Games Industry Insider’s Career Guide
The games industry is a fast-growing and highly sought-out place to want to start a career, for both gamers and non-gamers alike. While the industry is competitive to get your foot in the door, there are plenty of opportunities available for anyone that is prepared to put in the effort to match themselves with the right roles.
Tania Robles, People Operations Manager at Idle Gaming, has put together a comprehensive insider’s guide for game industry enthusiasts looking to step into this fun and ever-evolving industry.
1) Games Industry Culture
The culture within an independent games company is usually pretty casual. To make sure deadlines are met and projects are getting completed, most companies cultivate a casual and stress-free environment for their teams by providing a games room, chill out areas, snacks and drinks, beer, and meals. Anything to keep hard-working employees happy and productive, while trying to avoid burning them out.
As a whole, the games industry itself is indeed competitive. Game companies are passionate about designing and developing entertaining games for its users, but ultimately games companies need to generate revenue to remain successful. It’s important for companies to develop games that will be popular and playable so that they stand out among the thousands of games on the market. It should be noted that within the industry, people are always supportive of one another and congratulate each other on their achievements. When other companies in the industry are doing well, it’s always great news. But when it comes down to business, every company ultimately strives to be #1 in their market.
2) Are people typically recruited into freelance/part-time or full time roles? Why?
Recruiting really great talent is key to growing a successful company in this industry. You want to develop great games by building strong teams that align with the company’s vision. The necessary motivation and loyalty needed in order to encourage the most from your team members is generally best attained by offering full-time positions. That sense of ownership to the project that is often affiliated with offering the benefits of full-time employment will help to ensure quality work, and the sense of security within the company will help to keep employees happy.
However, freelance and part-time positions are not uncommon as those positions can add just as much value to the success of the company. Often, those positions can also transition into full-time roles. Freelance and part-time positions consist of both experienced and entry-level team members. Entry-level candidates can benefit from starting as freelancers or part-time team members by gaining on-the-job experience, developing business acumen, and/or building relationships and growing their network.
3) Are new graduates expected to work for free to gain experience and to prove themselves before being offered a paid role?
An answer to that might be internships: while it’s hard for any company to turn down any candidate offering to work for free, we are happy to interview candidates who feel their time and talent is of value to the company, and that they’re worth being compensated accordingly. As a result, paid internships are very common in this industry.
Internships are a great way to gain experience through real-world training while working on live projects. An internship can be equally beneficial to the company as it is to the candidate. There are plenty of games companies that offer paid internships, and the compensation will always vary. While some companies do offer unpaid internships, it’s up to the candidate to determine if an unpaid internship is right for them.
A friendly disclaimer to those looking to intern: candidates seeking an internship should become familiar with their state laws regarding unpaid internships.
4) Where do games companies typically recruit from?
It really depends on the type of position, the location of the company, and even what kind of culture the company wants to build. Some games companies will hire recruiting agencies to hire talented candidates, but we generally find some of our best team members by personally reaching out to potential candidates through LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. Candidates who want to be easily found/recruited should update their information regularly, and if they stand out and possess the talents we’re seeking, we will find them.
It’s no secret that recruiting team members and managers often attend meetups if their company is hiring. For a more personal approach to job-seeking, meetups are a great way for talented candidates to speak directly to head-hunters, while skipping the email introductions. Candidates are encouraged to attend meetups when looking for new opportunities. Aside from being informative, they’re also a great way to network with other industry professionals.
5) What skills and personality traits are important?
It really depends on the position. For example, someone in business development will excel in their role if they are personable and outgoing, yet other roles may simply benefit from a strong work ethic. However, this does not mean a great personality will ever go unnoticed! Every company wants the most talented candidates to work for them, and talent is at the top of any recruiting checklist. But more often than not, a company wants to create a fun environment for the team and build a desirable culture for everyone, including potential candidates, to desire being a part of.
Thus, a candidate that appears to be capable of strengthening that culture will stand out among other candidates. They may share the company’s philosophy, have a similar sense of humor, be a great Ping-Pong player, believe in a healthy work-life balance (or express to be a workaholic), etc. It’s often easy to grasp what a company’s culture is like based on the office environment, and through the interview process, both the candidate and the interviewers will decide if the candidate is a good fit for the team. A phone interview makes this less easy to determine.
The best thing to remember when trying to make a good impression is that game companies generally try to encourage a fun environment, so while we ask that you be yourself, relax during the interview process. Remember that it’s a game company, and it’s ok to be as personable as you’d like. Making a lasting impression will always be well received.
6) What is job security like?
Recruiting is a long and tedious process. For any company, it’s often costly to recruit. When hiring a candidate, we hope we have made the right choice and that they will be a part of the team for a long time. No one likes replacing great talent or having to scramble to find a replacement for a position that cannot be left unfilled for too long. Most games companies know that the industry is competitive, and employees who are very talented have lots of options.
Talented individuals have job security in the sense that if they’re truly talented, they will be sought out by head-hunters and offered many opportunities. But so long as a company is doing well and there is work to be done, a smart company will do their best to know what motivates their employees in order to keep them happy. Generally this comes in the form of further developing their skill-set, and we highly encourage it as well. We want our employees to grow into stronger roles and to get promoted. It makes for a positive office environment to make people feel that they’re not only working hard to achieve goals for the company, but they’re also achieving personal growth and career goals.
7) Is it important to do a lot of research before an interview? Are potential recruits expected to know the game/s in detail at an interview?
During an interview we tend to ask the candidate if they are at least familiar with the games in our portfolio. We would expect at least that the candidate has downloaded and played our games, and it especially doesn’t hurt to mention any feedback. In fact, it’s rare to come across a candidate that hasn’t done so. Knowing additional information about a company is a plus, but it’s not required. What’s on our website is what we want others to know about us at the very least. However, it’s also our job as a company to discuss information about the company that would most likely sell our company a desirable place to work.
8) How important is it for graduates/new recruits to be able to display practical skills that they have developed themselves through projects that they have worked on during their studies or purely for fun?
We are always impressed when candidates are able to share their passion/solo projects on their CVs, or include credits for other personal projects they’ve worked on. It’s definitely worth sharing and makes us aware of the candidates interests, but it’s not required. That said, candidates who are able to share personal projects that are relevant to the role they’re applying for would stand out.
9) What is the best way to approach a games company – should candidates just get on the phone or should they apply from other websites or via email? Is it a good idea to contact businesses speculatively to express an interest in them and to get your name out there?
Unless specifically stated in a job posting, it is best not to contact someone by phone about a job. If the website offers a place to submit your CV or contact the recruiting department, that’s the best way to go. Unless the candidate is aware with who exactly they need to contact, cold calling via email and LinkedIn might fail, because the candidate will run the risk of contacting the wrong person. It’s best to rely on the website for information – almost all websites will provide instructions on how to contact the company about a job position. While rare, if the company is not hiring or does not want to be cold called, they will most likely specify that on their website.
10) If a close family member or friend was trying to get into the industry, what advice do you have?
We would definitely recommend that they pursue an internship in the field they’re interested in at a games company, and to make time for it while they’re in school. Being able to add on-the-job experience along with academic experience as early as possible is something many candidates should be doing. We would advise them to not only look to intern with big or well-known companies, but to also pursue internships with smaller games companies. Smaller companies provide a greater volume of knowledge and experience that’s usually attained much quicker than working within more specialized teams at larger companies. There are many roles to take on within a smaller company that have to be filled by smaller teams. Whether they’re looking for a smaller, more specialized role or a generalized role with many different projects, the games industry provides a great experience for those looking to work in a fast-paced and exciting industry. The work required to get your foot in the door is definitely worth it.
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