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  • FAQs for Professionals of Other Industries

    [10.01.07]
    - GameCareerGuide.com staff
  •  Q: I'm a professional from an industry that's somewhat similar to game development, such as animation or software development, and I'm thinking about working on video games instead. What do I need to know?

    A: The video game industry is known for being extraordinarily team-oriented, highly spirited, and yet extremely chaotic. Few best practices have been established or adopted across the industry (though more and more teams are using agile development methodologies). Overtime hours, including weekends and working later than midnight, is expected. The office environment is notoriously casual and relaxed, and interviewees who show up in a power suit or a tie can expect to feel immediately out of place.

    Salaries in the game industry are comfortable, though workers are rarely paid for overtime worked. See the "The Game Industry Salary Survey 2007" in the Related Articles links below for more reported information about entry-level salaries.

    The video game industry is perpetually in need of experienced programmers, so if you have advanced skills in AI programming, network systems, or other technical expertise that's pertinent to video games, you will automatically be a compelling candidate. If you are a highly skilled artist or animator who has worked on some big name films, you might also have an edge, as people in the game industry do tend to hire based on talent and experience as well. In addition to talent and technical expertise, the game industry tries to hire personalities that will fit into their studios because game development is so extraordinarily team-based -- candidates who are lone wolves or who have documented interpersonal problems at other jobs may be turned down.

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     Q: I'm a professional whose work isn't even remotely related to video games. Can I still work in the industry?

    A: Yes. Anyone who loves video games can is welcome to work in the industry, and there are many job positions available for people whose strengths are not technical or artistic. Game companies hire human resources professionals, administrative assistants, office coordinators, project managers, accountants, lawyers, marketing professionals, public relations firms, writers and journalists, and many others.

    If you are interested in one day working in game design or production, one of the best ways to get into the industry is as a quality assurance tester. This job tends to appeal more to young people who can afford to work part-time, but often full-time positions exist for lead testers or managers. Working in the test department gives you hands-on time with the video games as they are being developed, as well as face-time with the people who will be hiring for the next project.

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     Q: What kind of education or training is available to professionals who want to work in game development but don't want to attend a full-time graduate program?

    A: Certificate degrees and online learning are probably the most popular ways to learn game development skills without committing to a full-time program. Game developers may also be self-taught and learn from reading books and web sites, particularly if that learning later materializes in the form of independent projects that show competence in game development skills. Modding, or modifying an existing game into a new one, was once seen as a hobby but is now a valid way to prove one has a knack for video game development.

    We keep a comprehensive database of more than 500 schools, and many of them offer certificates, part-time career advancement learning, and online courses.

     Q: What kinds of things do game companies look for when they hire someone from an affiliated profession, such as film animation or software development?

    A: Game experience is really the number one thing a game development studio will look for on an applicant's resume. That failing, they look for team-project experience, explicit interest in video games (especially in the genre that they develop) and overall knowledge of how the game industry works. If you have experience in another industry, you would want to show, through hobbies and side projects, that your skills are applicable to the game industry. Showing this through completed projects, rather than simply stating it, is key.

     Q: What's the best way to apply for a job in the game development industry?

    A: Gamasutra.com (that's our sister web site for seasoned industry pros) has the biggest job board for the game industry.

    Additionally, job fairs often take place at industry conferences, which you should attend anyway for the networking aspects, such as the Game Developers Conference. All the major events are listed on our calendar. You can also find a list of upcoming shows and conferences on Gamasutra.com's event listing page.

    Another method of finding a job is to apply to studios in your local area. To find these, try using GameDevMap.com, which can pull up a list of game studios and publishers in any geographic location represented on the global map. Then, link to each company's web site and look for a job page.

    You could also look for jobs at specific studios whose games you enjoy, although using this method usually entails relocation, unless you just happen to live within a few miles of your favorite game developer.

     Q: What can I do to improve my chances of getting a job in the game development industry?

    The game industry is very small, and it is filled with people who are enthusiastic about their line of work. The single best way to maximize your chances of getting into the game industry is to meet these people face-to-face. Because the industry is so small (the CMP Game Group has estimated there are only about 45,000 developers in North America) networking goes a long way. GameCareerGuide.com highly recommends that anyone who is seriously interested in working in game development attend a major industry event, particularly the Game Developers Conference, but really event, including an International Game Developers Association (IGDA) chapter meeting, will do.

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