How to get a Job at a Game Studio
Updated: Dec 8, 2020
Let me start by explaining the setup of an average game studio.
Video game studios vary in size and character-from single-developer outfits to AAA studios, some create their own games, some create games as a service, and some do a mix of both.
At this point you may have some idea about what role you want to play in game-making, but even if you don’t- that’s okay; you can figure it out as you go along. Here are a few of the roles that exist in a game team:
The Designer holds the vision of what the game is, and what players do in the game.
The Programmer builds the game using game making tools such as Unity. Creates the functionality and the gameplay as explained by the designer(s).
The Artist creates all the graphical assets of the game, such as the characters, environments and user interface.
The Tester plays the game and finds what’s wrong, so that the previous three can make improvements and changes to it.
This a simplification, of course. There are several variations of these three roles and many other roles depending on the kind of games that studios make.
In smaller teams such as indie studios, it is very common to find cross-functional teams and multi-functionality. Some team members do more than one role- the artist could double up as a tester, and the designer could share some of the load of programming by writing the code, for example. Larger studios have more specialized roles and may have more than one person in each role-for example, there may be three level designers, all working on a large game
Now to finding a job with a game studio. To get a job with a large game studio, you will usually need prior experience. My first ‘Job’ was as a QA intern at a large game studio in Vancouver called Piranha Games; it was 2009, right after the financial crisis, and jobs were hard to come by; I accepted this unpaid role as I didn’t even have a permit to work at that time. I worked 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, and learned a lot. It also led me to my first paid job as Designer at Gameloft.
I got the internship at Piranha in competition with a dozen applicants; it was because I had just graduated from VFS and I had been part of a student team that had made our own game as a final project (my roles-Level Designer, 3D Environment Artist and I even wrote a little code) for this game here:
So to get a role, even as an intern, you may well need the experience of working in a small team making a simple game. Studios look at work done rather than a certificate from a college; even if you graduated top of your class but don’t have a simple game to show, they are unlikely to consider for an entry-level job.
One exception to the experience requirement is the job of Tester. It’s one role where the only qualification is- “Plays lots of video games!”. I know many people in senior positions who started off as game testers. It’s a great way to get a foot in the door, and then observe the functioning of the studio before deciding on what role suited them best and doing extra work/volunteering to get that design programming/production role.
Another thing that really helps to get a job at a game studio is a portfolio or a blog, that shows your work or thought process. You’ll also need a good, focused resume!
In conclusion, you may be able to join a smaller outfit more easily as compared to a large game studio, and work your way up the food chain into the company or role that you like. You can do this through making your own game, alone or in a team, or joining a game school that results in qualification as well as project experience.
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BUILDING A CAREER IN GAMES: