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How to get Your First Job in the Game Industry 5 September 2017

This write-up comes from a talk at PAX West 2017. The talk covered topics about how to find your first Game-Job, but it did focus on visual-based jobs since they’re (according to the panelists) in demand right now. The panel featured:

How’d they get started?

Each person had a unique experience, but the common theme was that they just sort of ended up in the game industry. Usually they had a job doing related work and finally got their first job. This feels like a likely story since game schools are a very new thing, so there’s still something to be said for game schools.

The following five quotes are paraphrasing from notes I took during the talk are not literal quotes.

Sarah: “I liked to make weird art and composite stuff. My start was in Media Production (movies and TV). I hated waiting for rendering and prefer real-time work. Submitted a resume to a game studio looking for a Junior Artist role and when we talked further it turned out they needed to hire a VFX artist too and I fit that role better!”

Sophie: “I took a more traditional route. Went to an art school, learned some computer science and applied to be a game developer.”

Mika: “I have both an engineering and art degree. Started off doing CG work and discovered I really enjoyed writing technical tools to speed up CG development.”

Matt: “My wife’s neighbor started Monolith Games…. So…. That’s it.”

Caryn: “I played a ton of games. At the time I was a web developer for a game studio, then a UI position opened up and got recommended for it (in-house).”

Resume Advice

Applying to a Job Advice

General Advice

How to Find Places Hiring

The panelists had a tough time answering this question. Now, for them, they know a lot of people in the industry and are generally aware of new openings around. For complete new players to the field, this is they best they could recommend.

Networking

The following section is my own work and was not covered in the panel.

I hate this phrase. It’s ambiguous, unhelpful, and frustrating to hear. I internally shutdown every time someone tells me I need to network. Unfortunately it’s kind of true.

First off, let’s change the name to Talking to Important Strangers.

How to Talk to Important Strangers

The following section is my own work and was not covered in the panel.

This is unfortunately a soft skill that is really hard to practice. You want to go talk to these developers who are doing the work you want to do, you want to be like them. You’re gonna be nervous, in uncomfortable clothes, feeling self-conscious, far from home, and fighting off 10s of others who all want the same thing. It’s awful.

Specific Advice for VFX & Tech. Artists

A quick notes about Graphics Programming. It’s a very specific role that only very large companies will have room for, and even then they are very competitive. Besides, graphics engineering is almost always a research position. You’re working on the latest rendering techniques that haven’t been discovered yet, not actually putting them into games for use.

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