This year has made me rethink a lot of things, not least of all my career path. While it’s true that I’ve always loved being a freelance writer and creative, it’s fair to say that at times my skills aren’t always well-channelled. I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years doing a bit of this and a bit of that. Applying my skills to different projects is something that comes naturally to me, but what happens when you need a bit of cohesion? In this post, I’m going to be looking at a step I’ve been seriously considering; getting into the games industry as a beginner.
Gaming is something I’ve consistently enjoyed throughout my adult life. It wasn’t until recently that I started to actively consider it as a potential career path though. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before, but working in games could be an ideal fit for someone with my set of skills.
The gaming industry in the UK is thriving; this report from the UKIE shows the huge economic impact that the industry has on the UK. One of the best things about working in gaming is that there’s such geographical diversity too. For once, there appears to be a much fairer spread of jobs in gaming across the country. Not everything is based in London!
However, how do you go about getting into the games industry as a beginner? I haven’t got a degree in game design or anything of the sort, so what practical steps can be taken to try and apply for a role in this field of work? Let’s take a look at some options.
Getting into the games industry as a beginner
Luckily, there are many ways into the games industry that don’t necessarily require a gaming-specific degree. Experience in other workplaces and projects is valuable, as are the transferable skills that you can bring to the table. Equally, there are a multitude of online resources at your disposal to help you learn about the types of roles that exist in gaming as well as the game development process.
So, where should you start if you’re thinking about getting into the games industry as a beginner? What kind of preparation is there that can help you find a role in such a diverse field?
Do your research
First and foremost, you need to spend some time researching. Learn about the games industry as a whole. Learn about the types of roles available – do they sound like roles you’d enjoy? What kind of work is out there when it comes to the video game industry? Take some time to find out about the game development process. This is important because you need a rounded understanding of what goes into actually getting a game made. There’s a wealth of information and talks to watch online that can help you identify suitable industry careers and what they entail.
There are many different types of roles in the games industry. Not all of them require in-depth knowledge of coding, game engines or computer software. Although of course, having those skills is a major bonus, especially if you’re considering an art or design-focused path. However, there are lots of equally interesting positions in games such as marketing, community management, social media or esports broadcasting. Here are a few of the types of roles that you could do as a beginner in the games industry.
- Community management/community assistant
- Junior programmer
- QA Tester
- Marketing Assistant
- Narrative designer/games writer
- Artist (character, environment, animation)
- Junior level designer
Build your network
One of the best ways to begin learning about the games industry is to build an understanding of the people currently working in it. Take the time to build and grow your network of professional contacts. You don’t necessarily have to engage with people out of the blue, but find out who is already working in the field that interests you most and see what you can learn from them.
Look at the type of work they do and work out if it’s something that interests you. If you’re feeling brave, you can reach out and connect with them! Asking polite questions on Twitter, for example, can help you build links and inform your understanding of the roles you might like to apply for later.
Ensure that your networking efforts are genuine and generous. Don’t reach out to people in a purely transactional way. Be friendly and respectful of people’s time and skillset, and always consider how you can help others too.
Play lots of games
In order to get a thorough grasp of the work you’re aiming to get into, you need to experience a variety of interactive adventures. Actually playing a wide range of games can help you look more critically at how they’ve been made. This will also deepen your understanding of games as a transmedia format.
Additionally, you’ll have an enhanced understanding of things like game mechanics and how levels have been designed to further the game’s story or narrative experience. Being able to articulate the type of games that inspire you is also going to help if and when you come to interview for a role.
Do some self-study
There are a lot of online courses you can sign up for that will give you an insight into the games industry as well as equip you with some new skills. Make the effort, if you don’t already have the necessary qualifications, to do some self-study. You can check out what’s on offer at Udemy and FutureLearn, as good starting points.
Learning about the tools that are used to develop games is important. Game engines such as Godot, Unity and Unreal Engine are free to download and experiment with. However, it’s worth exploring some online tutorials and reading up on how to use these before attempting to jump straight in. Other programs like Blender are a good way to learn about how 3D art and characters can be designed for games.
You might also want to look at teaching yourself to code. It’s not an essential skill but it could certainly make a difference if you wanted to get into the programming side of game design, for example. Check out this post on how to get started with coding for some tips and resources.
If you’re interested in narrative design and game writing, you might want to learn more about interactive fiction. Developing an understanding of how game narratives actually work is fundamental to this kind of role.
Join a game jam
A game jam is an online event (predominantly online due to the current climate) where people get together to make a game in a short space of time. They’re held all over the world and are a great way to actually get something tangible made. It doesn’t matter if your first efforts aren’t that good. What matters is that you’ll get the practical experience of actually making a game.
Also, you’ll have a finished product to add to your portfolio! Game jams are a great way to connect with other aspiring game designers and developers too. Building links with like-minded people is really important, so check out some of the game jams available on sites like itch.io and around the web.
Always think about your portfolio
This is probably the most crucial factor when it comes to getting into the games industry as a beginner. Especially if you’re not fresh out of university and don’t have a string of qualifications behind you. You’re going to need to prove that you’re worth hiring, and you’ll need to do that with a strong portfolio of work. This means taking time to create and curate a few of your best work examples relating to your chosen area.
If you’re an artist, this might be two or three of your best character portraits or 3D models. If you’re looking to move into narrative design (like me), you’ll need some polished pitch documents, short dialogue scenes or character biographies to demonstrate your skills. If you’re interested in a level design role, you could start working on a prototype of a level in your chosen game engine and document the process.
All this takes time, so start working on your portfolio as soon as you can! Ensure you’re creating and including your best work only; quality is always better than quantity.
Watch videos about game development
There are lots of excellent video tutorials on YouTube that can help you further develop your skills in game design and development. More importantly, you can watch a range of talks from people actively working in the industry. All this can help you deepen your understanding of the design and creation process. The more knowledge you have about the games industry, the less of a beginner you’ll eventually feel. So, take the time to watch and learn from those working in your chosen fields.
Additionally, you can use video tutorials to help you practise your own skills, especially if you’re looking to learn how to use game engines such as Unity and Unreal. It’s definitely worth checking out some game engines as they’re a great (and primarily free) way to actively learn how to make a game.
Tailor your CV and current social presence
This will be something of an ongoing process but it’s an important step. If you’re looking to make any sort of career shift, you should try and tidy up your current CV and social media presence to suit. Take some time to reflect and reevaluate your social content and digital footprint.
If it’s not sending out the message that you’re looking for a job in the games industry, you might need to adjust things. Fine-tune your following and followers, adjust your own output and clean up anything that might hold you back from looking like someone that studios would want to work with.
Don’t worry if your CV doesn’t really reflect your current interests. As long as you’re making the effort to upskill and you can explain the transferable skills you do have, all experience is worthwhile experience!
I definitely don’t have all the answers on how to get into the games industry as a beginner. Mainly because it’s something I’m working on myself right now! However, there are always simple, practical steps you can take to improve your chances of a career change. Besides, it’s never too late to try something new – just make sure you do your research and are happy with the choices you make.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever considered working in games? I’d love to hear from you if so. Leave me a comment in the box below, and if you’re currently working in gaming, I’d love to hear your input! If you’ve found this post helpful then please do give it a share.