From understanding the art of collaboration to keeping on top of new platforms such as Facebook's Open Graph, two gaming professors share their tips for breaking into the games industry.
The news that the government is looking to drive ICT in education, as outlined by the Next Gen Skills campaign announced in November, will be welcomed by the UK computer games industry which is crying out for new talent to support a resurgence in gaming.
Personal gaming is on the rise, spurred by increased smartphone and tablet adoption, and gaming is being increasingly incorporated into digital media and advertising. The campaign aims to drive growth and maintain the UK as a hi-tech leader, which will aid the continued development in the computer games industry.
Know your bits-and-bytes
First and foremost, employers like to see fundamental computer science skills. Many games studio interviews will feature a C++ test and will probe the understanding of fundamental bits-and-bytes computing, such as 'linked lists' and 'bit twiddling'. To prepare, you can download Visual Studio C++ Express for free from Microsoft and begin game programming right away on a PC. To help build a general knowledge about programming, we recommend Jason Gregory's 'Game Engine Architecture' and Donald Knuth's 'The Art of computer programming' – which offers a thorough introduction to bits and bytes. For younger game developers, the project 'scratch' from MIT media lab is an excellent tool for learning programming without writing text.
Exploit new platforms
With new platforms constantly emerging, such as game engines, browser-based technologies such as Google's Native Client and a steady rise in internet APIs such as Facebook's Open Graph, developing an understanding of these platforms can ensure you stay ahead of the curve. This knowledge will demonstrate to a potential employer that you are a ready-made expert that does not require too much training.
Broaden your skill set
Successful students will not only be able to show-off their creative flair, but will also possess technical and basic management skills. Creating a shiny demo is no good if no one gets to see it – artists need to know a little programming and programmers need to know a little art. To get a job as a games designer you will face stiff competition, but knowing how to code will put you on top of the list. For programming jobs
, basic maths, physics and engineering skills are always in demand.
Collaboration is key
In the games industry, it is essential to be able to collaborate and work well as a team. Understanding others' skill sets and how they complement your own is key. Most university courses will encourage students to work in a team and offer collaborative modules – draw on experience gained during your university studies to demonstrate you are a team player.
Have you made a game yet?
Get creative; if a traditional CV doesn't fully display your talents, then submit a website that contains your portfolio and demonstrations of your work. The games industry will be looking for evidence that you are passionate about gaming – have you made a game? If so, make it available to download from your website. How entrepreneurial have you been? Whether or not your game has been successful, getting it to market is half of the battle and potential employers will admire your determination. Today, there are many routes to making games public – take advantage of these.
Experience, experience, experience
Graduates are often refused positions due to lack of experience and are left frustrated that they cannot get their foot in the door. To counter this, universities are increasingly offering placements across some of the UK's most exciting gaming institutes. Students should work with their lecturers – many of whom will still be working (part-time) in the industry – to secure work placements and gain valuable experience ahead of graduation.
By building contacts within the industry, students will ensure they are first to hear about internships
and upcoming roles. There are a number of industry focused conferences, such as Develop in Brighton
and the London Games Festival, that offer students an opportunity to network and build their contact base. Students should take advantage of any professional organisations their university is a member of, such as Tiga
, and there are also free bodies that students can join, such as Igda
– these will help students network and connect with peers.
Professor Frederic Fol Leymarie and Professor William Latham, co-directors and co-founders of the MSc Computer Games and Entertainment at Goldsmiths, University of London.