How to Get a Fab Job as a Video Game Designer
"Quit playing those video games! You'll never accomplish anything that way." If anyone has ever said this to you, here's your chance to prove them wrong: video game design is a rapidly growing field in need of talented individuals.
A game designer can be compared to a movie scriptwriter: the person who has the initial idea and then writes a document describing every detail of their artistic vision. Game designers are creative, methodical, and communicate well. They have strong technical skills, enthusiasm for video games and sound gaming knowledge.
A job in video game design offers a casual work environment, a high salary with lots of perks, and the freedom to create entire worlds and see them come to life. If you think you're ready for a career that is limited only by your imagination, follow these steps based on the FabJob Guide to Become a Video Game Designer to break into this exciting career.
1. Learn about the industry
Like any business, the video game industry has its big players and its lingo that you have to be familiar with in order to succeed. In addition to playing a variety of video games (including ones you would normally never even look at) to familiarize yourself with the market, check out the various industry magazines, both online and print, to get yourself in the know. Make sure you get a wide breadth of knowledge — across multiple genres and multiple platforms so you are able to adapt your knowledge to a rapidly changing market.
2. Develop your skills
There is no such thing as someone who just sits around and thinks up cool ideas for games all day, so be prepared to acquire a bit of knowledge in a lot of areas. Writing ability (both technical and creative) usually tops the list, but employers are also looking for skills in design theory, computer knowledge, sketching/storyboarding, and an understanding of coding, as well as presentation, management and leadership skills. Don't worry if you don't have every one of these skills, but try to focus on developing yourself in these areas over time.
3. Get some experience
An internship, if you can find one, is an ideal way to break into the games industry. Not only do you gain valuable experience in the working world, you will also make contacts in the industry who will come in handy when you are looking to secure permanent work. Apply early, apply often, and be professional even if the industry itself is 'casual'. Also, be prepared to work for free, although some of the bigger companies will pay you a stipend during your tenure as an intern.
4. Pump up your resume
According to those working in the industry, one of the best things to have in your list of credentials is a history of creating add-on levels for games like Quake with a 'level editor' (a program designed to let you create and edit levels of a particular game). You can also work on a MUD (multi-user dungeon); the online games played by groups of people through a network. Creating a conversion of an existing game or an entirely new game, becoming a game tester and working in games journalism are also steps in the right direction.
5. Create your marketing materials
Up-and-coming designers need to be able to present a 'design portfolio' to potential employers: a collection of game proposals carefully chosen and presented to show off the full range of your creative skills. It will be supplemented by your resume, which should show you are creative, motivated, talented, intelligent, and a good communicator. You might also consider a website to further showcase your talents.
6. Apply for work
There are a number of online job sites that cater to would-be designers. They offer contact information for developers, studios and agencies, to whom you would send your resume and design portfolio. It's also worth applying to studios you like on spec, as some larger studios are in a period of continued expansion and will recruit whenever they find a suitable candidate. Make sure you research the studio so you can tailor your resume and portfolio specifically to them.
If you already have contacts in the industry, or are willing to make some, a personal introduction to the director or senior games designer of a studio can open up doors for you. One way to connect with industry-folk is at the annual games trade shows, such as E3, ECTS and the Tokyo Game Show, or the Computer Games Developers Conference. Also, the International Game Developers Association is a professional organization that may help you meet people who can further your career.
8. Ace the Interview
"Research the company beforehand and don't expect to walk out with a three-product deal," advises Stephen Lloyd Davies of games agency Aardvark Swift. Be prepared to answer questions about current game-related events and where you think the industry is going. You may also be expected to explain why you want to become a designer, or 'sell' an imaginary game concept to the interviewer on the spot. Remember that by merely getting to this stage, you have already beaten out hundreds of other applicants, so present yourself calmly and confidently.
9. Accelerate Your Career
Once you have secured a position in the industry, expand your skill set with further training or by taking on additional responsibilities at work to make yourself more marketable. Many designers work on mini-projects (smaller applications) in their spare time to increase their number of completed projects. You can also look at related work in television or movies, consulting in the industry and freelancing games-related articles to establish yourself as an expert in the field.
Click here to find a career you can be passionate about.
Related Information: Web Developer
by Phil Marley
FabJob.com is featured in Woman's World Magazine ("Land Your Dream Job" article, April 2007).
FabJob Guides have been featured in stories at The Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur Magazine sites.