So You Want To Get A Job Making Video Games

Hands holding Sony Playstation PS3 controller

I have been a gamer my whole life and have lots of ideas. How do I get a job making video games?

Every once in a while someone approaches me with that question and I appreciate the passion. Last weekend I had the opportunity to share some thoughts with a handful of high school and college students at an informal gathering at Kingston MakerSpace. All of them were avid gamers interested in what they would need to do to prepare for a career in the industry.

Whether you are an experienced professional trying to break into the games industry or a student starting your career, you should watch the video So You Want To Work In Video Games. If you appreciate what the big robot has to say about the industry and still want to be a part of it, then here are some of the things to prepare. None of this is rocket science or specific to any one company. These tips are to help get you thinking about how to prepare yourself for a potential opportunity in the industry.

A Relevant Portfolio

If you are an artist, animator or designer, the first thing we look at is your portfolio. Since we are looking for potential fits with our projects, we are looking for examples that show that you can work in our style. So, if you are able to work in a variety of different styles, showing it in your portfolio will potentially open up more opportunities. If you are working in a different industry, it will be important to show personal projects that relate to video games.  For Programmers, being able to show us work you have coded in our languages and engine(s) will help show us you can do what we need you to do. There are versions of our tools available to people outside the industry, so you can easily learn the tools of the trade at home. For Producers, we will want to know about your past projects and your leadership capabilities.

Show Us How Your Experience Relates To What We Do

This even applies to students. We want to know how your career-related experience relates to what we do. A quick Google search on “game development process” or “game production pipeline” will bring up a variety of resources. If you are targeting a particular company, check their website for this information so you will be able to relate your experiences using their terms. No matter the position, we will want to know how you deal with an ever-changing environment, respond to (subjective) feedback on your work and experience working with diverse teams. Connect the dots for us and show us how what you have done has prepared you to work in the games industry.

 Teamwork, Teamwork, Teamwork

While we want you to showcase your personal skills and achievements, we also want to know about how you work with teams. Game development requires multi-disciplinary teams to work together and understand each other, even if they have vastly different communication styles. The more examples you can share about your teamwork experience, the better.

Passion Counts

All this being said, a passion for video games does count a lot. Contrary to popular belief, we do not spend all day playing video games. When we do play at work, we are analyzing what we are playing, either to improve what we see in our own game or to understand what other games are doing. Explain to us why you like a particular game and give us some thoughtful analysis on the design or in your particular area of expertise. In addition to having a passion for games, we also need to see your passion for what you do. We sometime get candidates outside of design disciplines who want to get into the industry to be able to design their game. While we appreciate good ideas from all disciplines, you also need to be passionate about your own role in making games because that is what we are hiring you to do.

For more information on working in video games, check out these posts:


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About Liza Wood

After a dozen years leading video game development projects in a variety of roles, I decided to pursue a Master of Data Science at the University of British Columbia. Studying data science doesn’t mean I’m moving away from leading people. Growing data science teams need collaborative, pragmatic, Agile leadership to connect data to all areas of the business. I would like to share that point of view, along with my experiences, on this blog.

View all posts by Liza Wood

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2 Comments on “So You Want To Get A Job Making Video Games”

  1. Marc-Antoine Says:

    Salut Liza!

    À propos de la passion ; mon point de vue tout à fait subjectif est que dans le discours public ont dit beaucoup aux candidats que la passion des jeux est importante – je pense que la passion de son métier/art l’est encore plus. Comprendre les limitations techniques spécifiques au domaine n’est pas si difficile, c’est la maîtrise des techniques de base directement transférables qui fait trop souvent défaut. Entre celui qui passe ses soirées à jouer et un autre qui code un allocateur de mémoire (ou fait un film d’animation, ou gère un projet complexe, ou peint, etc.) je préfère engager le second. L’opinion du premier est de toutes façons amplement représenté dans nos rangs.

    Pour le portfolio je ne pourrais pas être plus d’accord! On engage des artisans qui devront travailler sur de gigantesques fresques et on leur demande en entrevue de nous faire 10 croquis différents en 30 minutes. Il n’y a pas beaucoup de ce qui compte pour vrai dans les trois premières minutes 🙂 Vous êtes passionnés? Montrez-moi ce que vous faites de cette passion. Comme le diable est dans les détails, montrez-moi les vertex, le code, les dialogues. Si tout appartient à votre employeur, c’est une job que vous avez, pas une passion.


    • Liza Wood Says:

      Hi Marc-Antoine,

      I agree that candidates have to have passion for their job and show that through their personal projects. I guess I should have been more direct in making that statement:

      If you are trying to break into the industry, you should work on related projects at home and include those in your portfolio. While it is not mandatory, it is the best and easiest way to show us the relevance of your skills to what we do and gives you an advantage over your competition who doesn’t do that. The important thing is to find ways to show us that relevance.

      However, I won’t go as far as saying passion for what you do is MORE important. The reason is that when people get more caught up in their craft they lose sight of the product, which may cause the overall product to suffer. The game is what we are ultimately creating and selling and we must not lose sight of that.

      (For readers outside of Montreal, you’re getting a glimpse of how communication works here 🙂 )


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