Top Tips For Aspiring Games Designers
The video game industry is an exciting and expanding modern industry that is attracting many creative people from all over the world. Due to the increasing competition for job roles it can be a difficult process, so here are a few broad tips:
Deciding your role
Initially you may not know what area of games design you will be best suited to. Ask yourself these questions:
“What do I enjoy about games?” “Am I artistic?” “Am I good at problem solving?” “Do I enjoy making sure everything is in working order?” “Am I a good a programming?” or “Do I have a keen interest in sounds and audio?”
These questions might help you decide on one of these broad categories of game design to enter:
- Quality Assurance (Testing)
Of course all of these areas can be broken down further; you may have a talent or passion for writing stories, level design etc.
Researching the Roles
The best way to start, like most things, is to research. If you want to become a level designer for instance a great way to find out what is required is to look at current job roles available as they will often list exactly what is required from the person they seek.
*Tip* Gather five or more of the job roles and their requirements and collate them together, from here you can see what you need to focus on at a personal level and an educational one.
In your free time it is essential to network with peers similar to yourself. Set up a LinkedIn account and connect with anyone and everyone related to your line of field, join groups and discussions and stay current – the games industry is a fast moving one and ever changing so staying up to date is essential.
Forums are a great place to meet people similar to yourself and also establish industry professionals. Use them to your advantage and learn of each other, ask questions, post work for feedback etc. There are some excellent forums out there that include:
Polycount – http://www.polycount.com
3D for Games – http://www.3d-for-games.com/forum/
Game Artisans – http://www.gameartisans.org/forums/index.php
*Tip* Make your favourite forum your home page and get the latest news and opinions.
If you are still at school you can help put yourself on the road to becoming a games designer by selecting relevant courses. For example a writer would choose English A-levels and perhaps Media Studies, an artist could choose Art, ICT, Graphics etc. If you’re a thinking of heading to University make sure you visit any of the ones you consider and find out everything you can by the course, especially is it producing a first class show reel of its students, are they getting jobs after Uni and what is its facilities and dropout rate like. If you feel you have made a mistake in your course choice, most courses will allow you to make a switch so bare that in mind.
If you are not in education and do not fancy it, do not worry. A games Design job is still very much achievable through the points mentioned here and especially your portfolio.
Building a Portfolio that gets you your job
There is a vast amount of information on portfolios out there, online and in books. Spending the time perfecting your portfolio cannot be overstated. You have to keep it current and show only your best work. Your portfolio will land you your interview so make sure it is up to industry standard. Best way to see if it is, play games, look at other peoples portfolios but never ever copy.
Produce an online portfolio, a .zip portfolio for email, a printed copy and also a disc version for post. Remember it is key to only include your best work – do not pad it out with everything you’ve ever done. If you look at some of your work and think “I could do that better?” do it. Put your favourite work at the front as recruiters will often only scan the first few pages. There are many more tips I could provide for creating a professional and stand out portfolio but the best thing for you to do is make it and perfect it from feedback by others, such as friends, family and most importantly industry professionals on online forums and internet discussions.
Hopefully with these tips you have acquired some new knowledge on what direction you should take to becoming a games designer. Work hard always asking for feedback and that dream job will be right around the corner.
Socialise, Be Friendly and Help Others
There will inevitably be a point in your career when you require help from somebody else. Quite often this will be when you are looking for a job. This is why it is so valuable to make connections with people. After all it is more about who you know than what you know. The reputation you build with your colleagues and the recommendation they may provide in the future can far outweigh that of your CV or portfolio.
Make the Most of Learning – Work Experience
One of the most valuable top tips for aspiring Game Designers is without question knowing the first week and month of your first every professional game designer job will be more insightful then all of your education. You will learn so much more by being thrown into the deep end, being forced to learn from the studio’s environment producing quality work to deadlines under pressure. Get into work experience for a professional game company as soon as you possibly can.
Always Update Your Portfolio
It is very important for you to constantly update your portfolio. If you have just started out as a game designer and received your first job then you’ll know how crucial it was to help you land that job. But now that you have the job you may put your portfolio to one side and neglect it. This is a huge mistake. You never know when you will need to once again look for work in this competitive industry but also you will need to stay on top of your skills and always develop new ones. Every few months take a look online and evaluate other people’s current work and see if yours is leading the highest standard. Having a consistent, up-to-date portfolio is one of the crucial top tips for aspiring Game Designers.
Know What You Are Worth
Another one of the top tips for aspiring Game Designers is to know exactly what your value is for your skills. When you first start out as a game designer looking for work it can be hard to know what price tag to put on your work, especially if your are working freelance. Make sure you do plenty of research and remember that depending on the type of work, the country and the city prices can fluctuate quite drastically.
Do Not Specialise In Areas That You Don’t Enjoy
Becoming a game designer is a great job but there will be times were it gets very stressful, especially during the infamous crunch period. You will most likely be doing a lot of overtime and will need all the passion you can muster up to hit the deadlines. This is why it is important to make sure that you love the work that you do because if you are good at something you will be assigned to do it. If you don’t enjoy it then only you and/or your work will suffer. You can get some career advice for your chosen area here at the National Careers Service.
By Joshua Brown