It’s a classic catch-22. To get a job in the game industry you’ll need experience, but the only way to get experience is by getting a job in the game industry. Right? Well, not quite.
I’m sure you’ve all seen job adds that require a specific number of years experience with some specific technology, or general industry experience. Many new graduates are immediately discouraged from applying for these positions. But just because you haven’t worked in a game studio yet doesn’t mean you don’t have the experience required or the skills the employer is looking for.
Each course at AIE is specifically designed to meet current industry needs. As a full-time student, the two years you spend making games in an academic setting is as close as you can get to working in a real studio. Your major project, the capstone of the course, is your chance to demonstrate that you have all the skills necessary to work in a team and produce a professional product – and it does count towards ‘industry experience’.
From an employer’s perspective, the requirement for industry experience is really there to filter out those applicants who haven’t (and presumably don’t know how to) apply their skills to making games.
Consider the computer science student who has graduated with some degree of competence in programming, can make windows applications or perhaps even an app, but has never made a game. Programming for games requires specific knowledge in a range of areas and tools. A computer science degree student may not be games-industry ready, but an AIE student most certainly will be. The same is also true for the design and art stream students.
I would say that new graduates of AIE courses already have the equivalent of 1-2 years of industry experience. That might be enough to get you over the line in terms of your application, but there is still more you can do to boost your industry experience.
Any potential employer is going to favour any applicant that has made a game, and the more games you’ve made the better. But we don’t need to work in a studio to make games. All that really matters is your game is out there, can be played, and is at least as good as the worst game on the app store (which is actually a pretty low bar).
If you’ve made a mobile game for your major project, release it. If it’s a PC game, package it up in a professional release for people to download and play. Then, regardless of the platform you’ve developed for, enter it into as many competitions as possible (the GCAP Student Showcase, the Game Developer World Championships, and Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play competitions come to mind).
Enter as many game jams as you can, and then add those games to your portfolio (even if they’re bad, they will still show a level of technical competence). Make a couple of mobile games on your own and release them to the app store of your choice. Polish your school assessment pieces and publish those.
My point is, if you’re graduating and you don’t have at least one game (that you’ve contributed significantly to) to show an employer, you’re on the back foot.
With your AIE Diploma and a few self-published games under your belt, you’ll be able to convince any employer that your skills and experiences are an equivalent match for their requirement for 2 or 3 years of industry experience.
by Sam Cartwright