Video Game Designer Jobs – 3 Techniques to Stand Out and Get Hired
Is there a secret to getting a video game designer job? Is it attending the right game design schools? Hobnobbing at game industry networking events? Camping outside the offices of your favorite video game company? Getting incriminating blackmail photos of the Creative Director from the holiday Christmas Party?
Well, any of those methods might work but if you want a more reliable path to getting a game design job, first ask yourself a tough question – do you really want a job in game design? Are you willing to work – on your own time – to make your game designer dreams come true? Will you put in the blood, sweat and tears to stand out from the crowd and make an impression with a game industry manager?
If you can honestly answer “yes”, then continue reading.
Because, speaking from the other side of the hiring desk, I’ll tell you exactly what gets my attention. And isn’t how well formatted your resume is or how sparkling the prose of your cover letter. A professional resume and good letter are just assumed if you want to play this game. The real way you get a video game designer job is by showing me you are actually good at designing games SA Gaming.
Write a video game design document
Take a game you love (and preferably one I know) and write up a game design doc for it. Pretend you’re proposing something for an update or downloadable content. Document either a level or scenario.
Don’t write the game designer equivalent of War and Peace – you are not getting paid by the pound. The thicker your design document, the less useful it’s actually going to be. I’m looking for concise – but accurate – documentation of what you’re envisioning as the game designer. You’ll want to include a short summary sentence and then an outline of what you’re proposing. You want to talk about things like important game mechanics, key locations and starting points, enemies and monsters, points of interest and enemy placement. You might want to include some information about characters, dialogue style and background. Do this in something I can digest – say, two to four pages, and to a professional level of quality and I’ll be highly motivated to put you on my team.
If you get a job as a video game designer, you’re going to spend a lot of time writing. If you can’t write a good design document – you’ll have your work cut out for you in the game industry. You don’t need to be Shakespeare but you need to be able to communicate an idea clearly and relatively free of eye-melting grammar and spelling mistakes. If the idea of writing lots of game design docs fills you with dread, take a hard look at your future career as a game designer.
Design a game level or mod
Take an established game engine like Epic’s Unreal and build a level I can actually play. Demonstrate you have an understanding of guiding a player through an interesting play space, taking them from a beginning to end. Don’t design a giant maze – I’m not a lab rat. Don’t create a vast open plain – I’ve already visited Kansas. I’m interested to see you understand how the player interacts with the environment and the game systems. And if you’re a smart game designer, you’ll built in an engine my company uses in game development (for a company like BioWare, portfolios require a submission using the Aurora toolset).
You might even take that level and mod it. Impress me with your ingenuity in re-inventing an existing game. Depending on what you do, you’ll me a lot about the kind of video game designer you are. Do you care more about atmosphere and aesthetics? Innovative gameplay? There’s no right or wrong answer here – I just want to see your work.
Make your own video game
The best calling card for a video game designer job is to actually make a game. Watch how fast I run to HR if that’s what’s in your portfolio. And it’s probably not as difficult as you think. Investing now in technical skills makes you vastly more marketable as a game designer (even if you’re not the ultimate technical expert). Adobe’s Flash puts powerful tools to create video games in the hands of almost anyone. A more technically inclined prospective game designer might try their hand with the Unity engine or learn programming languages like Python, Perl or even C++. Heck, there’s even game building engines like Gamemaker that are practically point-and-click.
Your game doesn’t have to be an epic like GTA or Mass Effect – I’m just looking for a game that shows you understand how to create a game mechanic and engage a player. I’m not looking for super technical skills or amazing artwork – I’m looking for promise. Something that shows me you think like a video game designer.
Because coming up with the game idea is just the first step in a long journey for a game designer. If you take the initiative like this, you’ll convince me you’re serious about your career as a game designer.