My publisher asked me to provide some advice for students hoping to enter the field of game development. Here are my tips:
1. Stay informed. Follow industry blogs and other outlets such as Develop Magazine, Edge Online, Gamasutra, and GamesIndustry.biz. Keep up with the current trends, game launches, and all the “players”—including publishers, development studios (large and small), and hardware manufacturers.
2. Know yourself. Explore different game development roles—such as artist, designer, programmer, sound designer, tester, and producer. Understand why you decided to study game development in the first place. What are your strengths? The game development process can be a grueling experience at times—so you’d better love what you do! Don’t pursue just any game development position; only focus on those you can imagine doing everyday.
3. Explore more. This might seem like it’s diametrically opposed to #2 above, but consider expanding your horizons by stepping out of the box and trying something new. If you’ve never experimented with sound, make some field recordings and edit them. If you’ve never written dialogue, create a scene featuring two characters that are extremely different from you. Take a chance on something new.
4. Show off. When you’re ready to knock on doors, so to speak, you’d better have something that will “wow” prospective employers. Make sure your online portfolio is impeccable—and devoid of spelling errors and clunky layout snafus. Don’t create a “cookie cutter” system that looks like every other game portfolio out there. This is the time to focus on your strengths—while letting your personality shine through!
5. Don’t wait. Why wait until you graduate when you can get a head start with an internship or project? If your school has an internship program, participate in it. If there’s a special course that allows you to work on a real-world team project, take it. If there’s a game development club at school, join it. If none of the above is readily available, create your own opportunities. Participate in a contest such as the Independent Games Festival. Start a side project and scout for team members online. Make it happen!
(A version of this article was originally published in the Cengage Learning Blog on March 8, 2012.)