Today’s guest post is by Rosemarie Gabinete.
Congrats on your graduation (or, as we like to say, Congradulations—feel free to use that one)!
If you did it right, college was an academic challenge and a time of great personal growth. It was a safe, happy time, a time in your life where, if you didn’t like a professor or a course or some classmates, you only had to deal with them for a few months—then everything about your day-to-day life would change.
You’ll come to miss those days if you don’t already.
But there’s time for reminiscing later. Now, life begins for real. If you don’t have a plan, things can seem scary, daunting and just . . . too dang real.
As long as you don’t need a two-year traveling hiatus for soul-searching, it’s time for you to start making some money with game design or game development.
So . . . how do you do that?
You’re at a fork in the road, and there are many path options available to you, so we’ll just cover a few of them.
Path #1: Apply and Apply (and Apply) Until You Land a Job
Surprise, surprise. There’s a job path, and many would argue it’s the most viable path.
As you start your quest for a job in the game creation field, it might be helpful to pivot your thinking. You’re not just looking for a job: you’re looking to build your career. This mental shift is important, as you’ll see in a bit.
Right out of college, your degree won’t mean much. It’s experience that your dream companies are after. A college degree is worth it, don’t get us wrong, but it’s not your golden ticket into a job. As you’ll soon find, a lot of jobs want to hire experienced game makers. But how do you get job experience if you can’t get a job without first having experience?
There are ways.
Did You Intern During College?
If you’re still in college and you haven’t tried your hand at an internship, then get one before you graduate. This is a great way to separate yourself from the rest of your graduating game design or development class.
If you didn’t intern anywhere, don’t sweat it. You still have a chance to impress. Enter: your portfolio.
Build the Best Portfolio You Can
Never stop making your portfolio better. It doesn’t matter if you had an internship or not. Your portfolio is going to be the key to landing a position without any post-grad experience. If you have a good-looking game featuring a neat idea and fun mechanics in front of hiring managers, they’re going to want to talk to you (and play your game!).
Ideally, your school has a senior thesis project or a capstone class. Make this count. It’s easy to get excited about the end of school, but don’t let senioritis affect your capstone project (save the slacking for Oceanography 101).
A strong portfolio proves you can do what you say you can do, and it is your most powerful tool for standing out to hiring managers.
Job Hunt Success Tip: Be Flexible
Now it’s time to apply to jobs, and here’s how you should do it: be flexible, be ready to work hard, and be ready to apply to everything that looks even half decent. Remember the mental shift from earlier?
You won’t get the best job right off the bat, but Tthat doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try for it! Apply to every position related to game making, even when your skills aren’t a perfect fit, and even when you don’t have the “required experience.”
Any game design job in the hand is worth a post-grad dream job in the bush (as the saying totally goes).
The more common path to a successful game making career is working in the industry for a few years before pursuing your dream opportunities in earnest.
And this is a good thing. It means that, by the time they offer that position to you, you’ll be ready.
The years you spend working in small roles, or at small studios, will develop your teamwork skills, your problem solving skills, and (of course) your game design and development skills. You’ll have a better idea of what your strengths are, and you can continue to hone them (and then showcase them to bigger, better employers).
Treat it like the opportunity for growth that it is–the first stepping stone in your career.
Path #2: Start Your Own Studio
This path is not for the faint of heart. Usually you’ll meet people in your professional career, grow chummy, and then you plan to open a studio (like Hello Games, the studio behind No Man’s Sky).
But maybe you’ve met some really talented people in school. Maybe you have friends further along in their careers and you have the venture capital to get the studio dream off the ground.
Would your studio be financially viable? Maybe not at first . . . it’s tricky business. But we’re not going to tell you it’s impossible.
Path #3: Freelance
Small companies are looking for artists, designers, writers, and programmers. And they’re turning more frequently to freelancers, rather than agencies or employees. This is good news if you want to cut your teeth on some small indie projects. You get paid, the project is finite (so if you don’t love it, you’re not stuck with the company after you finish), and you get industry experience.
The other advantage to this approach is that whoever is responsible for hiring you might be more easily impressed by your portfolio.
The Three-Pronged Fork—Which Path Will You Choose?
Three paths. One you.
Path #1 is the most worn. Path #2 is the most dangerous. Path #3 is the most free-spirited.
Now, which path will you follow? Which path did you follow? Let us know in the comments and share your thoughts with your fellow indie devs!
Rosemarie Gabinete is a freelance writer with a relentless love of words and an insatiable appetite for books, games, and popcorn.