Career Advice

Are you a student or a young person wanting to get into games?

Or an adult, wishing to change careers or have a new hobby?

Parent or carer, teacher or careers adviser looking for advice?

You’ve got here! Great start. Games are not all about writing code – there are a diverse range of positions and roles using all sorts of creative, communication or teamwork skills. From artists, musicians, writers, to finance, community management, or people who like to organise or keep in spreadsheets.

What are the quick links? – General all round great site covering how to get into games, including page for educators – A national careers week with list of events and permanent links for educators and parents too – Site specifically for parents about things like parental controls – student membership to Ukie, events, and internships – for younger and older age educators, free creative computing workshops. Some things for parents such as “How to Raise a Tech Genius”. – want someone from the industry to talk at a school, university or for a group? Come here to get connected with someone. – Mentoring for those trying to break into the industry or those who are already working but need help – competition to design or make a game! For young people still at school age

What Roles?

IntoGames is an amazing free resource for anyone looking to get into games. They have a list of the roles available here

It may be a little much to explore every role or know what you want to do right away. Liz England wrote an amazing piece which covers what each role in the industry does – by using an example of making a door in a game. You can read the full post here 

Just in case it gets lost on the internet;

  • Creative Director: “Yes, we definitely need doors in this game.”
  • Project Manager: “I’ll put time on the schedule for people to make doors.”
  • Designer: “I wrote a doc explaining what we need doors to do.”
  • Concept Artist: “I made some gorgeous paintings of doors.”
  • Art Director: “This third painting is exactly the style of doors we need.”
  • Environment Artist: “I took this painting of a door and made it into an object in the game.”
  • Animator: “I made the door open and close.”
  • Sound Designer: “I made the sounds the door creates when it opens and closes.”
  • Audio Engineer: “The sound of the door opening and closing will change based on where the player is and what direction they are facing.”
  • Composer: “I created a theme song for the door.”
  • FX Artist: “I added some cool sparks to the door when it opens.”
  • Writer: “When the door opens, the player will say, ‘Hey look! The door opened!’ “
  • Lighter: “There is a bright red light over the door when it’s locked, and a green one when it’s opened.”
  • Legal: “The environment artist put a Starbucks logo on the door. You need to remove that if you don’t want to be sued.”
  • Character Artist: “I don’t really care about this door until it can start wearing hats.”
  • Gameplay Programmer: “This door asset now opens and closes based on proximity to the player. It can also be locked and unlocked through script.”
  • AI Programmer: “Enemies and allies now know if a door is there and whether they can go through it.”
  • Network Programmer: “Do all the players need to see the door open at the same time?”
  • Release Engineer: “You need to get your doors in by 3pm if you want them on the disk.”
  • Core Engine Programmer: “I have optimised the code to allow up to 1024 doors in the game.”
  • Tools Programmer: “I made it even easier for you to place doors.”
  • Level Designer: “I put the door in my level and locked it. After an event, I unlocked it.”
  • UI Designer: “There’s now an objective marker on the door, and it has its own icon on the map.”
  • Combat Designer: “Enemies will spawn behind doors, and lay cover fire as their allies enter the room. Unless the player is looking inside the door in which case they will spawn behind a different door.”
  • Systems Designer: “A level 4 player earns 148xp for opening this door at the cost of 3 gold.”
  • Monetization Designer: “We could charge the player $.99 to open the door now, or wait 24 hours for it to open automatically.”
  • QA Tester: “I walked to the door. I ran to the door. I jumped at the door. I stood in the doorway until it closed. I saved and reloaded and walked to the door. I died and reloaded then walked to the door. I threw grenades at the door.”
  • UX / Usability Researcher: “I found some people on Craigslist to go through the door so we could see what problems crop up.”
  •  Localization: “Door. Puerta. Porta. Porte. Tür. Dør. Deur. Drzwi. Drws. 문”
  • Producer: “Do we need to give everyone those doors or can we save them for a pre-order bonus?”
  • Publisher: “Those doors are really going to help this game stand out during the fall line-up.”
  • CEO: “I want you all to know how much I appreciate the time and effort put into making those doors.”
  • PR: “To all our fans, you’re going to go crazy over our next reveal #gamedev #doors #nextgen #retweet”
  • Community Manager: “I let the fans know that their concerns about doors will be addressed in the upcoming patch.”
  • Customer Support: “A player contacted us, confused about doors. I gave them detailed instructions on how to use them.”
  • Player: “I totally didn’t even notice a door there.”

What Education?

Some developers believe that no matter the role you take, having a good GCSE in Maths sets you up well for most roles. Keeping it going in A Level is better if you can, even if you are looking at doing writing or art, only because the logical reasoning you learn is very useful. It’s not critical however, and you could come from a non-traditional learning background. 

As for higher education – there are a few options;

  1. University
    There are plenty of games courses at University, and transferable non-games courses such as computer science or design. The advantages are that it’s a structured course that is generally recognized throughout various industries, and can be used as a transferable skill in case you decide games aren’t for you. You also get to work with students of your own ability and learn together.

    Downside is the incredible cost, and it’s surprisingly rare to find lecturers that have actually worked for a long time in industry themselves – which means it can sometimes not be the most bleeding edge knowledge.

  2. Apprenticeship
    There’s a small, but growing number of apprenticeships around the larger studios in the UK. You’ll work on a real project, as part of a team of all sorts of experience, and get paid to learn. You should also get support from a local college.

    Downside is that they are very rare and over subscribed. Some also require you to already have some knowledge in the field you’re going for. They could be a bit hit and miss depending on the studio, but getting your name on a games credits and being part of a commercial game team will set you up incredibly well for future positions.

  3. Learn yourself
    It’s not impossible! You can make a game with free tools that us “professionals” use. There are an incredible amount of resources on YouTube, on the Game Engines websites, various communities to get help on. We’ve had developers that are part of our community that have come from outside the games industry to start with, and used those skills to come in. We’ve also seen young students who have already been creating games or game tools while in secondary school, and done well selling them!

    Downside is, you do need to be able to support yourself somehow (or have a supportive partner while you learn!), and it’s a lot of self directed work. 

Portfolio and CV Building

No matter which way to get educated, if you’re going for a creative position (including programming!) you’ll want to develop some kind of portfolio. These can vary a lot with role of course – but the main thing is to demonstrate your ability to do the position and work with various styles, tools and people to do that. A few small, but complete projects is enough – and don’t show anything that’s just really poor quality and that you’re not happy to show. 

For example, as an artist your portillo cannot be just full of anime girls – that’s not showing various styles and shows no awareness of the diversity of the real world or the range of characters that you find in video games. 

You want to show how you got to the final outcome of your project, what was the inspiration, the tools and techniques needed to get there, the development of the idea, the research, the things that worked and things that didn’t. 

Try getting small freelance gigs, or taking part in game jams to diversify your portfolio. Creating something yourself as a personal project over a fair amount of time can also work wonders, with some local developers here getting their first full time paid positions with “hobby” projects.

You can always ask mentors or peers to do portfolio reviews too. 

As for your CV, here’s some general advice;

  • It doesn’t need to be one page!
    This is old advice from a time when people printed and handed in CVs to retail outlets. You’re emailing your CV in, and someone is reading it on a screen. Keep it concise, but if you’ve worked on a lot of stuff then say so! 4 sides of A4 max though. 
  • Add hyperlinks, images
    Again, people are not printing – so add links they can follow, and an image of the project you’re discussing, or the logo of the company you’ve worked for. Don’t add a photo of yourself though. 
  • Lead with what position you are after
    Under your name, write the position you are going for – and don’t underrate it. If you’re a graduate programmer, don’t write “graduate programmer”, just write “programmer”!
  • Treat projects as positions
    Keep non-games jobs really tiny, a sentence at most if there’s few transferable skills, but talk lots about each of your personal or university projects. Even when you have a few game jobs under your belt, employers will still be asking about the projects you worked on, including personal projects. So you may have never had even a part time job, but still have a CV filled with amazing work. 

The Interview

Our community has come together to help prepare you – we’ve created a Mock Interview! We have put it in Google Drive so it can be swiftly updated with new roles and questions. 

We’ll update soon with some tests you may be asked to do in some roles.

What ever you do, don’t dress in a suit! Be smart casual, but most importantly – comfortable.

Other things to help

A lot of people get hired based on who they know or worked with before. Get out there and network! Go to national events such as Develop:Conference in Brighton. Socialise online, and grow a brand on various social media networks. Keep an eye out for our meet ups with Cornwall Games.