How to get a job for a game studio
Posted 03 December 2011 - 01:23 AM
Please add your own advice and experiences below, let's make this a nice repository of ideas.
"How do I get a job working for a game studio?"
To begin with, it depends what you want to do at the game studio. If it's technical (art,programming) you'll need a portfolio (showreel, example work) or a bit of paper (degree, certificate etc), wait for a company to advertise a position, get an interview, pass the tests on application and not piss anyone off during the process. I don't know much about this because my bit of paper is a law degree which doesn't help much in getting into games. If it's softer skills (design, production) you'll need experience of some form or another - Indie projects are great for that. You'll also need a foot in the door.
Maybe my experiences can inform you, maybe this is self-centred, but it's the best source of advice I have:
At my first games company I started in QA as a way to get my foot in the door, and then became Associate Producer. This was mainly because I had a background in project management, and a little because it was the first job going after I started there, that I could do.
At a different company, I once again started in QA because there was so little work in the games industry at the time. I moved up from there to a design role, and also helped write some proposals to publishers. Once again, this was due to my writing background, and generalist abilities.
To get into QA you need to be thorough, dependable, willing to do menial, repetitive tasks (testing the 500 combinations of weapons and armour and resistances gets un-fun in a hurry!) and often involves ungodly hours. And the pay is terrible. However, the advantages of entering through QA are twofold. You'll get to see how the whole studio works. Often more so than from the top, getting the overview (underview?) from the bottom of the company prepares you very well for interacting with colleagues from all departments throughout your career. Without exception, anyone I have ever worked with in a games studio that has spent some time in QA was aware of the relationships between departments. Many who only ever worked in their own areas were not. The second advantage is that QA is most often hiring towards the end of a project, in or approaching crunch time. Being hired late in a project can shorten the amount of time you need to wait for other opportunities to arise, as when the project finishes and a new one starts, many developers who were there for the whole project take the chance to move on. You can be the one to fill one of these positions.
While working in QA, talk to everyone. Be interested. Look for ways to help out. Learn how the tools work so that if the audio director needs 1000 lines of Russian dialog tested, you are the person who already knows how to switch languages. Organise yourself and those around you. Producers love help. Learn what the people doing the job you want do. Stay positive. Externally I mean. No one wants to promote the person bringing everyone down with negativity. If no jobs come up, consider making QA your job. There's a horrible lack of career QA people, so if you develop automated testing tools, procedures, can motivate the casual staff and generally become an asset, then eventual a manager somewhere will recognise that maybe one or two QA people need to be professionals, rather than just shovelling the work out to more and more 'QA monkeys' (I use this term with affection).
Leverage the skills you have. My experience in managing government projects gave me something I could point to for managing projects like games schedules. My film degree got me working with in game cameras and editing sequences, even though I had no direct game experience with these things. If you manage people in your current job, then emphasise that. If you're in a team at your current job, then mention your teamwork and start doing things now that you can proudly mention in a job interview. "I organised our team to have a 10 minute stand up meeting every morning to discuss our goals for the day and achievements from yesterday" is something that will perk the ears up of any interviewer. For any job. And read, interact with and learn about the people who make games. If you really want to work in this industry, you should already be a part of it. Yes, play games, but talk to their creators, be involved in forums, read critiques and game theory. All creators crave feedback.
Sorry this became a little bit much about me, but it's the easiest point of reference I have. Hope this helps.
Posted 03 December 2011 - 07:05 AM
When you go to a game studio and apply, the fact that the person interviewing you "knows" who you are gives you a far greater advantage over the "unknown" person. This is why a portfolio can sometimes be more important than a degree, and why having deep connections can sometimes be even better than a portfolio. An extreme example of someone with a portfolio and no degree would be Bill Gates while an extreme example of someone who is deeply connected but has no portfolio is George Bush.
It's also about bringing something fresh to the table. If you have something valuable to offer to the game studio, be it a unique idea and skill set or a good educational background, you are more likely to get hired. The whole reason for me working on my project fulltime in the extreme way that I did isn't to make money, but to show YoYo that I have something to offer. Working at YoYo has been my dream for almost 10 years. Of course, this is just theory I inferred from my other hiring processes, as I've never actually worked at a game studio before.
Posted 03 December 2011 - 03:11 PM
Also, make sure your portfolio looks neat and is quick to look at. I studied in video games and only had about 2 days after the final rush to finalize my portoflio before the interview, and believe me you will look ridiculous at the interview if the portfolio isn't summarized. Make sure your promotionnal video is 1 minute long and not 5 because they might want to watch it with you. Just show your best stuff.
Posted 11 December 2011 - 07:41 AM
Posted 11 December 2011 - 08:06 AM
PS Grats on getting The Maze featured
Posted 04 April 2012 - 08:06 AM
Posted 07 April 2012 - 08:29 AM
I personally entered the industry directly into my profession though, as a programming/engineering intern. The best advice I can give is to show them that you are actively participating in the industry already. At the interview I demonstrated several games that I had created, using several different languages. I provided code samples of my most complex and cunning algorithms. I showed him concept and design work on my current project. I demonstrated my ability to read other people's code by looking at some of their code right there and then. All that to basically show that I was competent and passionate. This industry requires a lot of long hours and dedication, so you'd better prove that you're up to that. Demonstrating that you're already involved and doing it, at least at some level, is pretty good proof of that.
Posted 07 April 2012 - 09:46 AM
But then, I work in the casual game industry, which is notoriously more easy to get into than the AAA studios.
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