How will I find a job as a game developer? I am very worried about this, because I am probably going to start a university degree in game design and development soon. But once I have everything and I'm ready to go, what do I do? Where do I find it? I have a huge fear of "my dream job" not being possible or safe, is it true what they say that studying and wanting to be a game developer isn't safe?
Assuming you’ve built a decent resume and feel confident enough in your skills to secure employment in the industry, you need to start approaching companies to convince them you’re worth hiring. There are many ways to apply for positions in the gaming industry. I’ll list the more common ones, ranked by the likelihood of getting a callback from lowest to highest. Most of this is via personal experience (I’ve got a lot of experience looking for work in the industry) and not statistical, so your mileage may vary.
#8. Unsolicited application with no opening listed via company website
You go to the company website you want to work for, don’t see any listings for something that might fit, but click the ‘Send us your resume anyway” link. I’ve think I’ve gotten a single response this way in all my situations looking for work. It’s better than nothing, but not much. This is the least likely way to get a response. Most of the time, it’s the equivalent of tossing your resume into the trash.
#7. Application to a posting on company website
This is usually where a lot of newbies try it first. Not really knowing where to go, they’ll write up a cover letter and send it with their resume to the company’s website for a specific job posting. Sometimes it works. Most times it doesn’t. Studio websites can often go for long periods of time without updating the job openings. I remember seeing the same openings listed at a studio website for weeks after they had massive layoffs. You might get lucky, but most of the time your response rate will be little higher than #8.
#6. Oh, I know a guy who works for…
A random friend might know somebody (who knows somebody) who works at a game studio, but not necessarily someone related to your field. This usually also ends up being a dead end since a friend of a friend might not have any insight or particular loyalty to a candidate who knows somebody who knows her. Unless that artist knows you and can vet you, this is only a slight step above “apply at the website” because that person really doesn’t have much reason to care. Without a reason to pull for you, your resume will most likely get put onto the pile with all the others.
#5. Application via specialized job aggregator sites (e.g. Gamasutra, Creativeheads, LinkedIn, Monster, etc.)
Applying via job aggregator sites is usually a step above applying via the company’s website. The benefit of going to a job aggregator is that you can see the posted update date, as well as see multiple postings from multiple potential employers in the field. It also means that the job opening is (most likely) live, because a recruiter from the hiring company actively posted those openings up to be filled. The older the posting, the less likely you’ll get a response.
#4. Recruiters at Job Fairs/Industry Events
The game industry will host events every so often like E3, GDC, Gamescom, etc. At some of these events like GDC, there will often be a recruiting section where studios with job openings will be accepting resumes and handling interviews behind closed doors for special candidates. Larger publishers or studios will also often host job fairs at local universities for things like internships for students. These present a great opportunity to interact directly with a human being who’s there to speak to candidates. You won’t always get a callback - it still depends on what openings they are hiring for and your experience level - but you’ll be able to shake hands with someone and ask questions of a real live person. You can also get some near-instant responses - if they want to talk to you, you’ll usually get an invite to come back to talk with a hiring manager, or possibly even an invitation to a party. Even if you don’t get these, it’s a good way to get your resume directly into the hands of hiring managers, especially those you may not have heard of or considered before.
#3. Industry Headhunters
There’s a number of staffing talent agencies out there who seek to match hiring managers with candidates. These headhunters get paid based on whether the opening gets filled, so they may push you towards jobs you may not necessarily want in hopes of getting you a job and get paid. That said, they have direct connections to hiring managers and their paycheck hinges on getting you a paying job, so they are a good way to find a job at a studio that needs someone with your skillset. It might not be a studio you were thinking of, or the job you imagined, but headhunters are a great way to get opportunities that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.
#2. Studio Recruiters
Sometimes the recruiters will reach out to you. This usually doesn’t happen to people looking for entry level jobs, but even a single shipped game or some amount of relevant experience will get you the occasional recruiter looking to fill an opening. If they contact you, it will generally be because you posted your information somewhere liked LinkedIn and they think you might be a decent fit as a candidate for an opening they have.
#1. A friend on the inside
Similar to #8 above, but when you actually know somebody who works at the studio (optimally in a development capacity) and can vouch for you. This is probably the best way to make sure that your resume gets seen by the right person, and often it’s a win-win situation since your friend will likely get some sort of monetary bonus if you get hired. That said, this isn’t available for everybody. It’s just the way you have the highest chance of getting a response.
Overall, it’s really about finding the companies that are hiring, and matching up your expertise with the right opening. As with any beginning endeavor, try to avoid being super picky right out of the gate. You might have your heart set on working for Blizzard, Bioware, Ubisoft, Rockstar, Bethesda, or some other famous AAA studio, but there are a lot of other people who want to work for them too. Concentrate on finding a job and building your experience and skillset instead of holding out for your dream job right out of the gate. And remember - even if you get a callback about a possible job, you still need to actually pass the tests and interview process to get the offer. This is just the initial approach to the entire process of the job hunt.