Video games are a common form of entertainment in many of our lives, so it is no surprise that the industry is a competitive one. Players want to give back to the industry which gave them their favourite pastimes, and learn more about game creation from a creator’s perspective. However, the industry can seem elusive, and it can be hard to know what career choices are on offer, or what training you need to undergo to be fit for them. As with other forms of art, such as filmmaking and writing, the industry draws on a variety of skill sets which you may not expect. This article will outline a handful of roles that a team requires, and some things that you can do to boost what you have to offer.
QA Testers – Game testers are part of the quality assurance team, and work to discover the bugs and glitches in the game that need to be fixed before it is released. They also assess the playability of the game, and feed back their findings on the issues that they think the average player may find. Attention to detail is a key skill here, and this role is considered a good way to break into the industry as it does not require specialist training, and many testers go on to be promoted to more senior positions.
Writers – Writing for video games is often done on a freelance basis. The role consists of working closely with the game designers and voice actors to develop characters, worldbuilding and plot. Training in creative writing or script writing is particularly useful for this job.
Designers – Designers collaborate with the rest of the team to work on the story, concept and gameplay. They typically have a degree in game design or something closely related to it, such as computer science or engineering. This role allows for the mixture of artistic and technical talent, and would benefit from knowledge about coding, animation or writing software.
Artists – Artists create 2D and 3D art for the visual elements of a game, something which is crucial to its success. Artists can specialise in anything from characters to buildings, and may also create art for various platforms to be used in marketing the game. Current industry professionals recommend becoming familiar with Photoshop if you want to create 2D work, or looking into graphic tablets for 3D creations.
Coder/programmer – Programming is a very technical role. Modern video games are listed as utilising anything from advanced physics to 3D graphics, and working in conjunction with other devices like keyboards and gamepads. If this role intrigues you, explore online resources – Unity and GameMaker are recommended by those in the industry.
Musicians – Almost every form of visual art needs accompanying music – think films, video games, or that random YouTube video you watched last week that had memorable background music. Video game soundtracks hugely add to the atmosphere of a game, and are often listened to by players once they step away from gameplay. Take the Undertale soundtrack for example – its popularity as a separate entity to the game means that it currently has over 10 million views on YouTube. A musician is not the first role that comes to mind when you think of the gaming industry, but it’s certainly an important one.
Producers – Producers oversee the development of the game and maintain the organisation of the project. This means everything from dealing with contracts, schedules, and budgets, as well as pitching ideas and arranging groups of testers who are mentioned earlier in this article.
If you’re interested in the gaming industry in general, but haven’t settled on a specific role yet, there are still lots of things you can do to build your experience and consolidate your area of interest. There is no ‘right’ or guaranteed way to break into the industry, so don’t expect to get your dream job right away. For now, you can shout about any relevant work you have done and participate in public forums such as Twitter, which has a strong gaming community. The people who currently have the jobs you want to get look at these forums too!
Don’t worry if your degree isn’t specifically in game design – current industry professionals start in a variety of places, such as producing educational software or similar. Apply for internships or low level jobs in a gaming studio to get your foot in the door, and if you’re interested in starting up your own team, combine your skills. You may not be able to afford a specialist for every role to begin with, so it helps if your writers or artists also have an awareness of other areas of the industry under their belt.