Going for the direct approach, there’s some must-do’s in game development you have to get going on before you can achieve success. We’ve stated this before, but we’ll do it again to emphasize the point: game development careers are molded to filter out the weak. To get a stable job, you need to network, put your pride aside, and be patient. You also need to be hardworking, dedicated, and willing to sacrifice a lot. You need to believe a lot, because other people will zoom right by with better careers—and more money—for years before you get to solid footing. The good news? You can also reach success, at a job you love, with people that make you happy, if only you keep at it. Dedication proves fruitful in the end.
However, there are three major steps you absolutely have to do along the way first, otherwise, there is no career in games. Are you on the right track? Let’s find out.
You Must Lay The Groundwork Through Networking
Network more than you think you should. That means attending conventions and events, reaching out to people on Twitter, and ensuring at least one or two people know who you are at every major gaming staple, like magazines. If they know you’re alive and add you back, you got a network of contacts to ask questions to, and offer a hand if you need help. They’d rather hire someone they know, so they can go, “Hey, that one person I know! They’d be perfect for this position.”
Oh, but don’t make the mistake of not giving back. If they’re a contact, so are you. If they ever need help, like a reference or testimonial, make sure you’re ready and able to help them out. Favors are a great way to ensure success.
You Must Anticipate A Bottom-Feeding Position—For A While
We cannot stress this enough: be super ready to start from the bottom. That means taking on projects that you don’t believe in and others you just plain hate. Indie and QA are filled with people trying to break into the industry and make games for a living.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with being a bottom-feeder! The more work you do for games, the more you’ll start to actually be a game developer! Your skills improve, and you learn the ropes this way. That’s why studios never hire people fresh out of college. They don’t have the time to train you on everything. They’re busy trying to meet a deadline!
Use this time to build yourself up as a developer, gain experience, and most of all, craft a hefty portfolio. Fill it with all sorts of goodies you love, such as games you’re proud of launching, concept art (if you draw), and more. We have an entire article dedicated to the components of a portfolio, so make sure to check it out!
It is also important to note one more thing regarding starting off small: don’t feel terrible if a few years go by and you’re still “on the bottom” either. To craft a promising, amazing portfolio, you need time. The best things aren’t rushed. Would you want to live in a house that was quickly built, or one that had proper craftsmanship go into it? As a creative, you should cherish the crafting process, not resent it. Think of it as an adventure!
No, Don’t Quit Your Day Job! Don’t!
In the same token, don’t quit your day job. Just don’t. If you already did, call them back, or start putting in applications for another job. Making money as a game developer is entirely possible, but getting to that point is intense work, with little to no pay. You essentially have to sacrifice five years just to land a decent job with a salary. That means five years of building a portfolio with a ton of underpaid, or unpaid, work as indie, while trying not to starve.
Day job, here come the future game developers!
There’s a few things every aspiring game developer has to do, like network, and start with small potatoes, but the glory does eventually come around. Truth is Rome wasn’t built in a day—if it had been, it wouldn’t have made the cut into history books. Keep at it, stay dedicated and charming as ever, and always, always look for ways to improve on your skill set. Never give up!