How to Break Into the Video Game Design Industry
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How to Break Into the Video Game Design Industry

The following is a special needs program update from College Living Experience | CLE | Choose Your Future. You may also click here to read the original article on the program’s website.

game-controller

By David Torrente, Tutor/IT Coordinator

Working in the video game industry can be a challenging, yet very rewarding career. Often, the hardest step is landing the initial job. You have to prove that you are capable of doing the work even before you’ve been given an opportunity to do so. Employers will also expect you to understand how the industry works and what the expectations will be. Here are some tips to help you get prepared and move in the right direction.

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Build a portfolio.

When applying for a job in the video game industry, you will often have to show what you are capable of doing. Many employers will either ask for “verifiable proof” or a portfolio of your work. Telling them that you took some classes in school related to the video game industry will not be enough. Building a portfolio beforehand will be one of the best ways to show them what you can do. While it is best to do this as an extra project outside of the classroom, there are some classes geared solely towards portfolio development. Even if you are not in a class like this, treat each assignment as part of your portfolio. Make sure your work is complete, and that you’d be proud of showing it to someone else.

Know your strengths and challenges.

Think about what you are good at and what you can use a little help with. Keep working with your strengths and improving the skills that you are already good at. As for your challenges, do something about them! Figure out a way to meet your challenges head on, or find an alternative strategy or accommodation to help. For example, if you are not good at keeping track of time, start using an alarm to do it for you. If you struggle with typing, look into speech-to-text software that will do the typing for you.

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Spend time working with others.

Video game development is often a team-based task. Each part of the team might specialize in a different area such as design, art, or programming. Being able to communicate across these different areas, as well as within your select team, will be a very important skill. It can be hard to describe what you envision in your own mind to others, especially when part of the design process will involve others criticizing your ideas. As a job, video game developers are more concerned about building a product for other people and less about building one that only they will play. Getting input from the rest of the team and being open to their suggestions will help refine your designs and increase your chances of releasing a successful video game.

Playing and making games are not the same.

Video game development is work. Many people initially approach the video game industry thinking that they will be able to spend most of their day playing video games. Some also think that being really good at video games can help them get a job. However, neither of these is true. Even as a game tester, you spend most of your time documenting test cases and communicating your findings to others. There is a great deal of repetition involved in creating games, as well as having the patience to fix things that are not working.

Practice on your own.

Many of the tools used in video game development are often available for free to students. You do not have to wait to be enrolled in a particular class before digging in and building your first video game. Start with a small design and then build up from there. Casual games are often a good place to start since you can put together one of these games with a smaller toolset, and on your own.

Don’t pay to be a game tester.

This isn’t as common as it used to be, but for a while there were some websites which actually asked people to pay a subscription fee and sign up for a membership to be game testers for new games. These sites advertise that they often have exclusive access to games still in development. It’s probably a good idea to pass these opportunities if you come across any. Some companies release early access versions of their games as a way to test their product. These are fine, but they won’t give you much real experience as they often do not require you to send any sort of feedback.

By understanding these tips and beginning to work on these preliminary skills, you can set yourself on the right path to having a career in the video game development industry.

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