Many people want a job in game development, that much is clear to them, but they aren’t sure exactly what they want to do. This is the situation I found myself in for the first few years of my education. It wasn’t until my 2nd year of university that I finally chose the path I would continue down. To make the most out of your time, it’s much better to have an idea of what you want to do from the start, so you can spend more time getting good at it to stand out from the crowd.
Games are incredibly complex, so it may come as no surprise that there is a huge list of potential career paths and jobs you can get within the industry. Some people will more naturally fit into some roles over others, but you can train yourself to do anything you like. Depending on the size of the company you could end up specializing in a very niche area or you could be a generalist of sorts.
For many, when they think of a job in games they think of designing games. Most people have a few game ideas they would really like to make. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to be able to pitch an idea without becoming very senior in a company, but you can influence key aspects of the game. A game designer’s job might involve changing key gameplay mechanics, coming up with the world-building aspects and any other number of design tasks.
Game design jobs are particularly good for people who are creative and great at idea generation. Thinking outside of the box is a must. A good way to practice for this job is writing GDDs or Game Design Documents where you plan out everything for a potential game idea. These can also be presented when you apply for a job.
Example Design Job Positions:
- Game Designer
- Level Designer
- Gameplay Designer
- UI/UX Designer
- Mission/Quest Designer
A Game Writer job is very similar to a regular writer and as such uses the same set of skills. Some differences that you may need to bear in mind involve the complexities of player choices and branching paths. For example, a game such as Mass Effect or any of the Telltale games use dialogue choices that not only use different voice lines but can have an effect on the rest of the story. All these branching paths will need to be accounted for and ensure that the writing always makes sense, which is a huge task.
Similar to Designers, the skillsets you will need for being a Game Writer are creative and imaginative. Being able to come up with unique, engaging stories will be the aim of the game. Writing practice scripts for games that you have ideas for will be great practice and can be shown or presented during interviews.
Example Writer Job Positions:
- Game Writer
- Narrative Designer
- Content Writer/Editor
Game Tester Jobs
Besides Game Design jobs, the most often talked about dream job is a Game Tester, otherwise known as QA or Quality Assurance. This is because of the idea of getting paid to play games. The dream job. However, it actually involved playing lots of unfinished games to the point where it takes away any enjoyment of the game, so be warned. That being said they are often a great entry-level job role, allowing you to pivot into another career when you have more experience. Or you can continue as a tester until you become a lead.
Game Testers need to be vigilant and have a laser focus. You have to spend hours each day looking out for the smallest problems and a drop in concentration can cause a noticeable drop in the quality of the final product, as Quality Assurance, you are the last line of defense when it comes to producing a polished product. For practice you can look up example bug reports online, or find similar software, and play a released game over and over, making note of any issues you come across as if presenting them to the people that would be fixing it. Showing these at an interview should leave a good impression, even without any previous industry expereince.
Example Tester Job Positions:
- Localisation QA
- Functionality QA
Game Art is very different from other forms of art but requires a similar skill set. Generally, art roles can be broken down into 2D and 3D artists. 2D being a traditional cartoony look and 3D is similar to most modern games. There’s also a huge number of roles, from character artists to UI artists and animators. In a small company, you may be a generalist, doing a small amount of everything but at a bigger studio, you are more likely to enter more specialized positions.
Having a keen eye and a creative outlook is very important, and anything from life drawing to painting can be useful practice, even though they are very rarely used directly while making games. Any art practice is helpful, but working on some big portfolio pieces that target the role you are after will be key to landing a job. If you want a highly sought-after Character Artist role, you want to show some impressive character work. Whilst showing environment art won’t count as a negative, it will most likely not be considered if you are applying for a character job, for example.
Example Art Job Positions:
- Game Artist
- Character Artist
- Environment Artist
- Weapon Artist
- Vehicle Artist
- UI Artist
- Material Artist
- Technical Artist
For our complete guide to Game Art Jobs check out this article.
Programming is the core of any game. Everything runs on code and they have the biggest influence on the final product. Roles can vary from Gameplay Programmer to Physics Programmer or Graphics Programmer. As with artists, in smaller companies, a programmer might be expected to work on all aspects of the game, whereas at bigger companies you may be expected to specialize in a certain area.
To be a programmer you need to be very technically minded, understanding mathematics and physics and how to apply them to what you are doing. Being able to program some basic game functions and even releasing a simple game on an app store will help greatly when applying for a job.
Example Programming Job Positions:
- Game Programmer
- Graphics Programmer
- Gameplay Programmer
- Engine Programmer
- Build Programmer
- Audio Programmer
Sound Design Jobs
Sound Design is an often overlooked area of game development, and smaller companies may even not have a sound design department, but they are essential to the mood and atmosphere of the game and can really make or break the final product. The skillset will be very similar for sound design jobs in other industries, but you will have to take into account the 3D world that the player will be engrossed in as well as the dynamics aspects of gameplay.
Sound Designers will need a keen ear and creative mindset. A good idea might be to dub over a video of gameplay with your own sound design or music as a way of showing what you are capable of coming up with, or you can get into a free game engine and show you can make great use of 3D sound within a game.
Example Sound Design Job Positions:
- Sound Designer
- Audio Programmer
- Audio Director