, Sales, Marketing and social media, User acquisition specialists, Monetisation designers, Video editors

This list is not comprehensive, but it demonstrates the wide range of disciplines involved in the creation and sale of videogames. The important thing to note is that a career in videogames is possible even for people who don’t have games development experience, since there is far more involved than simply making the games themselves.

The most important requirement to be involved in the games industry is a passion for videogames – crafting high-quality software at the cutting edge of real-time 3D technology is very challenging, as are the business and organisational challenges of getting a large team to work together. “Shipping a game”, as it’s referred to, can be a stressful time, and requires mental fortitude. Therefore, it’s important to have a love & respect for videogames in order to have a successful career. Making videogames is great fun, but also hard work, and certainly not just sitting round playing games all day!

As the market is so successful right now and looks likely to continue for many years to come, there are plenty of opportunities for graduates to get their foot on the ladder of a career in videogames. If you want to apply to companies, consider the following things:

  • What do you want to do?
  • What are your areas of skill or expertise?
  • Do you have a portfolio you can show to prospective employers? A portfolio website is extremely useful and can link to other online material such as YouTube videos or images, or music. Show off what you can do using whatever media is appropriate & relevant to the role you want. If you don’t have a portfolio, create one.
  • Programmers & technical disciplines should have a code portfolio on GitHub or similar. This should be considered absolutely essential nowadays.
  • Who do you want to work for? Research which companies and studios make video games. You probably know some of the larger companies already, but there are literally tens of thousands of game developers and publishers. Companies can range in size from just a few people, up to tens of thousands of people. If you have an idea of the kind of company you want to work for, their websites will have career pages with their open vacancies posted.
  • LinkedIn is another place where you can position yourself. Recruiters for the videogame industry use LinkedIn a great deal, so try to build a network of recruiters who may be able to help you.

Getting your first job in the industry can be challenging

There is a great deal of competition; many people like playing games, but not everyone has the skills to make a career in the industry. Therefore, it’s important to demonstrate to prospective employers why you’re a cut above other people looking for their first job.

However, once you’ve got a job, there are endless opportunities to grow your domain-specific & soft-skills and keep progressing up the career ladder. Thanks to the global success of videogames, salaries and benefits packages are strong, and you can expect to increase your salary and benefits as you rise in experience and seniority. Medium and larger size companies will have defined promotion and career-paths and plans, so you can rise up the ranks and take on greater challenges.

The writer Phil Hindle is the Technical Director at Sumo Leamington Spa Sumo Digital are currently hiring, visit our website to find out the roles which are available

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