Are you looking to break into games or starting your games career? With this blog, I will cover how I was able to break into the industry, along with sharing some helpful learning resources, game communities, and resources to help find jobs.
If you're in a rush or just want to get straight to the point, check out the TLDR section at the bottom of this article :)
My Story: How I Got Started
There are several different ways to break into the industry and it can be a mix of luck, hard work, and networking. Today I'll share how I did it and hopefully, that may help give some insight or be helpful to you!
To give some context, I went to school for Game Design at the University of Central Florida. There, I was active in my university's game dev club and was also involved in an organization that brought together the local indie game community. I wasn't that involved early on because I was busy with university classes. I mostly went to the occasional meetup and spoke to some of the local devs.
During this time I started exploring Discord communities and joined a bunch of indie game dev ones. A majority of them had job boards for volunteer work and through one of these boards, I reached out to one developer. I let him know I was a game design student and wanted to volunteer my time to get experience.
Luckily he said yes and decided to take me on! The indie game studio worked on mobile games so it gave me an early look at mobile game design and what development looked like. This went on for a couple of years. The developer mostly wanted to get some fresh ideas and get help with testing. So I worked on sending multiple game pitches, one eventually got chosen by the team and went into development. It was also recognized as an indie prize finalist at Casual Connect Asia in 2018. So that was an early credit I could add to my resume and portfolio while still in university!
Towards the middle of my academic career, I started getting more involved in the local game dev community by attending meetups more regularly. I also began participating in online and in-person game jams (some being hosted by the local game dev community). Along the way, I started making friends with the people who ran the local game dev organization (it was called Indienomicon btw).
As I got to know the people who ran it, we all became friends and I ended up joining the board, helping to manage their social media, and coordinating the events and meetups. There I met my first-ever mentor, Kyle, (though he probably didn't realize it at the time :P) If you're reading this Kyle, HIIIII!
At the time, Kyle had a startup called 302 Interactive that had just been formed with his childhood friend Bobby, who also ended up being an awesome mentor for me, and mentioned how he needed help with a little bit of everything. We talked and I explained how I was happy to volunteer here and there to get some experience while in university. I ended up helping with designing their website, handling social media, and as the studio started getting contracts, helping out with design on AR / Gaming experiences (and started to get paid to do it!)
Time passed, and as graduation was nearing I started putting together my work from my student and volunteer work, game jam projects, and solo projects. Luckily, thanks to all my volunteer work and game jams, I had quite a bit of experience and projects under my belt that I could add! I also put together a resume and was feeling confident about my experience when applying. Sadly, nothing clicked!! I was able to get interviews with big companies, such as PlayStation and Gameloft, and got fairly far in some of the hiring processes. I even managed to take some design tests, but to no avail. I was starting to get worried, thinking about how I would have to move back home. What if I couldn't break in!? I kept trying, improving my portfolio however I could, and kept applying for jobs.
A couple of months before my graduation Kyle reached out and asked if I had any jobs lined up. The answer was a whopping no :( and shared how disappointed I was. He then mentioned his studio was getting more and more contracts and asked if I'd be interested in a part-time design analyst position. To which I said...HECK YES!!
And that's how I got my first official paid gig in the industry. I went on to work at 302 for close to 4 years, moving from part-time to full time then getting promoted from design analyst to game designer. During that time the studio also grew from 3 to 15 team members!! The studio is still growing today and their working on some pretty cool stuff.
Get involved in your local game dev community, if you don't have one check out online ones! I'll list a few under Game Dev Resources below.
Network! Like REAL AUTHENTIC networking, not just checking out someone's job title and thinking if they are 'worth it.' No matter someone's title, anyone at a company could help with getting you a foot in the door. Learn more about this in my 'Authentic Networking' blog.
Do projects outside of school. I've seen a lot of portfolios with students that went to the same university that worked on the same project. Although it's still good to have student work in your portfolio when you're starting out, try to diversify your portfolio so it doesn't look too similar to others. This will help you stand out, because yes...we do notice!
Working with Indies and Small Companies can be a great way to get your foot in the door and help you get the experience you need to get into your dream company
Game Dev Resources
Below are some helpful resources to learn more about game design and other areas of game development:
Game Design Wiki - A collection of resources for game designers
Great sites and resources for finding jobs:
Discord Game Dev Communities
Game Jam resources:
Thanks for reading and stopping by! I hope this article was helpful. What other topics would you like to hear about? Let me know by leaving a comment or @deana_isabel on Twitter :)