In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from John, who wants to know, How can I get an internship at a video game development studio? Do you have any advice for me?
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- All about game dev internship: What it is, how it works, and why you should care
- How to find the best internships – even the ones that aren’t advertised to the public
- Three key tips for landing an internship, even in the face of intense competition
If you have a question you'd like to get answered on the podcast, leave a comment below or ask me anything here.
Find game schools near you
Hello and welcome back to the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast. This is episode number lucky 13. I’m Jason W. Bay from GameIndustryCareerGuide.com, and this is the podcast where I answer your questions about getting a job and growing your career making video games.
Today’s question is from John. John writes, “I just want to say thank you for all the replies you’ve made so far. I’ve read almost all of them. In fact, I have already completed my Bachelor of Science degree, so I am looking for a job or internship. Do you have any advice for me?”
I think this is a question on a lot of people’s minds, because an internship is seen as a way to transition from game-related schooling to a real world job making games, and that’s exactly right. But there are some ins and outs of any internship, plus there are quite a lot of students competing for the same internship positions.
So there are a few tricks that I’m going to share with you today for finding and getting and succeeding at an internship at a video game studio.
But let’s start with this. What is an internship exactly? An internship is a special type of job that you can only get if you’re a student. It’s so that you can get on-the-job training while you finish your schooling. Most internships are for college or university students only, but some might also accept high school students. Many college programs require or at least recommend that you do an internship as part of your coursework. Most will count an internship as credits towards your degree, which is awesome.
Most internships are unpaid, or when they are paid, the pay sometimes is really low. They’re also temporary, usually only for a few months or sometimes just a few weeks. So if an internship is low paid or even unpaid and it might only be for a few weeks, what’s the benefit?
Well, there is benefits to the company and there’s benefits for you, as the student. The benefits for the company are that they get an extra worker to help out in an actual game project, or sometimes on research in development project and they get it for cheap. But sometimes even more importantly is that they get to test you out to see if you’re somebody that they’d like to hire full-time someday.
Now, the benefit to you as a student is that you get on-the-job, real-world training. But you also get a start making connections in the game industry. And those are connections that might come in very handy later on when you start to look for jobs full-time. Getting hired full-time after an internship is not guaranteed, but if you do a good job during your internship, there is a high likelihood that that company will hire you after you graduate.
Even if you don’t get hired by that company, the fact that you’ve completed an internship will give you an edge over all the other entry-level job seekers that don’t have that same real-world experience. So it’s a clear advantage when it comes time to look for a job after graduation.
If you already know about internships, you might imagine that it’s a formal, structured process, like a class, but at a game studio instead of a classroom. In most cases, that could not be further from the truth. Oftentimes, the people that you’ll be working with on the game team are too busy with their own jobs, and they can’t spend too much time teaching you, at least not in a structured way.
But that’s okay, because honestly that’ll probably also be how you’ll learn once you get your first full-time job. There’s just not a lot of formal training at most video game studios. Just take the work that you get assigned, do your best job at it, and be sure to ask your manager or your lead whenever you have questions.
Most of what you’ll learn will come from the work that you’re doing, the questions that you ask, the answers that you get, and being able to see the work and interactions of the other professional game developers at the studio. So it’s not a formal education, but it’s a really excellent way to learn how to navigate a professional game development job.
Now, let’s talk about how to find and get an internship. For the most part, only the biggest companies or publishers have formal internship programs. So companies like Nintendo, Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, companies with many hundreds or even thousands of employees in multiple locations around the world. Those are the companies that have big enough resources to build and run a non-trivial internship program. So it’s easier to find open internship positions at those big companies because they often post to job boards. So you can search using a job search engine like Indeed, or check game industry job boards like Gamasutra.com or GameJobHunter.com and a lot of times the big companies will post their openings for internships on those boards.
Another approach is a search for game companies near where you currently live, and then go to their corporate websites directly to look for open internship jobs that might be listed on their job’s page. Oftentimes, their internship jobs are posted there along with a page that explains their internship program and how it works and how to apply, which is really useful information for you at this point.
Now even though only the biggest companies usually have formal internship programs, smaller studios often also accept internships. But since they don’t have a formal program, you might need to be proactive and drive that process yourself.
Here’s how to do it.
One way is to apply using the normal job’s application form on their website, but then try to specify that you’re looking for an internship. And hopefully when they review the applications, they’ll spot that and they’ll pass you over to whoever is handling their internships. Oftentimes, that’s not possible because many smaller studios don’t even have an application form available on their websites. So another way is to get in touch with the studio directly to find out about their policies for internships. You can try emailing them or calling them if they have contact info listed on their website.
A third way which takes a little more effort, but it might be your only option if the first two don’t work, is to find out who the hiring managers are at the game studio that you want to work at as an intern, and then contact those hiring managers directly. I have a super clever little trick to help you out with this. It’s a bit devious but it can be really effective.
Here’s what you do: Go onto LinkedIn.com and search for managers by typing in the name of the company into the search box along with the phrase “human resources” or the company name along with the word “director” and the name of the department that’s applicable for you. So for example, search for “Kixeye art director.” That will do a search for all of the art directors at that company or the engineering directors or whatever it is, once you find the profile of the director that you want, email them using LinkedIn and ask them whether they have any opportunities for an intern in their department and if so, how you can apply.
Just a quick side note: if LinkedIn doesn’t allow you to email the director because they’re not in your professional network on LinkedIn, you may need to upgrade to a paid account. It will cost a little bit of money, but it’s worth it to get access to the hiring managers that could help you get this internship.
Okay, let’s just wrap up by talking about a few tips for completing a successful internship. First of all, be flexible on the timing. Most studios could use the help any time on just about any projects that they’re currently working on, so you’ll want to let them know that you can start whenever they need you and finish whenever necessary. Second, even though you’re “just an intern”, you still need to bring something valuable to the table. So make sure that you have skills that are helpful on a game team and be sure that you can prove that by showing your portfolio, if you’re an artist or a designer, and/or bypassing some code challenges if you’re a programmer.
And lastly, be somebody that they want to work with. Be friendly, positive, hardworking, and self-motivated, especially self-motivated. There might not any managers that have extra time to spend training you on the job, so they need to feel confident that you can learn well on your own and get work done without very much hand-holding.
Okay. That wraps up for today’s episode. Those are some good tips and guidance that will help you locate internships and get those internships and succeed once you get it. Thanks to John for this excellent question and thank you for sharing some time with me today.
If this info was helpful for you, please take a few seconds to leave me a review in iTunes. Your review will help others find this podcast and it will let me know that you like what you heard, so that I’ll keep making more episodes. Let me know! Leave a review on iTunes.
For more information and inspiration on getting and growing your job making video games, come visit me at GameIndustryCareerGuide.com. I’m Jason W. Bay. Thanks again and I’ll see you right here next time on the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast.