I Want To Work In … Computer Games
Computer games companies require fluent Java and C++ programmers, 3D and digital graphic designers, sound and credits screen designers, technical writers, translators and customer support staff. 90% of those recruited are graduates.
- Games are now designed by teams just like films (usually after commissioning from a publisher: companies usually have no direct links to consumers/retail outlets). A top game can cost £5M and 2 years to develop. In 5 years time there may not be much difference between films, TV and games in terms of technology so the industry will be looking to develop skills in shortage areas like storytelling or cinematography. On-line gaming is getting more and more important.
- There are about 30,000 people employed in the UK games industry working for games developers, publishers and retailers. There are over 250 games development studios. The UK has the biggest development community in Europe and the largest after the USA. It is home to most of the global publishing giants. The UK leisure software market is now said to be the fastest-growing sector of the UK entertainment media.
- The worldwide market for games means employees need to have a cultural awareness so that game designs avoid specific cultural references (e.g. F1 does not have Murray Walker commentating as he is unknown outside the UK). Major games development centres in the UK are Liverpool/Manchester, Dundee and Guildford.
- There are more men than women in the games industry but no inherent reason. This may change as the industry becomes less technical. Technical skills are decreasing because technology is making it easier (but not easy) to programme and creative skills are increasing
- Console games (e.g. XBox 360) are more profitable than PC games. The arrival of new consoles (PlayStation 3 etc.) has revitalised the games sector. The European and North American market is set to triple over the next five years to $28bn and the next three years will bring "buoyant growth" for the industry.
- The working environment has to be an environment where you can make mistakes, as these are crucial to development.
- The industry is very fast moving with constant technology developments, so you need to be a quick learner and to be someone who enjoys learning new skills.
- Only 20% of games are likely to make a profit, 40% are likely to break even.
- Salaries start from about £12,000 for quality assurance and testing roles, up to £25,000 for skilled artists, animators and programmers. Senior salaries can go up to £45,000 for project managers, producers and lead developers.
- Working hours can be long, especially when games are reaching completion, when 70 hour weeks including weekends may be required for a month or two.
Games TesterWorking as a games tester can be a good starting point. No qualifications are needed you just need to be an avid games player and willing to play games all day, testing a game for 3 months or longer and sometimes working long hours (which is the case for a lot of jobs in this industry). You need to have ideas on how you would improve an existing game or do it differently. Contact the Quality Assurance Managers at the larger publishing companies asking about games/QA testing posts. Involves:
- Finding bugs and clearly explaining the problem. You have to be dedicated and systematic.
- Editing or creating reports in a database such as MS Access, creating product assessment reports in a word processor.
- Need to be able to tell what makes a good game good and what could be done or improve a lesser game.
- Might get the chance to test in the developer's offices in the UK or abroad.
- Can progress to Senior and Lead Tester, and then move on to Level Designer and game production.
- Having a second language such as French or German is useful - could go from being a tester into a localisation role.
- Codemasters may have 30 people testing the same game for the final three months. A tester might be paid around £18,000 compared with an experienced producer, who can earn £40,000+.
- Testers can take an Information Systems Examination Board certificate in software testing to incease their job opportunities
- Dperry.com www.dperry.com has tips on getting in
- Sometimes vacancies are advertised via agencies such as www.datascope.co.uk.
- Involved in design (e.g. graphics, building models), game play (how the game actually plays), audio (how it sounds) and content.
- Normally need an Art background.
- Good Game Designers have all-round knowledge. Need to be able to use software packages such as 3DStudio Max, Maya, Lightwave (3D animation), Photoshop (image manipulation), Cubase (music software) or have used and created levels of such games like Quake, Half-Life, etc. with their respective editors.
- Need to be able to draw (technical skills are a bonus).
- Have to have an interest in using computer software.
- Need a portfolio or a show/animation reel (approximately 5-8 pieces of work). It' s OK to have examples on a website (but still likely to be asked to draw at interview). Selection is subjective, so good examples of your previous work are very important.
- Need some technical understanding but traditional artistic talent and creativity are very important.
- Starting Salary £14-15K (can increase significantly after 2 years to £20K)
- BBC Article Keeping Britain's special effects dream alive
- Working with state of the art machines probably a year or 2 ahead of what the public are buying - reflecting also the length of time needed to design a game.
- Looking for technical/logical ability. Not just Computer Scientists (also AI, Physics, Electronics Maths) as long as have knowledge of C, C++ (which is the first thing they will sift for in a CV).
- A science, maths or computer science background could help with some areas of complex modelling behind some games environments: much of the programming is very mathematical,
- Applicants for programming jobs may be sent a questionnaire with some programming/coding questions before interview.
- Starting salary £15-18K (more than creatives simply because there is a demand for programmers elsewhere and the hours may be longer) likely to increase to £22-23K after a couple of years.
Artificial Intelligence Jobs:
- Search for AI on the British Computer Society (BCS) Recruitment site www.bcsrecruit.com
- http://dmoz.org/Computers/Artificial_Intelligence/Companies lists companies engaged in AI
Getting a job in the industry
Put your gamer score on your CV, not what your grades in school are. Also, don't write cover letters that are 18 pages long. Give me bullet points.
- The games industry is very competitive: a demonstrable passion for games is required.
- Check the job adverts in publications like Edge and send speculative letters asking for voluntary work in the companies that advertise there. Get a reputation amongst gamers for building models for use in online games.
- A portfolio of your own work is a necessity for the computer games industry. Many of the smaller companies will recruit via games recruitment agencies (see below) due to the large numbers of applicants attracted by advertisements.
- Companies advertise vacancies in a variety of ways (e.g. Guardian for programmers, advertise on website, trade fairs).
- Some universities now run MSc's in games programming and computer animation. This is one way to develop your skills.
- Games Industry Biz www.gamesindustry.biz superb site covering all aspects of jobs in the computer games industry.
- Skillset have excellent pages on getting into the computer games industry www.skillset.org/games including a storyboard of the games development process.
- Edge magazine www.edge-online.co.uk advertise jobs at www.edge-online.co.uk/archives/recruitment/index.php
- The rise of the 'bedroom' developer (BBC article) www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-14516350
- www.daretobedigital.com excellent way to showcase your skills in the computer games industry)
- Blizzard http://eu.blizzard.com/en-gb/company/careers/index.html includes job profiles and “ How to Apply” tips in addition to actual vacancies
- The Association for UK Interactve Entertainment http://ukie.info
- International Games Developers Association www.igda.org News, careers information and links to regional chapters
- www.gamesindustry.biz Extensive employer directory,jobs and industry news
- www.learndirect-advice.co.uk Job Profiles > information technology & management > computer games developer
- www.developmag.com good source of news and jobs
Many companies use recruitment agencies. See www.kent.ac.uk/careers/multimedia.htm for a list of computer games recruitment agencies.
Computer Games Companies
- Electronic Arts http://jobs.ea.com Have recruited Kent graduates as games testers
- Blitz Games www.BlitzGamesStudios.com Based in Leamington Spa. Produced Chicken Run game. Have an extensive and up-to-date games careers information site at www.BlitzAcademy.com
- Codemasters www.codemasters.com Based near Leamington Spa and employs more than 400 people. Average age of the staff is 24. Has physics graduates who measure the speed, momentum and crash impact in racing games, Law graduates involved with celebrity contracts and licences, and automotive engineering graduates who design the structure of virtual racing cars.
- Eidos www.eidos.com
- Eutechnyx www.eutechnyx.com
- Jagex www.jagex.com Run the Runesoft on-line game and regularly recruit Kent graduates
- Rare www.rareware.co.uk includes job adverts. Require 2:1 or higher in Maths, Physics or Computing for games programming plus passion, self-motivation, and strong intellectual and creative skills plus an excellent track record in C/C++. West Midlands based. Run assessment days.
- Spiral House www.spiralhouse.co.uk
Also see our
- Multimedia Careers Page
- Computing Careers page
- Media Careers
- Creative Jobhunting
- Computing Applications and Interviews page
- How to write a Creative CV
- Example Creative CV. This is a colourful CV of a multimedia student which is more appropriate for advertising, PR, multimedia and other creative careers where a CV demonstrating design skills is important. Don't just copy this CV, but it may give you some ideas for a slightly more eye-catching layout than that found in our other CV examples. This is in MS Word format which you can download.
- Example Media CV. An excellent example of a media CV from a Humanities student. Very focused on TV with lots of examples of relevant experience. If you want a job in the media, read this. Also see the media covering letter.
- How to Create a Portfolio
- Tell Your Boss: Play Video Games, Work Smarter!
Last fully updated 2011