Get Together With 505 Games - Top Tips For Students

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been thinking about what we can do with this blog space. OK, it’s a great place to keep our community up to date with the latest news and updates on our titles but as promised, we want to bring you closer to our team.

It became apparent that you guys enjoyed our ‘Get Together with 505 Games’ blogs, but we want to mix things up a bit. And this got us thinking… How about we start publishing blogs that revolve around a question from our community? Why don’t we give our players the opportunity to shape our articles around a topic that interests them? Well… Here we are!

Something we often see across social media are students asking for advice on getting into the games industry. We get it, it’s not easy. It honestly feels like yesterday when many of us were in that exact situation, looking to get out foot in the door. Today, we want to offer some personal advice from our team. We hope it helps and inspires you to keep pushing. Let’s get started…

QUESTION – What piece of advice would you give to someone in their final year of education, who is hoping to land their first role in the game industry?

My best piece of advice would be to network with others already in the industry. Get to know people that do what you want to do and find out how they got to where they are now. You will hear many different tales of paths into the industry. You can find many meetup groups and industry conferences all over the place, connect with people via LinkedIn and grow your network. You will find there are many people across this wonderful industry that are willing to mentor and offer advice. I am one of them!

I feel like I could write a full essay on this so this isn’t everything I have on the subject but here goes… You’re in your final year of uni or college or whatever level of education you are checking out from and you want to work in games. Here’s five bits of advice I think might help:

* Identify what you want to be/do and then look for an entry strategy. Might seem simple but a lot of people don’t seem to understand how vast the industry is. Sure your friend might have just landed a Junior QA role at Ubisoft and your Dad keeps asking you why you’re not making the next Call of Duty, but there are hundreds of developers and publishers for you to scope out. Check who is in your local area. It is OK not to start in your dream job, you’ll get there, but get through the door first. You’re not going to start at the top and that’s fine.

* If you want to work in art, design etc then make sure your showreel is up to scratch. Again this is pretty straight forward but very important. Make your showreel interesting, brevity is king and if you collaborated on work in your reel then make sure you clearly mark what you did. If you are able to then adapt your showreel for the studios you are targeting; a little research goes a long way! Do your best to keep on your uni’s software plan, if not then try to adapt your workflow to free software or even trial packages. No one is going to turn you away for submitting a kick ass piece of work in 720p with a big red watermark on it. Employers want you for you not your bank balance.

* It will probably take time, so don’t worry! Getting a job, any job, can be pretty hard nowadays. It is a war of attrition and it will suck big time. Download all the job apps to your phone and get used to firing off applications, resumes and reels all day every day. Don’t let the grind beat you, beat the grind instead!

* Get yourself out there on social platforms. You don’t need to have a billion followers on Twitter or even post regularly, but checking out social media might give you an edge in seeing who is hiring and what personalities might fit where. I barely post on social media because I’m an ancient Goblin, but if you are smart and can cut through the fields of chaff you can quickly identify trends and desirable approaches.

* Be okay with yourself. Stay with me on this. You’ve just completed the first stage of your life, you’ve been in education since before you even knew what was happening. You’ve been shunted from one level of expectation to another, always trying to achieve higher and higher. Education can be a never ending maelstrom of sleepless nights, crippling doubt and odd metrics that you are expected to line up against. So you’ve done all that and now you want to work in the anxiety inducing spiral of video games? Relax. Take time for you first. Go work in Subway for a bit, tend a beach bar in Skiathos or just sit about with some friends for a year. You don’t have to rush your life away. Get yourself sorted out before you jump into the next big chapter.

I hope the above helps! If you have any questions or if you ever feel unsure about anything when looking for a job then please contact me, I might not have the answer but I will have advice and reassurance. (@BrassEngineMatt on Twitter)

My advice to anyone wanting to get into games would be to think outside the box. There are soooo many different positions in this industry! Games studios not only need Artists, Producers, Community Managers, Marketing Managers etc, but IT Support, Lawyers, HR Managers, Finance Managers, etc.

To add to this, what does “games industry” actually mean? What about pursuing a role in an industry that works with studios? Translators or Photographers, Event Specialists, Audio Engineers and so on – there’s many roles out there at places that work directly with the “game industry”.

Oh and if you don´t land your the first job in your desired industry, so what?! That’s OK! This industry has developed in the last 25 years by career changers. Especially PR, Marketing and Sales, which is often performed by people from other industries. Lots of talented people like (let´s say for example) Creative Designers grew in their role through other industries, then only later entered the game industry with a wealth of experience, creating kick-ass trailers, game inlays etc.

When I (a Social Scientist) entered a role in PR for games, my colleagues had, once upon a time, been a Biologist and an Insurance Salesman. We formed a great team with the one that originally studied to become an Attorney at Law. We all had different origins but ended up in games! (Finally)

Just don’t give up, it’s never too late. If you really like what you do, you´ll find your way. Just stay open-minded and think outside the box!

Chances are, you will be a gamer just like every other potential applicant, so focus on selling the points about yourself that might set yourself above the rest: having a fantastic k/d ratio is unlikely to land you the perfect role, but you can adapt other areas of your gaming skillset to show off. Do you run a clan? Speak about how that makes use of your management and organisational skills. Do you submit content to a gaming site of some kind? That would be a great way to demonstrate your ability to work in a team and meet deadlines. Think about what your potential employer is looking for and then work back from there to see how (and of course “if”) your skill set can be matched nicely.

I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet…

* Network – Do this before you leave education. Try and get yourself to game events if you can. My first taste of industry life came about when I secured a 2 week work experience placement through a small local gaming event. That helped me get my foot in the door, no doubt about it! Don’t wait until you graduate.

* Use social media – Social media can be your friend (of course I’m going to say that, I’m a Community Manager) 😉 BUT in all seriousness, reach out to industry folk and please don’t be afraid to ask questions. We don’t bite, honest! If you want to reach out to me and ask questions, you can! (@AnimatedAnt – Twitter)

* Get ready to go! – Should an opportunity arise, prepare for it and get ready to move out if needs be. I had around 2 weeks to pack my bags and relocate after securing my first full time role in the industry. It’s scary, it’s daunting and it’s stressful BUT this is your prize for all the years of hard work you’ve put in. Grasp the opportunity with your hands and ride the wave. Trust me, it’s worth it.

* Don’t be afraid to change your mind – As mentioned in a previous blog and to quote… Never be afraid to try different things away from your goal! You might find that dream role, is actually not where you’ve been focusing your efforts, but elsewhere. I applied for a job as a 3D artist a few years ago and had to undergo a practical test as part of the interview process. Truth is, I just wasn’t happy during that time. It became very clear that something wasn’t right. This wasn’t what I was set out to do. At that point, I realised it wasn’t the field for me. Thankfully Community Management came about, and I found myself happy and thriving in that role.

* Do not underestimate group work – Seriously, don’t! We’ve all been there, right?! Group work is hard at college and university, but there’s a reason you do it. As I say often, team work really does make the dream work. The chances are, you’ll be working on games WITH a team when you land a role in the industry. Make the most of the experience at university. It’s there for a reason.

Be open minded. I’m now the happiest I’ve ever been and working in my dream role. It’s very weird, aiming for something for so many years then suddenly changing direction! Same industry mind you, just a very different field. Don’t ever be afraid to try out new things.

My best advice for someone looking to get into the game industry is to network, stay current, and learn as much as you can about the job and companies you want to work for. Nothing kills an interview faster than saying “I’m not sure…” to the “So what’s your favorite game of ours?” question! Also, depending on the type of position you’re aiming for, an online portfolio showcasing your skills, talents, and past work can speak just as loudly as a face-to-face interview.

Understanding company culture and values is also important, so if you know people who currently or formerly have worked where you’re applying, ask about things like that beforehand to determine if you would be a good fit and that a company’s mission resonates with you.

Personally, I found it quite difficult to find a job in the video games industry and admittedly, I didn’t start looking until I had gained experience in my field of expertise first. I worked at other companies for approx. 6 years before I finally got my first opportunity at 505 Games. This may not be the most common way to start a career in the games industry but hopefully this advice will help anyone who is looking to start a career in the industry – whether you are just leaving university or already in work and looking to get your foot in the door.

The main thing to do is to actually start looking for the opportunities – leave no stone unturned. Nearly every developer/publisher has a website where they share job listings so look for companies you are interested in working for. Outside of the obvious companies, make sure to explore the various video game specialist websites as they will post job listings for many different gaming companies, especially the places you will have probably never have heard of. Sites such as MCV, Gamasutra, Eurogamer, GamesIndutry.biz are all great places to keep an eye on. Once you have identified the opportunities that match you skills, then apply!

There is no room for bias in the application process. Remember to be confident – most people currently working in the industry are constantly learning due to how quickly the industry moves and enthusiasm can pay dividends in the hiring process. However, don’t be foolish! Do you homework on the role you are applying for and don’t assume playing 100 hours of video games a week will get you a job. Make sure you know about the company you are applying for, their products and how you might tackle your role if you were hired. Answering these types of questions will confidence will help put you in a good light when companies are considering you for a position.

There are other ways you can find jobs in the video games industry that I don’t have first-hand experience of but could help enhance your chances of finding a role in the industry. For example, Gaming Events can have areas dedicated to helping people find careers in the video games industry and also provide an opportunity to network with people already in the industry.

Do your research, be confident and apply for every opportunity!

Start small, have the vision and goals spread through time; strive for a Junior role in your desired department; you can also try joining another department to build up experience in the industry. Invest your personal time into refining your craft and learning more – 30+ minutes per day for long periods will add up. Whatever you put in, you can get out and you will not regret the investment, though you might regret not investing.

Network and learn from others, focus on their better traits. In the office, online on avenues such LinkedIn, with friends, relatives, acquaintances. I feel Quality Assurance is a good place to start and develop further into whatever you desire to be. Play your strengths while fortifying your shortcomings that need improvement. Believe in yourself, have patience and stay positive!

There you have it… A bunch of hopefully really useful info from a few members of our amazing global team here at 505 Games. We hope you enjoyed this blog and please, give us your feedback. We absolutely want to do more of these, answer more community questions and get more of our talented 505’ers involved.