(Disclaimer: The following article was NOT written by me – the guy who maintains and writes stuff on this blog. But of the variety of topics I’ve covered, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything for people who want to ‘break’ into the game industry. The following article has been provided by Jackie Edwards with my permission, and contains both well-known and lesser-known tips about how to start a career in game development. From my experience, I can say it covers everything quite well in a concise format. – A.H.)
Game design is becoming an increasingly competitive industry; breaking into the industry can be a grueling task and the job is just as tough, so it’s important to really consider whether it’s the right fit for you. At first, it may even entail having another job while you program games in your spare time. If you’re 100% convinced that game designing is your ideal career, acquiring the necessary skills is fundamental.
The Fundamentals: Education and Portfolio
Your education and portfolio are the tickets to get you hired as a game designer.
Education doesn’t necessarily mean a college degree; while most people think a degree is essential to break into game design, it’s actually not. Education refers to a particular skill set you need in order to be a game designer.
Your portfolio, on the other hand, is essential whether you have a college education or not, as it shows your employer what you can really do.
Is College Necessary?
A college degree in game design will give you a competitive advantage, because it allows you to study and develop both portfolio and education in a controlled environment, as well as giving you a qualification which employers value and formally recognize. In fact, some employers only consider college educated candidates. Studying at one of the best colleges for game design will almost certainly ensure that your application will be given priority when applying to jobs.
Furthermore, all the spare time you have in college is fundamental for developing your portfolio, which can also be comprised of coursework. Your portfolio is the perfect way to showcase your skillset and really show your potential employer how valuable you would be to them. It’s worth mentioning that most game designers have a college degree in game design or in a related discipline (such as computer science, although artistic degrees are also very valued).
Alternatives to College
College can be very expensive and also take up a significant amount of time, and it isn’t the only way to acquire the skills of an expert game designer. A number of online platforms, such as Coursera, are in fact offering courses in game design which can be audited for free or, in case of the paid version, cost significantly less than a college degree. These courses can be an excellent way to learn the skills needed in the industry, such as programming or animation, even if you’re a complete beginner.
Another alternative can be represented by online tutorials coupled with designing your own game as a strong portfolio. Having a job in a relevant industry (such as software programming) definitely helps, as does having a strong passion for the gaming industry. Remember that without a college degree, your portfolio is even more important.
How to Get Hired
Whether you have a college degree or not, it’s very unlikely that you will get hired by a huge studio straight away. Be prepared to settle for a less glamorous job which in any case will help you get experience you need to progress in the gaming industry.
Apply to as many positions as you can and make sure that you resume and cover letter are well written and to the point. In your resume, you should include your professional and academic background, while keeping it short. Your cover letter should be personal and clearly showcase your passion; sending out a generic cover letter won’t do you any favours as companies receive many of those every day.
Don’t give up if you don’t get a call at first; by persevering you will be able to build your career in game design.