How to Get a Job in the Gaming Industry: An Essential Guide

March 21 2022

Pursuing a career in the gaming sector is becoming more attractive as its popularity grows and the technology driving it evolves at break-neck speed.

Three factors are behind the industry's growth. First, there's a greater variety of ways to play games — mobile access, online streaming, and subscription options are now available. Second, many gaming studios are equipping users with tools for creating their own games without needing coding knowledge (visual scripting for example). Finally, users are resorting to play-to-earn games for income and investment.

How to get into the gaming industry may be a question that's been brewing in your mind amid these trends but haven't had the time to probe into yourself. In this article, we'll dive into the possibilities that await you in this competitive and thriving job market.

    Why Get Into the Game Industry?

    Before learning how to get into the gaming industry, we should first have a clear picture of this multi-billion business. The gaming sector is a wide field that covers different types of jobs, from video game design, development, marketing, and retail. The number of people with gaming jobs is pegged at 298,077 in the U.S. alone.

    Some gaming enthusiasts have made a career out of their hobbies by playing professionally for game developers in esports tournaments and events. Computer engineers also get into gaming by setting up the networks for these activities.

    visual capitalist

    Source: Visual Capitalist

    Meanwhile, gaming aficionados who are good at marketing can channel their PR skills toward finding sponsors and handling promotions. So if you’re on the fence about the market - don’t be. Video game development (and the whole game industry) is an absolutely amazing career path with a huge demand for skilled people.

    But if you're more interested in pursuing the artistic and technical side of gaming, then game development is worth exploring as a career.

    Here's how you can benefit:-

    1. You work on projects that you're passionate about.

    Do you get a kick out of creating new worlds that gamers would enjoy getting immersed in and where they could enjoy interacting with others? You can acquire and hone your skills to get involved in the artistic, design, and development aspects of games. Combine your analytical and creative side to come up with the theme, look, structure, and rules of your game.

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    2. You become a part of a dynamic and thriving industry.

    From being mainly a form of entertainment, games have turned into a social platform where over a quarter of its users below 35 years old say it's better than traditional social media. As a result, the value of the global gaming industry has risen to $300 billion, with U.S. gaming contributing to about 28% of that total figure.

    And better yet, a lot of people are now just looking to play the AAA titles with complex multiplayer systems and abnormal production costs. On the contrary, indie games are getting more and more popular.

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    3. You earn a competitive salary.

    The average annual pay for game developers in the U.S. is around $71,300, with those in entry-level positions earning around $67,000. However, some companies pay their developers up to $130,000 per year.

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    4. You create something that will help others have fun.

    Whether you create a sports or fantasy-themed game, you provide a space where people can de-stress, get physically active, or even make friends.

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    Know the Position to Apply For

    Part of discovering how to get into the gaming industry is to determine which game industry jobs you should be vying for.

    Let's take a look at the different positions available in each area of specialization:

    Design and Game Art

    Source: Rock Paper Shotgun

    Game design involves the overall concept, gameplay, and technical aspects of the game.

    Game designer

    Designers come up with the general concept of the game's storyline, as well as the aesthetic features of its landscape and characters.

    System designer

    System designers set the parameters of the game to make sure they're consistent, comprehensible, and predictable. These parameters may include scoring rules, fighting features, the use of artificial intelligence, and so on. The nitty-gritty of their job can cover tasks such as determining the number of enemies that should spawn in a game, the amount of experience competitors should give a player to make the leveling-up feel rewarding, and the mechanics involved in creating virtual objects in a game.

    System designers may also have to put together all of the game's software and hardware requirements. Moreover, they participate in the prototyping and quality assurance (QA tester) process.

    Level designer

    As the name connotes, level designers determine the goals and level of difficulty for each level, ensuring that instructions are doable and the challenges are engaging enough to keep the players moving forward.

    Creative

    Source: IGC

    Creative jobs include roles that are responsible for the visual elements of games.

    Writer

    Following the guidelines of the lead game designer, a writer fleshes out the story that becomes the basis of the game's plot and dialogues among characters. They're also responsible for menu items, pop-up player instructions, and character or object descriptions.

    Writers also proofread and playtest before the public release of a game.

    Game artist

    Artists are graphic designers who create 2D or 3D art for a game's map or environment, characters, surface textures, and other assets. They may first do sketch drawings before using software to make digital versions of sceneries or objects. Artists can also establish color palettes and special game effects such as smoke, fire, flashes, storms, and so on.

    As a game artist, you can also be tapped to do the artwork for the advertising material, packaging, and website for the game.

    Animator

    Animators work with the artists and storyboard designers to bring the artwork to life based on the game's narrative. They enable characters to have facial expressions and movements. They also animate objects such as trees swaying in the wind or rivers containing flowing water. Their work covers animating the player's menu or dashboard as well.

    Development

    game development career

    Game development brings together the output of the creative and design teams to produce a playable game.

    Game developer

    Game programmers design the codebase to make a playable game on consoles, mobile devices, and PCs. They create the user interface, add music and graphics, and develop the algorithms that will make the game run smoothly. They make sure that the different software programs used within a game interact according to design. Programmers also perform beta-testing, debugging, prototyping, and troubleshooting.

    Game developers are motivated and persevering—actual game development can take years in the making.

    Producer

    game producer

    Producers oversee the game production cycle much like a project manager. They ensure games are finished within budget constraints and deadlines. They schedule meetings with business executives who will bring the games to end-users. They also handle marketing and contracts.

    Quality assurance and video game tester

    Testers play the games themselves to try out functionalities, spot any glitches, and check graphics quality. Designers and developers then use their detailed feedback to improve the game's user experience. Testers also review game instructions and tutorials for clarity and understandability.

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    Your Portfolio Matters More than Your Degree

    If you were to ask gaming studios or indie groups how to get into the gaming industry, they'd tell you that they will want to see your portfolio more than your degree or diploma.

    Employers would be more interested in what you've done outside school, such as projects you’ve worked on or games you’ve created during your spare time or as part of a non-university competition.

    If you don't have any or enough work experience, your portfolio will provide tangible evidence of how skillful and passionate you are with design or programming.

    What makes a good portfolio?

    • Intro profile 
      For your portfolio to serve as your business card in the gaming industry, it should include key information about yourself: who you are, where you're based (contact details), what you do or are passionate about, and the type of work you're looking for.
    • Best work 
      You should show off your best projects only with links to the live or downloadable version. Make the link easy to find and view (try itch.io, GitHub, or ArtStation). Include annotations—a brief description and tools, game engines, languages, and skills you used.

    When posting a group project, cite details about your personal contribution.

      • Reviews 
        Including feedback or testimonials from a player or client is a big plus.
      • Awards or achievements 
        Awards and achievements make a good first impression and help you stand out from other applicants. They can include an award in a contest or being tapped for a massive corporate campaign.
      • Blog 
        Blogs can help others know your personality, problem-solving techniques, and approach to projects.
      • Professional summary 
        If you have had previous work experience with an indie developer or studio, include details in your portfolio: the team or company you worked for, role, scope of responsibilities, and how long you held the position.

      Besides preparing a portfolio, you also need to clean up your online or social profiles as hiring managers and employers are likely to conduct a background check on you this way. Update your personal info on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and so on. Delete anything that you wouldn't want your potential hiring manager or employer to see.

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      Applying for Cultural Fit

      Employers say that candidates should make a good culture fit when they’re asked for tips on how to get into the gaming industry. Thus, you'll need to study the gaming industry and the company you're applying for. Try to find out the organizational culture of the studio and the work style. This will help you customize or match your interview response to the company's corporate culture.

      Also, be ready to answer these questions related to company culture. Your answers will help the hiring team assess if you're open to new learning, good at working with a team, and capable of bringing optimism to their company.

      • What made you apply to your company?
      • What inspires you to work in this industry?
      • What game character do you identify the most with? Why?
      • Recall a time when you were part of a team that you enjoyed working with. What did you do to balance fun and productivity with your co-workers?
      • Recall a time when a project felt like a bad fit for your personality and why.

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      7 Steps to Get Your Foot into the Gaming Industry's Door

      Just like in almost every career, you are responsible for your own job search. The opportunities rarely fall from the sky so you’ll have to go out and put yourself out there. A College degree and a certificate that proves your knowledge of software engineering can help but it won’t guarantee you a job. If game dev is your dream job, then you’ll have to invest in a portfolio and make sure the right people find and recognize you as a good fit.

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      How to Get into the Gaming Industry Tip #1: Stay inventive and up-to-date.

      To keep your creative juices flowing, engage in a variety of activities instead of sticking to just one area of your specialization, whether it is writing, programming, or design. You can even explore another skill so you can be better-rounded.

      Stay abreast with what's happening in the gaming world, noting down interesting information or ideas you read or hear from others. They can include new gaming platform or console releases and new industry trends.

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      How to Get into the Gaming Industry Tip #2: Build your own games.

      Take online tutorials and courses on how to make your own games so you can build a portfolio of your own work. This is a great way to earn experience even if you haven't gotten hired yet to design or develop a game. Aim for a straightforward design with an easy-to-navigate interface.

      Unreal and Unity are currently the two most dominant game development engines out there. Other excellent options include Blender and Houdini.

      Some groups hire freelancers to help with their team. You can present your "homemade" projects as part of your portfolio when you search for your first "job."

      Some courses come with industry-recognized certifications upon completion. This will then be something that can beef up your portfolio or resume.

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      How to Get into the Gaming Industry Tip #3: Join gaming discussion boards and communities.

      When you're starting out, online fora and social media groups are the best places where you can get answers and advice for questions and other challenges you may face as a budding developer. You can also draw game inspiration and industry inside news from these folks.

      You can share your games with your community and get their feedback on what to improve. Who knows? A member of your group may be part of an indie group or studio and invite you later to work with them.

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      How to Get into the Gaming Industry Tip #4: Be discoverable.

      • Write a blog.

      As you build your knowledge and skills, create a wider and deeper connection with others by writing a blog. You can launch your own website to discuss experiences in your game development learning journey and share your portfolio. You can also write reviews about current products or comment on trends. This is a great way for gaming industry leaders and experts to learn about you, even before application.

      • Attend conferences and events.

      Be proactive. Get to know and be known by people in the gaming industry by taking part in events such as Game Developers Conference, E3 Expo, GamesForum, and GamesCom. Use these events to meet others, including recruiters or people working at companies you want to be a part of. Check online to know the list of participants and activities.

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      How to Get into the Gaming Industry Tip #5: Participate in game jams and hackathons.

      Want to put your skills, creativity, and team spirit to the test? Once you've gained confidence creating your own games and formed friendships with other emerging developers online, you can join competitions to apply your learning under time pressure. Jams and hackathons can run from 24 to 72 hours. The lessons you glean later become insights you can share in your blog and job interviews.

      What's more, many game company representatives attend such events. They can give you tips about how to get into the gaming industry besides serving as judges and mentors during the jam. You can also use this as another opportunity to introduce yourself and find out about job opportunities or just establish a relationship.

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      How to Get into the Gaming Industry Tip #6: Take part in an internship or apply for junior positions.

      Research which game companies have such internships. These are sometimes referred to in university as "placements," which can run for a few months to a year.

      You can also ask members of your online community (yes, forums still exist although they mostly moved to Discord communities) or network of contacts about where you could lend your skills on a part-time or temporary basis. Many developers have started out as QA or game testers and worked up their way from there. Learn as much as you can while testing games: the game's product life cycle, the internal code used, as well as the project management system, and workflows involved in completing the project.

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      How to Get into the Gaming Industry Tip #7: Continue learning.

      Some studios require a computer science degree or an equivalent qualification. Examine which course will equip you further in the line of work you'd like to pursue long-term. Then make the necessary time and financial investment for it.

      Part of continued learning is to play all types of games—even those you don't like or normally wouldn't play. Doing so can train you to have a critical eye for what elements of the game worked well and what aspects can be improved.

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      Short Gaming Industry Career FAQ

      Q: Can you get a job in the gaming industry without a degree?

      A: Yes, you can. A formal degree can indicate your seriousness about your career choice and your capability to speak the industry language. However, your portfolio will carry more weight because employers and gaming studios are looking for skills and talent that you can bring to their team should they choose to hire you.

      That said, some formal education, such as certificate programs—not necessarily traditional degrees—can help you hone your craft and influence your success, whether as an artist or programmer.

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      Q: Can I get a job in the game industry without programming knowledge?

      A: If you'd like to create your own game, you'd need to write code, which requires programming knowledge. There are many online tutorials and programs available now. However, investing in a certification (or even a degree later on) can help you stand out (and earn higher!) in this competitive field.

      On the other hand, there are entry-level positions that don't need coding knowledge but require other skill sets. They include:

      • Game or QA testers - actual gaming ability
      • Associate game artists - well-rounded understanding of human anatomy and 3D art
      • Associate producers - efficient project management
      • Game community managers - proficiency in social media and community management
      • Game journalists - understanding of the gaming industry and fans

      Musicians, screenwriters, actors, and mathematicians are other jobs in the industry that don't need programming knowledge.

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      Q: Is it hard to get into the gaming industry?

      A: As we mentioned earlier, the gaming industry is a highly competitive field—there are more applicants than there are vacancies. Moreover, some positions are harder to get into than others. For instance, game programming and audio engineer jobs would need a lot more qualifications and experience than entry-level positions.

      If you want to get your foot in the door, cast your net as wide as you can. Attend events and reach out to recruitment agencies. Be open to taking on a role in an organization even if it’s not your dream job and dream company. You'll find it easier to join smaller companies. By the way, Minecraft, Undertale, and Rocket League came from indie developers but went on to become AAA titles.

      Also, be receptive to continuous learning. Even the best designers and those with the most excellent programming skills need to display high adaptability and willingness to improve their skills further.

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      Q: What’s a better path for me - as a developer or as a designer?

      A: Your career choice will depend on your aptitude and passion. If you love weaving a story, developing characters, setting game mechanics, and doing 3D modelling, a game design career will suit you. Meanwhile, if you enjoy converting storylines, drawings, and layouts into code and ultimately a playable game, you should pursue a career in game development.

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      Q: Is it possible to get a job without experience?

      A: You can land a job in the gaming industry even if you haven't had any professional game design or developer experience yet. One of the best ways to get experience is to build and complete your own games. Your output will prove your determination, creativity, and hunger for growth.

      Pursuing an internship at a game studio and or applying as a QA tester are also other ways to break into the industry. Companies are known to hire interns who perform well. Meanwhile, you can move up to designing or programming roles from being a QA tester by showing your attention to detail and your critical thinking (identifying elements of the game that work well and what could be improved for better user experience), building connections, and learning as much as you can in the area you wish to master.

      After all, there are various aspects to quality assurance testing:

      • Functional testing - focused on technical debugging
      •  Compatibility testing - checking game functionality across various platforms
      • Usability testing - gauging UX

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      Q: How profitable is the gaming industry?

      A: The global gaming industry is worth $300 billion. Streaming, no-code content creation tools, and in-game storefronts are fueling its growth.

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      REVIEWED BY

      Dejan Gajsek

      Content Marketing Manager

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