In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Shravan, who asks, Is it difficult to get a job at a video game company?
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Why some game jobs are harder to get than others
- What factors cause certain jobs to be contract-only vs. full-time
- How you can use the above info to choose your game career wisely
If you have a question you'd like to get answered on the podcast, leave a comment below or ask me anything here.
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Good morning, afternoon, or evening. Welcome back to the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast. This is episode number 14. 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 Shravan. Shravan asks, “Is it difficult to get a job at a video game company?”
Now, on the surface, that’s a simple question, and if you are thinking about a job making games, I’m sure you’ve wondered about that yourself. I would love nothing more than to give you a simple answer. In fact, I’d love to be able to say, “Nope, it’s not difficult at all. Anybody can get a job making games.”
Unfortunately, the real answer is this: some game jobs are fairly easy to get, while others can be quite difficult. In fact, for some game jobs, it is nearly impossible to get hired as a full-time employee. Why are some so easy, while others are nearly impossible?
There are, at least, three key factors that affect how easy or hard it is to get any given type of job in the video game industry. Here are the ones that I’ll go over with you today. Number 1, the number of jobs of that type that are needed for a typical game team. Number 2 is the amount of education or experience that’s required to do that job. Number 3 is whether or not that job is required throughout a typical game’s development cycle. Okay, let’s talk about each of these points, and give some examples of which career paths might be affected positively or negatively by each one.
The first is the number of jobs of this type that are needed for a typical game team. Another way to think about this is how many of this type of job exist in the game industry, as a whole? To give an example, let’s say we are looking at a game team that’s made up of 10 people. That’s a small team, but it’s a nice even number for our purposes.
Of those 10 people, we might have three artists, two programmers, one game designer, one producer, one audio engineer, and a couple of game testers. Every game team will have a slightly different ratio, but in general, a team will have several artists, and programmers, and testers. That means that there are far more of those types of jobs available in the game industry as a whole, so it’s more likely that you can get one of those jobs, assuming you are qualified candidate. Note that I didn’t even mention some other roles like writer, marketer, or technical artist, because those jobs commonly service multiple game teams. So there’s even relatively fewer job openings available at any given time.
The second aspect is the amount of education or experience that’s required to do that job. When we ask, how hard is it to do get a certain job, I think we should consider that part of being hard is having to develop more specialized skills in order to get hired. So if we look at the game jobs from that perspective, then the more education and experience required, the harder it is to get that job.
So which jobs need more education and experience? In general, I’d say that game programming is probably the hardest, because more programming jobs seem to require a bachelor’s degree than any other game job that I can think of. The game artist or the audio engineer jobs might be next. They don’t require a degree quite as often, but it does take several years of dedicated practice to get good enough at those skill sets to get hired, even on an entry level job at a game team. I’d say producer is next, and then QA tester, since those jobs rarely require a formal degree, and you can often learn the basics of those skill sets on your own, or by taking certificate courses, for example.
The third aspect is whether or not a job is required throughout a typical game’s development cycle. For this point, we need to start by understanding that not every job is needed all the way from the start of the project until the end. For example, concept artists are mostly needed at the beginning of the project, when the look and feel of the game’s characters and levels are being fleshed out. Once those are established though, the concept artist may no longer be needed by the game team. Similarly, audio engineers are often brought in later in the game cycle, since much of their work depends on the game’s animations and environments having already been constructed before they can even begin creating the audio and the sound effects. Compare that to the game’s programmers, who are needed very early in the game’s development cycle, sometimes even during pre-production, if they can work on technical tasks, or if they can help to create working prototypes to test things out.
A game team may not need the jobs like concept artist, audio engineer, or music composer to be full-time for the life of the project. So that’s why they are often outsourced to contractors. The team then brings them in whenever they’re needed, and then lets them move on to other clients after they’ve finished their work. So it can be hard to even get full-time work in one of those jobs.
That’s a quick overview on why some game jobs are harder to get than other ones. But what does that mean for you? How does that help you decide which game career to pursue?
One way is that if you are trying to decide between several game careers that all interest you, do some research on the actual demand for each one, and just maybe lean toward the careers that have more jobs available more often. All things being equal, why not take a path that’s more likely to have a job waiting for you when you’re ready?
On the other hand, if you’ve already chosen a career path, for example, if you’re already going to school for one of the jobs that are harder to get, I wouldn’t let this scare you away. But if you have chosen a job type that tends to be a contract position in the game industry, rather than a full-time hire at a game studio, you’d be better prepared if you know that ahead of time, and you can set your expectations accordingly.
That wraps up our discussion for this week. Thanks to Shravan for the question, and thank you for hanging out with me today. If you like this show, please leave me a review in iTunes. Just tap those stars. Your review will help others find the podcast, and it will let me know that you like what you heard, and that I should keep making more episodes.
Would you like even more information and inspiration on getting and growing your job making video games? Would you like to ask your own questions for me to answer on this podcast? Well, then visit me at GameIndustryCareerGuide.com.
I’m Jason W. Bay, I truly appreciate your time today. Thank you. I’ll see you next week, right here on the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast.