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Should I take a video game job I don’t want, just to get my foot in the door?

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In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Indigo, who asks “I have a question about taking a job in a position you don’t want just to get your foot in the door. I’ve had many teachers and other people tell me that taking a QA job or a 2D art job is a good idea just to get in. But I know that I really wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as a 3D art position. But it’s pretty hard to find a 3D position. So I’m not sure what to do. Any advice would be great.”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What happens if you don’t have the skills you need to get the job you really want
  • 3 reasons why starting in a different job can boost your career
  • The 1 major drawback of starting in a different job

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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Why take a job you don’t want?

Hello and welcome to the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast. This is episode number 47. 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.

This week’s question is from an aspiring 3D artist named Indigo. She left a comment on a blog post to ask this: “I have a question about taking a job in a position you don’t want just to get your foot in the door. I’ve had many teachers and other people tell me that taking a QA job or a 2D art job is a good idea just to get in, but I know that I really wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as a 3D art position. But it’s pretty hard to find a 3D position, so I’m not sure what to do. Any advice would be great.”

Could you get the job?

Indigo wants to get a 3D art job, but she thinks that might take a long time, or maybe even be impossible for her at least right now. So my first question would be, “Why is it that you don’t think you can get the job you want?”

Now, for many people just starting out in their dev careers, the reason they don’t think they can get the job yet is because they don’t yet have all the skills that they’d need to get hired. Maybe they don’t have a very good art portfolio just yet. Hopefully they’re working on that and their portfolio will get bigger and better over time, but that can take a while, and we’ve all got bills to pay. So in the mean time they’d like to have a job. Any job.

If you do have the skills that you need to get hired and you do have a strong art portfolio already, then there shouldn’t be anything holding you back from just applying for the jobs you actually want. Like any job hunt, it might take a few weeks or even a few months before you get hired. But if you’ve got what it takes already, then there shouldn’t be any reason to settle for less.

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Why take a game job you don’t want?

But since Indigo was asking the question, then let’s assume that she’s still working on her art skills and her portfolio and she’s not quite ready for a full-time 3D art job just yet. Should she try to get a 2D art job or even a job as a QA tester just to get her foot in the door at a game studio?

Actually yes, either of those jobs could be a reasonable approach to starting a game dev career. Many people, myself included, started in a different job and then built toward the job that they really wanted. There are some definite advantages to starting up that way.

Reason #1: Learn the ropes

First of all, working in a game studio and just about any job will give you a crash course in the game development process. Now, if you’ve been listening to my podcast for a little while, then hopefully you’ve already taken my advice and started making little games on your own or with a small team of friends. So you already have some idea about how games are made, but that process is extremely different once you start working on the scope and scale of a professional game team. Game development in a four-person or even just a one-person team looks very different from game development with a team of 20 or a 100 or even several hundred game developers all working together on a multi-year triple A game title. Whether you’re in QA or doing 2D art, you will learn all about how that’s done.

Reason #2: Build your network

The second reason that you might want to take a job that’s not the exact job you eventually want is that you’ll start meeting professional game developers. Many of those people will be professional game artists and you’re likely to have frequent opportunities to hang out with them and learn from them. I’ve always found that artists in the game industry are super friendly and they’re totally willing to teach newer artists and to give them direction and feedback on their art work. Not only is it a good way to build your professional network, it’s also a great way to quickly grow your skills by learning from those professionals.

Reason #3: Get your foot in the door

A third reason to take just about any job you can to get your foot in the door is because once you’re an insider, you’ll start to hear about any new job openings in the studio before they get posted to the public. Most game companies do prefer to hire people that they know and trust from inside the company, rather than kind of rolling the dice with an outsider. If you’ve been building your skills and your portfolio while you’re working there and if you’ve been hanging out with the professionals and learning from them, then one day you might be just the right person to fill that new job opening before it even gets posted.

What are the downsides?

So those are three good reasons in favor of taking the job. But what are the reasons you might not want to take it? The main reason is that spending eight hours a day doing a job that you really don’t like, could be a painful way to spend a couple of years. If you take a job as a game tester, for example, and you really, really don’t like it, then those eight-hour days are going to feel like 80 hour days. It could be so crushing. But my guess is that you’ll be so busy learning about game development and building new skills and meeting cool people who can help you, that the time will fly by, and before you know it, you might get an opportunity to move into the job that you’re really after. Or, maybe you’ll find that you really like doing QA or that you love 2D arts and you might end up building that job into your long-term career.

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Next steps: Take action

So there are three really good reasons to take any job at a game studio, even if it’s not the exact job that you eventually want. I should point out, that goes for just about any career in the game industry, not just art. You could start as a tester and later become a game programmer or a producer or an audio engineer, just about anything. Just keep working on your skills and your portfolio in the evenings, on the weekends, and building your network inside the studio. Where you go from there is totally up to you. If there is one thing that I could say about a career in games is that that you never know exactly where it could take you.

If you have questions about how to get a job as a video game artist, visit gameindustrycareerguide.com/artist for a big collection of articles about game art careers. If you’re serious about getting a job testing games, go to gameindustrycareerguide.com/testing. Or buy a copy of my book, “Land a Job as a Video Game Tester.” It’s available anywhere that e-books are sold or get a printed copy from Amazon.com.

Thanks to Indigo for that question and thank you for spending a little quality time here with me today. If you’ve enjoyed the podcast, then please help me spread the word by sharing it with your friends and the world on social media. For more information and inspiration on getting a job and growing your career making video games, visit me at gameindustrycareerguide.com. I’m Jason W. Bay. I will see you again next week right here on the Game Industry Career Guide Podcast.

Read my new book!

Making games for a living is an incredibly rewarding career, but it’s hard to break in unless you have insider knowledge. This book levels the playing field.

READ: Start Your Video Game Career

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2 comments on “Should I take a video game job I don’t want, just to get my foot in the door?
  1. katy phelan says:

    I want to test video games but is the close thing to testing or class to take that would in that area.?design or visual something or i don’t know

    • Jason W. Bay says:

      Most game testing jobs don’t require a college degree, you can apply as long as you meet the requirements in the job posting. If you meet the basic requirements, then go for it!

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