Finding a job in games development can be difficult, tricky, and scary. Here we take a look at your options to secure that job. The games industry is a highly competitive job market, which positions getting hundreds of applications for entry-level positions or major companies. Finding that position that is right for you, or being able to get your foot in the door to start your career can be a difficult task. Whilst a lot of work goes into securing that place, the first step is finding the job to apply for.
There are a few ways of looking for a job, each with its advantages and disadvantages. We’re going to go over a few of the options here so you can find the right method for you.
Finding A Job In Games Directly
The most obvious way of finding a job in games would be to manually search for the jobs by going to company websites. Most companies will list any job offers on their websites and applying to them directly can often be the best way of getting in contact with a company. Other methods that involve a third party can be much more expensive for the company to hire through.
Another advantage of the manual way is that you can pick and choose exactly which jobs you want to apply for. Perhaps you have an interest in realistic simulation games over arcade shooters, applying directly gives you the advantage of being able to pick where you want to work as well as target companies you think you have the greatest chance of successfully applying for.
The downsides to this method are the jobs that you are aware of are limited to the companies you know about. These tend to be the bigger companies that get the most applications, so it can be difficult to get the job, especially for newcomers.
It also limits the amount of smaller companies that are less known which often take on new talent or pay higher wages or greater benefits to tempt employees as they don’t have the brand recognition and projects to compete with the big guys. You can offset this slightly by trawling through things like Wikipedia’s page of games companies or there are some useful tools like gamedevmap.com which allows you to select areas of the world and list the games companies so you can target your job searches in your area.
Getting A Job Indirectly
Similarly to finding a job in games directly, you can also find them through 3rd party sites. This comes with many of the benefits of applying directly, but requires less searching or knowledge of companies and who’s hiring. To do this, we will want to find a website that collates this information. Websites like gamesjobsdirect.com can be great for searching for jobs across the industry. Or you can go to websites more targetting to your area of expertise, such as artstation.com/jobs for jobs in art.
The benefits include being able to browse a larger number of jobs, whilst easily comparing the perks, pay, and other areas of the job posting with others. You can also usually upload your application documentation so it allows you to apply for multiple jobs quickly, for example, many people already use their Artstation account as a personal portfolio so applying through the same account makes it easier for you and the company.
Although you get a good variety of companies posting jobs on sites like these, from AAA studios through the small indie teams, a lot of these websites will only show the job postings that companies put on there, which may mean there’s a large number of companies out there that can’t afford to or don’t see the benefit of doing so. This means that it may not be a complete replacement for finding a job in games directly.
Finding A Job Through An Agency
Depending on where you are based, there is a chance there will be job agencies that you can apply through that specialize either in games development or tech companies in general. Much like other industries, the agency will help you look for work and match you with a position that fits. A major agency here in the UK is Aardvark Swift, which also operates in some cities in various countries such as Los Angeles in the US.
This is often the best place for fresh talent to find a job as their lack of existing industry connections can be offset by the agency’s connections with various companies. Once you have filled out the forms they give you as well as hand over any necessary information or a portfolio to show, they will also apply for the jobs on your behalf, which can take the pain out of applying for a long string of jobs without so much as a response.
So there’s plenty of positives here, especially for the newcomers. But there are disadvantages to this as well. Whilst you will normally be able to set some rules about jobs that you want to apply for, such as your salary target or specific role, you won’t have complete control over the jobs you apply for. Often being too picky with your job requirement will mean you won’t be able to find a position and the agency will not want to work with you.
Another disadvantage is for the company hiring but also affects the applicant too. Agencies need to take a cut to make their business worthwhile. To do this they will add the cost to your salary, so instead of applying for a job for a $30k salary, the agency will ask for the $30k + their fee on top. This could make you more expensive than someone else of relatively equal skill that applied directly. This fee also means big companies may not use agencies at all if they get enough direct applicants for a role.
Finding A Job Through Connections
Although this is the trickiest one to get to work for people new to the industry, it’s also the most effective so it needs to be mentioned. Like many other industries, the game development community is quite close-knit. People move between companies for pay raises, promotions, or perks all the time and so people will often know many others at different companies. This is especially true for companies in close proximity to each other but you will be surprised how many people know others further afield, even in different countries.
Knowing somebody that works at a company, or having someone respectable vouch for you at the company, can bump you to the front of the queue for a job because it takes the unknown out of the employment. You can almost guarantee that the person will work well and be a pleasure to work with if someone vouches for them. Very often a company will ask its employees if they know anyone suitable for a job before even making it public as it can be the most efficient way of hiring.
This may sound disheartening for people starting out. Getting your foot in the door truly is the most difficult part of your career. But just because you haven’t got that experience yet doesn’t mean you can’t get some. Many people training for a job in games these days will go to university, and often tutors will have a huge amount of connections across the industry that they can put you in contact with. Another solution could be to do a small amount of free work for someone with a good reputation if you make a good enough impression they might suggest you for their next role.
If you are comfortable doing so, trawling through your Linkedin connections and seeing if you can find any people working in the industry and messaging them could be a way to get noticed, as long as your mutual connection is relevant. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t hear back from people though. We’re trained not to accept friend requests and such from potentially fake accounts for security reasons and we can receive quite a lot of spam. So it may be hard to get noticed.
Finding that first job can be hard work. At times it can be soul-destroying, applying for job after job without so much as a response. But if you keep improving and keep applying, you’ll almost certainly get there in time. Once you’ve earned a few years of experience and some game titles under your belt, you will find getting that perfect job much easier.