Study: UK games industry struggling to find staff

Games sector is only UK tech area short of skilled graduates says e-skills UK

A report from e-skills on the needs and concerns of the UK technology industry has revealed that the gaming sector appears to be struggling to find appropriate graduates - something which isn't troubling other tech areas.

All other industries rated the availability of graduates very low on the list of concerns in the report, but for the games sector it was rated as the third biggest worry.

Two thirds of companies had problems recruiting staff this year, the report claims, with most predicting an increase in demand not only for the number of skilled staff required, but also their level of skill and experience.

"The UK has always punched above its weight globally in new technologies, and the digital economy is vital to the economic growth of the country in the future," said UK industry veteran and Blitz Games CEO Phillip Oliver.

"Video games will be the primary entertainment media of the twenty first century and growth in this sector and other digital sectors will only be powered by a constant flow of fresh, talented, highly skilled technical & creative staff."

Despite those concerns, the report paints a relatively positive outlook for the nation's development and publishing companies, with two thirds of respondents predicting a stable or increasing company turnover over the next twelve months.

The report estimates there being 100 UK workplaces related to the publishing of video and computer games, from 144,000 for tech industries as a whole.

Latest comments (74)

Joshua Cartlidge Marketing Analyst, Rebellion6 years ago
And yet, despite having a degree in a related subject and some work experience within the industry, i've struggled to get any job within the games industry. While I have done some freelance work with SEGA (mostly at my own expense) many jobs cited my lack of experince for reason of me not getting a job after the interview stage, yet it is impossible to get the experience when you are expected to have it before entering the indutry.

it has been 2 years now, and I am still looking for a job (I thankfully do have a job to survive on, but it is not what I want tto be doing, sadly it honestly seems that while I have my foot in the door of the industry it will never let me in full time)
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Tom Joyce Independent developer, Plus Good Games6 years ago
As a recent graduate, from my own experience I really don't think the issue is that the gaming sector is "struggling to find appropriate graduates", the problem is that the gaming sector is struggling to find seasoned professionals with several AAA titles and 3+ years of industry experience under their belts, whilst over looking graduates and other new talent.

If I had a pound for every time I received a rejection from studios and design companies (even games industry recruitment agencies) on the basis that although I'm well qualified and have a nice portfolio, I simply didn't have enough experience... I'd be comfortable for a fair while! (This includes applications for "graduate" and "junior" roles!)

I was lucky enough to be able to land a role within a new-startup development studio. Ideally I'd have liked to started my career off under the wing of a more established company but as I've mentioned, despite a long list of qualifications and a good portfolio, I just cant find a company who WANTS to employ graduates.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tom Joyce on 5th October 2011 11:54am

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Kyle Hatch Software Engineer, Pennant International Services LTD6 years ago
copy paste what the two people above said. after i got my degree in computer games tech at Abertay, i tried to get a job. barely getting any interviews and when i did getting the usual lack of experience reply. So i went to do the masters, giving me a chance to do more work, more projects and work with more people. Did a couple placements, BBC was great...did Dare to be digital.

Admittedly i made a couple mistakes along the way. but out of uni, worked hard on an expansive portfolio and code knowledge....for my extra years of trying....I've got more interviews, just the same replies, not enough experience in X. So i go away and do more projects. the hunt continues :)

Other tech areas are probably benefiting from excellent games programmers/designers/artist who got tired of work 10-15 hours a day trying to get a job in our industry and joined the masses elsewhere. Not prepared to do that....yet.
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Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts6 years ago
I hired quite a few Graduates recently and the quality for Software Engineers has actually been very good. We found it harder to hire strong Art Graduates although did secure a good candidate. What you might be finding is that I dont see as many Design graduate roles. We do have junior roles content editors, level integrators etc... which do suit those with less experience but I havent seen so many graduate type roles on thier own merit (Im talking industry wide not EA specifically).

One thing I have noticed is that the quality and relevance of the Degrees varies a great deal. Generalist Game Developer degrees especially vary in usefulness to the industry and sandwich degrees need to be more common as they have a greater degree of value due to the industry experience they offer.

If you want to be a Software Engineer, go and do a Degree with lots of C++ as the bulk of roles on boxed titles at least require this knowledge,. We often see candidates come from supposed SE courses but they have very weak C++ skills. It doesnt have to be a Games industry specific degree either. We also want to see what projects candidates have done, source code and a good body of work is essential.

If you want to be an Artist its your portfolio which will get you your role so pick a degree which will allow you to develop the skills to deliver great Art work. Whether that be Concept, Environments or Characters. The same applies to animation its you body of work which shows of your skills and talent.

I know off 8 Graduates we have employed in the last 4 months and Im still looking for Graduate Software Engineers and a Graduate producer so the roles are out there! We also already have approval for more in the new year so hires are happening out there
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Tom Joyce Independent developer, Plus Good Games6 years ago
"These people will sometimes take on entry level jobs to keep ticking them over. I have seen that happen in the past where a person with several years experience got a junior job."

I've heard this too. Sadly, I do imagine that some of these "entry-level" positions will actually be targeted at experienced but out-of-work professionals, essentially getting a highly-skilled employee, for a low-skill wage. Employers (in most industries at the moment) can afford to be picky with so many out of work. Taking those with proven track-records and passing up on potentials. Considering the economy is iffy at the moment, it sounds like a safe option for those holding the money.

@Lewis Brown
I've actually been told by several in-industry sources as well as graduate-applicants that EA have a firm "We don't employ graduates" policy. Worrying if at all true!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tom Joyce on 5th October 2011 12:37pm

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship6 years ago
As supporting evidence for Andreas' comment to graduates, the quality of junior hires at my old studio was uniformly excellent. I say this not to do down or criticise graduates who've not managed to secure a job yet, more a rejoinder to the assertion that they don't hire graduates or people without experience.

In my experience, they do, they can just be very, very picky, because there is a massive oversupply of gaming-related graduates relative to the number of jobs available. You're up against massive competition, the top echelon of which is very, very good.
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James Battersby Developer, Blue Beck6 years ago
When I was looking the vast majority of positions open at studios were Lead/Senior positions only and even some of the junior/entry positions even asked for AAA experience. Couple that with studios closing down and when they do, the developers are snatched by their friends at other studios (see Realtime Worlds, Bizarre Creations and Codemasters). The impression graduates get from the industry when they finish is that they just don't care due to the lack of experience.

Guys, the grads KNOW they don't have the experience, they've been in education the whole time. But they're eager to learn and they can do so VERY quickly - some people will have come from nothing to something in 1/3/4 years, covering as much as varied ground as possible whether that is programming, art, design. With the way things are going now, they'll take anything.

I was fortunate that my masters is accredited by SkillSet which has to be approved by indsutry members but event that took near 300 applications worldwide in 3 months to land me where I am now. I received acknowledgements of my applications (including automated ones) from only 20% of the studios I sent my CV to.

I find the report confusing as studios and graduates seem to be there but aren't visible to either one.
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Emily Knox Studying Creative Digital Media, Teesside University6 years ago
I'm in the same scenario as Joshua. I have run out of time to spend searching for my ideal job, so I've got to find work I'm not interested in to sustain myself. The trouble is even for more accessible jobs like shop work, or admin, they are also fiercely competitive - similarly to games, I will still be pushed aside by people with more relevant experience (and of course by those with genuine passion to work there).

Having been on a search for some time (and also from research conducted during my final year), I've found for the work I want to break into, the most common request was for one published AAA title, followed by two. Working on perhaps more accessible projects such as iPhone titles does not help me there.
I noticed many of these openings asked that those titles were of a specific genre, too, such as FPS or RPG. In Europe the most common experience requirement was 1-2 years, while in the US it was 3-4.

One thing that I found interesting for the design pathway, is that the most common requirement was proficiency with specific software, such as the Unreal Editor. Next was scripting, then any additional software such as Photoshop, Max or Maya. Barely any asked for a degree, and if they did, it was only preferential.

All my searches suggest the vast majority of studios are advertising roles that are "experienced", "senior", or "lead". There seem to be very few that are willing to take a gamble on someone with less experience, "junior" roles are extremely rare in comparison. Initially I was extremely surprised to read that there is a shortage of skilled graduates. But it seems the skilled graduate a company is searching for knows how to use the right software (of course), but also has 1-2 years of experience, on specific genres, and at least one shipped AAA title. Unfortunately the vast majority of us do not graduate with all four on our CV.
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Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts6 years ago
@Tom Certainly sometimes thats the case but its a double edged sword, you hire someone on a 6 month contact who is highly skilled but they could get bored or get a better offer leaving you in a more challenging position. Grads and people new to the industry often bring a real energy to a team so a good mix is ideal of new and experienced, they are also more likey to commit as they are building up their experience not just holding out for the ideal role. Both have there place and should be given the opportunity
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Lewis Brown Snr Sourcer/Recruiter, Electronic Arts6 years ago
I dont except this experience argument, for me It doesnt maan shipping titles, it means personal work, maybe something in the indie seen or mod work. Whatever it relates too many Grads are doing it and getting hired accordingly. If you arent then this might be why you are struggling. It shows us what you are doing and that you are commited and passionate about working in the industry.
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Kyle Hatch Software Engineer, Pennant International Services LTD6 years ago
Was writing my comment when Andreas was writing theirs, got to the post button quicker :(

I do agree, to a degree that i know alot of graduates who go to uni and expect what they do there is good enough to get them into a job after....not an unrealistic aim in some industries but in ours a much wider knowledge base is needed and experience of doing outside projects is really a must.

My complaint stems from the fact that despite all this it's the same answer even when it's for a graduate role. If a company (triple a or not) says they are hiring for a graduate role and then turns round and says not enough experience it's frustrating.

As for the QA route, it's a very good idea, helps you get into the industry and get a foot in the door. The worry on my part is having to relocate an awful lot as most QA jobs i've seen are 3 - 6 month short term. It mean moving round and round. Hard to do if you have a family.

A friend of mine was commuting from Dundee to Edinburgh everyday for 3 months, unable to move as his partner was here. Would of willing moved if the contract was full time permanent but his employer could never guarantee that for QA work.
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Tom Joyce Independent developer, Plus Good Games6 years ago
I mostly agree with what you've said. Despite that condition, I've often applied for positions and justified it with my own experience of working independently and on smaller projects. Although the fact is that some low level vacancies DO specifically list these types of things!

A very brief search for current roles bought up:
"Considerable track record and published titles in the games industry (3-5 years)" and "At least two AAA titles released"
In this instance these were for typical (non senior or lead) art roles, but I've seen similar on a junior and grad listings too. I've always assumed that having a portfolio of past and current work is an implied necessity for this type of industry, but both of the above are very specific in their requirements and make a majority of graduates unsuitable for the advertised role.

When people (myself included) talk about being turned down for being inexperienced, I don't think it's because they have nothing to show of their work, it's that companies are asking for things which a majority of grads won't have had the opportunity to obtain yet.
To get into the industry, you need industry-experience. To get industry-experience you need to be in the industry. It's an unfortunate cycle.
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Neil Alphonso Lead Designer, Splash Damage Ltd6 years ago
This also varies radically per discipline. For instance, increased production values and tech evolution have meant a huge increase in the need for art resources, whereas design has stayed relatively flat.
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Peter Shea Games Director, Chunk Games6 years ago
This may not be what people want to hear but as far as Game Designers go- I think the key problem is not a shortage but a glut.

There just aren't nearly as many Game Designers in a typical studio as there are other disciplines, so new positions are scarce and when they do come along, naturally devcos will favour experienced candidates.

Over the last decade far too many students have studied Game Design with a hope of getting into this field. At the same time the number of opportunities has gone down due to contraction of medium sized developers- especially in the UK.

Speaking personally, I've only hired one Junior Designer in the UK in the last five years, and he was an exceptional candidate with a great degree, lots of home development/modding experience and professional QA experience. Firebrand are a relatively small company- but I imagine this situation is mirrored in the vast majority of UK devs. There simply aren't enough roles out there to justify the number of entry level candidates.

Does this mean you should give up? Of course not- that Junior opportunity may be just around the corner. The UK dev scene may suddenly expand again as it did in the 90's. We work in a fast moving, fast changing industry. It's not all doom and gloom.

In the meantime I'd suggest aspiring Designers focus on making their own games at home or in small startup teams. If the jobs don't exist then you need to create them and right now there are a lot of opportunities for indie startups and one man teams to make a name for themselves or even a modest living.

Far from easy, but better than relying solely on endless speculative applications and when you do get the chance you are looking for you will be a much better candidate than someone who "merely" has a Design degree and a lot of rejection letters.

And FWIW it took me over 2 years to get my first Junior role and that was fifteen years ago when the UK industry was much healthier.

Don't give up and good luck!

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Ross Mansfield Freelance Artist 6 years ago
"To get into the industry, you need industry-experience. To get industry-experience you need to be in the industry."

I'm not playing down how difficult it is, with all the recent closures there are fewer vacancies than ever (in this country at least), but how do you define 'Being in the industry'? There are more tools at your disposal than there ever has been to work on AAA games, either by yourself or as part of a mod team. UDK, Source, Unity, CryEngine, all of which are provided absolutely free, and that's just in one genre, there are literally tons of free tools for racing games, RPG's, flash games, not to mention 3D tools such as Maya or scripting languages etc etc.

If you can make something vaguely professional off your own back and talk about how you did it with confidence, you will stand head and shoulders above any other graduate applicant, and plenty that have 'real' industry experience too! And who knows, you might make something that's commercially viable and then you won't need to apply to that 'AAA' studio you aspire to!

In my time in the industry I've never seen someone overlooked just because they don't have the right number next to the industry experience line on their CV, it will always be because there is another applicant who is displaying more skill, and as I've said above, there is every opportunity for you to obtain those skills at home. Keep working at the part of making games that you enjoy, and the chance to get paid to do it professionally will come.
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Mikolaj Macioszek Translator, Big Fish Games6 years ago
Low pay and high demands on staff.
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Catherine Goode Technical Designer, SCEE Team Soho6 years ago
Well, I'm currently browsing for normal -> senior designer jobs around London and Nottingham areas. There are NONE at all, and hasn't been for some months.

Seen plenty of programming positions though!
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Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts6 years ago
I would understand the requirement for experience if internships were still offered, but they've almost completely disappeared with the economy. It's gotten crazy now. I believe that if I were able to sit down and talk with someone in the industry that I could sell myself well enough to get a position, but the industry hides behind websites and randomly-generated emails.

The industry doesn't want graduates, it wants 3 years of AAA experience for "entry-level" positions. If they can find that, good for them. If they can't, stop complaining and look at the talent that are begging for an opportunity to prove themselves.
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Gregory Keenan6 years ago
Me and my friends recent experience finding jobs in the games industry all brought us to the same conclusion. The games industry is ONLY interested in C++ courses TOTALLY regardless of your self taught C++ skills or any degree that primarily taught Java. This after reading on this site that the industry is totally "desperate" for Computing Scientist graduates.

We have all found jobs which were just as difficult to get into and unlikely to try again for the Gaming world. Most other tech industries have a culture of growing their personnel (my official training pipeline is around 3 years).

From my impression: the games industry just wants a quick fix to their manpower hole == few graduates getting in.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Gregory Keenan on 5th October 2011 5:00pm

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David Bachowski VP Business Development, Babaroga6 years ago
Most of the time when I talk to other developers I find that we are both looking for talented engineers. Programmers just seem hard to find. Even if I am open to graduate applicants I still want a candidate to show some work and passion outside of the classroom.

Like most people said before me, there aren't as many design positions in a company as there are art/programming. If you do want to be a designer, make sure you are able to also effectively manage timelines and schedules. A producer/designer is much more valuable than a pure designer - at least for a smaller company like ourselves.

Warning - job advert! - Feel free to message me if you are a talented artist/programmer looking for work in london :)
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James Ingrams Writer 6 years ago
There you have it. Comments just show the game industry is no different to other industries now!

If you don't have the EXACT experience they require, forget it.

I fully expect in the next year someone will be turned down for a job in a ladies shoe shop because they worked in a men's shoe shop!

Or for I,T, If they are looking for Windows 8 staff, don't bother, even if you have MS-DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows ME, Windows XP and Windows 7 experience!
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Ian Jarvis artist 6 years ago
Agree with the overall consensus here. Companies need to be bit more open to hiring greener applicants. Games have become several magnitudes more complex in the last decade or so and yet they expect graduates to emerge as fully formed game dev machines. Speaking specifically on art role, even those already working had to do a lot of learning when the industry moved on to this generation or hardware.
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Dont forget the new rules about hiring temp/contract or interns will mean that companies may be more reluctant to hire any temp staff beyond 12 weeks
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@ Ian - I can comment extensively about the art scene. Most game companies will have a junior artist, concept artist or senior artist roles. Not all need more than 1-2 artist per 100+ size studio, depending on their TYPE of game which may require more 3D, texture and programming folks. Some studios have 2-4 senior concept artist, with 1 intern.

What it really boils down to is the candidates range of skills in the portfolio that suggests a good potential. A good potential for training.

However, many candidates do not have an inkling of the basic percepts of what is required to join a games company. Many have no idea that there is a large production side that does NOT involve just painting pretty pictures. That ability alone is too niche and does not help the actual side of production save for making nice promotional pieces. A really useful artist will be a generalist with a solid foundation in all sorts of artistic elements ranging from characters to environments to transport to 3D.

In addition, candidates who expect to walk into a job upon graduation will be woefully surprised. The prepared candidate has already worked on a range of titles freelance during the course of university, such that when they graduate, they DO understand what is required in games and hit the ground running (relative to their skillset)

There is no cookie cutter approach to stuff, and each company will be unique in its requirements. Some dont even need any new artist for many years.

As such, most candidates who graduate looking for artist jobs, cannot even be considered when they apply for jobs. There isnt enough substance, whereas there are some really good gems who have been around the block, know what they are doing (and are able to compete against other experienced artist because they all show, a promise of growth and potential)
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Angus Lee Studying BA Computer Games Design, Teesside University6 years ago
Today I went to an interview for a job which I probably don't have the experience or qualifications to actually do. Despite this I was still able to get to the interview stage and it turns out that the company would be willing to send me on a course to teach me how to do the things they want me to do.

Considering 99% of all my applications to companies in the games industry never even get so much as an e-mail in response this is extraordinary.

I've worked in a bar, where they gave me bar training and the opportunity to go on further courses.
I've worked in a warehouse, where they would pay for me to go on a course to learn how to drive a forklift.
And I'm currently working an office job on a 5 month contract whilst I cover for someone who is on maternity leave, and even here they are willing to pay for courses to train me up in the relevant software so that I can do the job more effectively.

I have a degree in none of these things.

Meanwhile my brother has graduated this year with a land management degree. He has been offered a job as a software trainer for a land agency, with several months paid training, prior to a well paid job with a company car and the option to work from home.

If the games industry is going to complain about a lack of suitable graduates then perhaps they should make the same effort as every other industry seems to be willing to make. They need to look at their applicants, train up the ones who have the capacity to succeed and start giving them the experience they value so much.
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Steve Bilton AI Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto6 years ago
This seems a little bizarre; given the volume of studios that have closed down recently, many of us have been forced to move abroad (mostly US and Canada) to get work for varying levels of experience (mostly 2-5 years). This is across all disciplines, including programmers.

I spent several months looking across the UK from Dundee to Brighton November 2010 - January 2011 and found minimal traction; what little I got was so heavily oversubscribed the offers were much poorer than abroad.
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Michael Taylor Audio Designer 6 years ago
Same situation as the first poster, i have a 1st class degree, 3 years audio design experience, 9 years audio recording experience and ive been involved with a HD remake of a popular brand, yet aside from a few notable exceptions, haven't even managed to bag single interview this year. Not even at junior level.
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A good alternative is to go band together and make your own indie game/mod. This not only sets you up with the required skillset, but allows you to pinpoint the exceptional talents you have to potential employers and add a self made title to boot.
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Alex Wright-Manning Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Datascope6 years ago
Hello all. I thought I'd pop my two cents worth in, this being very much my field and all. First of all, it's good to see so many students commenting, and to see plenty of helpful advice given here by the industry guys. I'll try not to cover too much of the ground already covered here, but I must stress the need for you guys & gals to have a clear idea of the dedication needed to break your way into the industry.

For designers, I'm afraid that you have it amongst the hardest. There are hundreds of grads completing dozens of courses all over the UK every year, and the sad reality is that if you don't mark yourselves out as being something very special, then you'll find it incredibly difficult to walk straight into a games job.

That's not to say it doesn't happen, but as Pete said it is tough, and I'd definitely look to his advice to get together with like minded people and create your own work. In doing this you'll sharpen your skills, keep the creative juices flowing, and when it does come to applying for roles you'll have a hell of a lot more to show than someone who's just walked out of the lecture halls.

Programmers, please realise that majority of games development is done using C++. Simple as that. If you're looking to develop games, don't do a course that focuses on Java or .NET. All universities should provide a copy of their syllabus when trying to attract you to their course, and if the majority of the course isn't suitable; don't apply there! There are a lot of good games courses out there, and a lot of bad ones looking to get bums on seats (you pay for your education these days, and the more bums on seats, the more funding for that university). Do your research, ask the university which games companies they work with, find out how many of their students have gone on to jobs in the industry, examine what they're going to be teaching you, find out the lecturer's credentials and backgrounds. The games industry is built on people asking questions of the status quo, innovating and thinking outside of the box. Be that person that asks the difficult questions; it'll pay dividends in the future.

So now you've got your sparkly programming degree, where do you go from here? Well, if you've walked out with a first
, then you've already given yourself a great chance, but we can't all get firsts! Regardless of your grade, you'll need to show examples of your work. It's great if you've got some strong work you did whilst on your course, but everyone else will have that won't they? The key here is to mark yourself out, but this doesn't mean developing an entire game in your bedroom over the weekend! Chances are that you did something you're proud of for your final piece at university. Why not use this? Expand upon it, clean the code, develop it further. You've already put the work in and have the building blocks, so why not utilise it?

Another good way to mark yourself out is to specialise. Most programming grads come out of uni as what we call a generalist. This is fine, but it doesn't really make you stand out. During your course, it's likely that you will have touched upon various areas of games development; graphics, engine, gameplay, audio, tools etc. It's also likely that you will have enjoyed certain areas of this more than others, so run with it! If you loved working on engine development, focus on that area outside of your studies. Perhaps develop your own engine for your final dissertation, become an expert in this field and absorb anything pertaining to it. This will make you far more interesting than all those generalists flooding onto the market, and it will pay dividends in terms of salaries and opportunites in your future career if you're a specialist in a certain area of development.

If you're an aspiring artist or animator, it's all about portfolio and showreel. To quote an old exam term from my day - show your workings! We all love to see beautifully skinned models with game ready polycounts, but what we want to see is how you did it. Show us your meshes, textures (and sources), bumps, and everything that went together to create the finished piece. Have a broad range of work to show your flexibility, or focus on one area that you are particularly strong in. Again mark yourself out by doing something different. Lighting, Technical and VFX artists are in particular demand, so if you're strong in these areas, become a specialist in these and you'll have a far better chance of securing a position due to the demand. If you're a concept artist, fill your portfolio with every genre, character, environment you can think of. Create storyboards, 3D artist friendly concepts and speedpaints.

Animators, I know lots of you have work done from models provided by animation courses etc, but stand out by using your own. Even better, get together with a 3D artist at the same university and work together. He/she will get their model rigged and animated for their own portfolio, and you get a top class unique model that will show off your work much better. The games industry relies on collaboration, so start doing it before you're even in the industry! Your reel should be no more than two minutes long, should have a variety of scenes including evidence of all of the twelve rules in action. A character lifting a box and putting it on another box is so standard it's painful. Think away from that box. Why not have a space marine hefting a heavy rocket launcher, or a cyclops shouldering a heavy boulder into a cave mouth? Run cycles are always good to see, and with the amount of shooters relying on cover dynamics these days, surely a well animated example of a character diving into cover would be interesting? Look at the games you're playing. If you spot a bit of poor animation, think how you could have done it better and try to do it!

For programmers, artists and designers mod work is a great way to express yourself within a framework that has had all of the nuts and bolts built for you, and will be looked upon very kindly by most potential employers. It's no exaggeration when I say that every junior I've placed has mod work on their CV. It shows that you understand your craft, often exhibits your ability to work within a team, and gives you plenty of work to show in an application. And it's fun!

As stated here by others, QA is a terrific opportunity to experience a working games studio, meet with developers and work your way into a potential full time position, as well as getting paid. I do understand that most are short term contracted roles and relocation may be necessary, which can make this route difficult. You've spent 3+ years working at university to get your dream job, and it's pretty much a given that you were going to have to move away from your Uni town or mum and dad's anyway. Make no bones about it, it's difficult to get a job in the industry without experience, and I really do feel for you guys and girls making your first tentative steps.

The question is; how bad do you want it? Are you going to send out CV's willy nilly hoping to get a response and complaining that no-one is hiring grads? Or are you prepared to go that extra mile? Will you stay up late making mods with your friends? Will you develop your own physics engine instead of going out on the lash? Will you get yourself a QA job and be the best damn QA that that studio has ever seen? Will you work your arse off to produce a pitch so good that you could show it to publishers directly? Are you going to spend sleepless nights honing your portfolio until it's perfect?

To quote those crazy Daft Punk guys: Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. If you're willing to be this, then you WILL find a job in this amazing, challenging and rewarding industry.

I'm always available to offer advice and tips, and like nothing better than helping a grad crack their first job in the industry. Hit me up for a chat.

EDIT: Holy crap, it didn't look that long when I was writing it!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alex Wright-Manning on 5th October 2011 7:34pm

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Alec Hilton Studying BA Marketing and Advertising, University of the Arts London6 years ago
I'm a recent graduate too, and have to agree with the consensus that the game industry seems very closed to graduates or people with lower levels of experience. I've got a year and a half worth of experience in my discipline and a strong degree. Yet, the best job I have been offered in the games industry is telesales for a small time developer. While I know that marketing and advertising is different to the graphics/design that most have been talking about, the publishing side of games is equally tight with regards to experience.
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@ Alex - good summary and restating the case for the graduates. If only there was a good decent league table of good/bad game courses in UK and Europe. Wont that be grand! :)
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee6 years ago
This sounds like a first. It was said to be the other way round before..
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John Devoy6 years ago
You're missing the point; when they say good graduate what they mean is they expect you to leave uni with years of commercial experience magically pulled out of your backside.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Devoy on 5th October 2011 9:01pm

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To clarify...
Most companies DONT ask for degrees - we at Blitz certainly dont. For junior positions we don't expect previous experience - although obviously that's would be an advantage. Portfolio work is essential for applying to games companies. Yes we want to see what you can do.
The report identifies a shortage is programmers. (that's demonstratable C++ skills mostly).
We have lots of vacancies for good people with the right attitude and skills.
[link url=
e-Skills, SkillSet & TIGA are all bodies working hard to improve the quality of education, making them more relevant to industry. SkillSet have accredited a number of quality degree courses. (google for these or find via [link url=][/link]

Philip Oliver - CEO, Blitz Games Studios
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Dan Lowe 3D Animator, Ubisoft Montreal6 years ago
The problem I found when I was involved in reviewing portfolios at Bizarre wasn't that we didn't get enough graduate applicants, it's that we didn't get good graduate applicants.

A big step forward would be to have universities and colleges push towards specialization instead of teaching broad skill sets, e.g. any time that an environment artist isn't making environments, they're wasting their time and reducing their chances of finding work.

For that same reason, if I were to advise a wannabe game animator on the best path into the industry, I'd tell them to forget University and do Animation Mentor.
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Paul Smith Studying Animation, Academy of Art University6 years ago
I can agree with Nick McCrea... What I cannot stand is that the fact that when I graduate I am up against some fat gamer that probably hasnt' even touched Maya or Zbrush let alone know what the human anatomy consists of and how hard it is to draw it. Learning it on the job, getting the on the job experience that I should have gotten just because he is a hardcore gamer and he knows the gaming lingo.

What is wrong with that picture? I am spending my time and will to work forward towards a career and yet lose an opportunity to nothing more than some buttons and a stick attached to a brain.
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Gareth Donaghey Customer Support Agent, Blizzard Entertainment6 years ago
Have to commend Mr Oliver above. Went for an interview to Blitz Games about a decade ago, eons ago in the past gaming terms and in a differing industry climate. And with my non-experience and lack of everything at that time, they still gave me a try out. Pity I didn't pass it then lol, but hey that's part of life.
Glad to see the same chances are still available in some places today.

It is weird though seeing some Junior placements on recruitment sites that need a min 1-2 years in previous console experience.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Gareth Donaghey on 6th October 2011 12:35am

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Luke Davis QA Tester, The Creative Assembly6 years ago
All this is very nice and all but a massive problem is all those experienced programmers, designers, artists and what not that have been laid off are having no choice but to look at entry level jobs, taking up student jobs, as some have already pointed out. So one will come along and tell students to look into QA because it is a great chance to get your foot in the door. The problem with this is that so many students are doing exactly that and I know of so many students with a degree in this field and cant even get a QA job, being told that they do not have enough experience. Now doing work on the side is great but students simply cant complete with people who have been in the industry for so much longer. this article annoys me quite a bit, because it is simply insulting for each student trying everything to get their foot in the door.
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Frankie Kang Producer / Consultant, First Post LLC6 years ago
It's a buyer's market. In the US, industry employers have the pick of the litter, especially with the high number of qualified applicants looking for gigs.

The only advice I can give everyone here is to be agile and learn to accept a position in any part of the growing industry. Whether that's social games on Facebook, mobile apps, traditional console games, FTP web, Chrome, etc. there are many, many opportunities, if you look beyond the triple-A variety. I guarantee that any experience you earn in a smaller dev/start-up will open the doors for you to enter the Bungies and Epics of the world.

I'd also recommend doing anything you can to contact recruiters directly. Linkedin has hundreds of recruiters across the world representing every company imaginable, ready and willing to listen to you. That will get you 10x further, than submitting your resume through HR vetting software that sniffs out key words.

Good luck!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Frankie Kang on 6th October 2011 5:15am

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Neil Thompson Director of Art & Animation, EA BioWare6 years ago
Go on, I'll bite on this... From an art perspective it is all about portfolio, as Alex so correctly pointed out. What I'm going to say now will probably cop me some flak, but it's based upon looking at a lot (hundreds would be a conservative estimate) of graduate portfolios over the years.

If you go on an arts based games course because you love playing games yet have no formal artistic training or talent, simply learning how to use Maya or 3DSMax and demonstrating that ability in a portfolio made up of your coursework is probably not going to interest many potential employers.

If you are a talented and creative artist who chooses an arts based games course in order to pick up the software skills and techniques that will enable you to practises your art in the medium of games and bolster an already impressive portfolio... Well, then I (and I would hope others) will be a lot more interested.
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Allan Wales Senior artist, Evolution Studios6 years ago
What utter rubbish! I know of at least 17 experienced people looking for work in the UK Not including ones fresh out from Uni.

Did e-skills do their research down the pub lol
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"What I cannot stand is that the fact that when I graduate I am up against some fat gamer that probably hasnt' even touched Maya or Zbrush"

Well with that attitude.....

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The amount of times I've been told "your work is outstanding but you donít have enough experience" bewilders me. With a years experience by the time I finished uni, it confused me how I could get more experience to meet the 3 year requirements I sometimes saw on junior roles!
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Ken Addeh6 years ago
<em>If you go on an arts based games course because you love playing games yet have no formal artistic training or talent, simply learning how to use Maya or 3DSMax and demonstrating that ability in a portfolio made up of your coursework is probably not going to interest many potential employers.

If you are a talented and creative artist who chooses an arts based games course in order to pick up the software skills and techniques that will enable you to practises your art in the medium of games and bolster an already impressive portfolio... Well, then I (and I would hope others) will be a lot more interested. </em>

I'm not too sure you're making enough of a difference between the two.
One being a gamer making an attempt to do the best driven on passion for games. While the other is a good artist just "trying out" the games industry.

What you've actually highlighted in the first example is someone who's passionate about games (something that is a major bullet point for some application requirements, for others its assumed you'll like games) but lacks the skills.
The Second example is someone who's probably not going to have a hard time going anywhere, but decides to go into games. Less drive, but more skills. Sure he'll get some good work out there but will that work be mixed with drive to do better/ to make something "cooler" or just to make something that works.

Personally, I'd pick they guy/girl with the enthusiasm - You can teach someone software and skills but you cant teach someone drive and enthusiasm. We can not deny that if you're happy about your job you feel great about it and that shows in the productivity of your progression.

Also, If you knew the details about the guy who made "Dance Fortress" you'll know that he was of the first category you mentioned. Loves games, and decided to spend time and practice animation because he wanted to get into the games industry. He was actually used as an example to me by a recruitment agency in terms of polishing work and showing immense passion against the odds. He did not have "formal artistic training" and learnt how to Animate on his own..he later managed to land a contracted position for Lionhead.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Ken Addeh on 6th October 2011 10:55am

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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D6 years ago
Haven't read all the comments here, so apologies if this crosses over what others have said.

Students are always going to find it difficult though, in a world where there are so many experienced people out of work and where the lack of jobs has driven down salaries. You may think it is, or it isn't, fair, but unfortunately it is what it is.

For those of you who are struggling to break into the industry, try not to give up if you REALLY want it. Keep working on your personal stuff. The worst thing you can do is stop doing personal stuff - a graduate from a few years back, who has produced nothing in the last six months, is a graduate who will have practically no chance of finding something. Immerse yourself in mod communities, or even look to create your own (small) title. Get together with others, publish something on the app store. There are so many things you can do, but the key is to keep moving - as Woody Allen said in Annie Hall (showing my age here), "A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark". If you stop working on your own stuff, you're a dead shark.

Keep your chins up, and keep plugging away.
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Tamir Ibrahim Programmer, Splash Damage6 years ago
There are a lot of good comments here from people in the industry that students should take note of.

For programmers I can re-iterate what has already been said:
You really need to do extra to stand out for graduate positions. I was exactly the same when I graduated from Comp Sci, I thought I was the shiznit and would land a job easy. Then the rejections came, the low point was when I was offered a job as door to door salesman for women clothing when I had originally applied for a IT role.

Then reality hit. I dug up all the work I had done previously, cleaned it up, improved it a little and sent a CD containing my work with my CV. I had several different small programs on there. From an extremely simple submarine sim, to a simple genetic algorithm implementation, to several simple physics scenarios. Not all were in C++, some were in Java because it was quicker to render stuff, but the theory was the same. All were quite simple.

I immediately started getting interviews, even then I learned a harsh lesson from my first one when I didn't bother "revising" as I thought I knew my stuff, during the interview it became plainly obvious I didn't. Next interview I revised beforehand and did much better. Several years later Iím still in the industry.

Bottom line? Just because you have a degree it doesn't really mean much. You must, must, must show what it is you're capable of and why you stand out better than all the other people applying.

Oh, and @Paul Smith. Some "fat gamer" didn't steal your job. Believe it or not people hiring are not impressed by lingo only.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Tamir Ibrahim on 6th October 2011 2:50pm

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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D6 years ago
@ Tamir, thanks for highlighting Paul's comment.

@ Paul - you do yourself no favours there. Firstly, the person stealing your job won't be a fat gamer. Well, they might be;) BUT - and this is the important bit - they'll be "stealing" it because they're, frankly, better than you. And, like Tamir said, having a degree means nothing. This is what's wrong with this country - our obsession with degrees has led to people thinking they should automatically get a job because they have one. Your degree won't get you your job - being at least very good, and having a few lucky breaks, will. Keep your chin up, and work hard. You'll get there.
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Finlay Thewlis Studying Game Design & Production Management, University of Abertay Dundee6 years ago
I agree with a lot of what is being said but I find the 'just band together and make a mod' response pretty infuriating. I mean I'm not expecting to have an easy route into the industry but in these times in particular people have to earn money and if offered a full time retail position in the meantime then graduates are going to take it - problem then is the risk of never getting out of that rut. The idea that its easy to drop everything and get on with making things for free - ridiculous.
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Kyle Hatch Software Engineer, Pennant International Services LTD6 years ago
Echoing Tamir comments, i recently had an interview with a company, just phone interview, i did similar, went into it with a prep sheet of my general thoughts just to help me along. When it came to the technical questions, i stuttered and stumbled through (badly). While i knew this stuff it wasn't something that was second nature to me. Since that fine French day in August I've spent everyday re reading a little c++ book just to keep my technical Jargin in place. It's no good knowing a certain thing if you don't know what it's called.

Something i have found interesting from this discussion is alot of industry folk are c++ pushed (rightly so), i spent alot of time recently concentrating on mobile phone development, because i had c++ programs on my portfolio, along with API work, DirectX, open gl, bits of UDK, XNA, so i thought by diversifying i would look like someone who can pick up and learn anything. But it seems from another interview i had (and the person from datascope reaffirmed) that it's better to specialise.

I guess it very much depends on what you want to do, but being general or a jack of all trades defiantly isn't what the industry wants.

Next point to the few who are angry at being looked over because someone with more experience got the job...hate to say it but 'dem the breaks. if you were in a business position and you could hire someone who has done the job before or someone who could do the job well, which do you pick....

Next point, someone mentioned internships above, or how other industries have on job training to help general skilled people become specific skilled people. There are a few companies around that i have seen that have a graduate program and you bet i applied but what's really frustrating that despite a back and forth email conversation, it eventually developed into ignoring of my emails. Even when asking for feedback...nothing. This is the most frustrating part of any application, hearing nothing back. I understand that there are hundred of applicants out there, and not all are successful. But those who get a step further must be close to what is needed, when they are rejected a few helpful words wouldn't go amiss.

That's probably a little unstructured so apologies. But something else for discussion at least.
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Alex Wright-Manning Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Datascope6 years ago
Great example here from Tamir. He didn't have what it took to get in straight away, so he went back to the drawing board, worked hard, improved himself, his work and his approach, and lo and behold got a job with one of the UK's most high profile and successful studios.

Games have never been more popular, hence a place in this industry is even more desirable than ever. There are limited amounts of roles here in the UK compared to the amount of students graduating in games related disciplines, and with the state of the economy and the contraction of the industry in the UK, why shouldn't games studios only pick the brightest and the best? They are after all a business, and any business relies on having top quality employees. There's no room for passengers in this industry, particularly given the precarious nature of the AAA business model.

Tamir's story is a great example of how, by working hard and preparing himself as best he could, he managed what hundreds of his peers couldn't. The truth is, that if you're not prepared to work to make yourself better, then you won't get a job in the industry.

Oh, and I get the impression Paul Smith may be talking about getting QA jobs in order to progress in the industry, so maybe we're being a bit harsh!

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alex Wright-Manning on 6th October 2011 12:56pm

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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D6 years ago
@ Finlay. It's all about desire, and there's no easy answer. If you want to take a job in a shop, that's your call. And if you want to forget about coding etc, that's your call too. Games is no different from any field - it's the people willing to put the hours in who will get ahead.

I had a candidate years ago, came out with a third in his software engineering degree. Basically just farted around at uni, didn't do much at all. He then spent three years working in Tesco, stacking shelves. On the surface, he was going nowhere fast. But in his spare time, he was relearning programming from scratch. He basically did a flight simulator type demo, and in the end had two well known studios fighting over him, even though both refused to see him initially on the basis of his CV - once they saw his demo, things changed for him. Now, he's the managing director of his own company, making serious games. If he'd simply accepted it would be tough and had given up, he'd not be where he is today.

You guys want us to tell you that it's going to be easy to break into games. It's not, and there's really no way of sugar coating that. And you may well try and try and never get there - whatever anyone tells you, that's a possibility too. But it's all up to you - either accept it's just not going to happen and go do something else, or find something to keep you going financially while you work on making a dream come true.

I know it's not easy - but very few worthwhile things are. There's a really good quote from, I think, Henry Ford - "If you think you can, or if you think you can't, either way, you're right". As a general rule, I really think that's true.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Fran Mulhern on 6th October 2011 1:04pm

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Ian Griffiths Studying Multiplayer Online Games Design, Staffordshire University6 years ago
Is it only me who is looking at this thread and thinking, it is a hell of a time trying to go into the games industry but hey, why look at it as a wall you cant go through and why not look at it as a wall you can either break down or go around? Honestly all I have seen my degree get me is I can now go into higher, further education but at the end of the day that's just a extra expense. But what else did I get out of Uni? Skills, so now I have these skills and nothing to do with them, other than make my own projects, so I do that finish one or two of them and still nothing. But then again that is just me on my own, if I was to band with others then we could all build up our skills more, and then maybe one day make some money from this and even do something we are passionate about doing.

So ask yourselves this, are you passionate about making games, even if you are in a few month, year long abyss. If you still are then, find people with similar interests, make a small indie start up, sure it's hard, and will only be hard work, but believe me doing hard work at something you love, is a lot better than wasting away your life working for a company you can't stand doing a task which rips out your inner soul.

On that note, if anyone's interested in making fantasy RPG's message me, though I can't pay you in cash, I can pay you in working on a project which you might be passionate about.
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Gareth Wilson Design Director, SUMO Digital6 years ago
Rarely comment on Games Industry, but I thought I'd backup the comments by Peter and others specifically on games design. I can't remember hiring a 'designer' that had no industry experience. If you want a career in games design you have two main routes

1 - Get any sort of job in the games industry. A good place to start is QA, office admin or production support. Looking around my design team right now I'd say over 90% started in QA or some sort of production support role. They showed talent in that position and were promoted internally, often during crunch time on a project where someone was needed last minute to do a low level design task (game tuning, bits of text etc). That's exactly how I started - my first job was building and managing a website for a games company, a designer left unexpectedly and they needed someone to write mission text and check spelling. That was over 10 years ago!

2 - Work on a mod or a demo - If someone who had no industry experience sent me a game that was good fun to play I'd definitely consider interviewing them. It wouldn't have to be staggeringly original, but if it actually worked and was complete (UI, high score table etc etc) it would show the diligence and attention to detail a designer needs. You could combine this with trying to get a QA role - you'd be much more likely to get an interview for a QA/support type role if you had something like this on your CV.

Finally you have to be pretty pushy to get in. If you send your CV and hear nothing, ring up and find out whats going on. Find where the studio is and walk through the door. Use linkedin to contact hiring managers direct. Ask the HR manager if there's ANYTHING you could do (QA, playtesting, office admin, IT support, make the tea)

Oh and finally finally, be flexible in location. The chances of you're first job in games being near where you live is virtually impossible, unless possibly if you live in London / South East

Good Luck :)
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Steven Yau Senior Game Developer, King.com6 years ago
I echo what others have said. It IS a tougher time to get into the industry now for a graduate then it was 3 or 4 years ago.

Graduates are rarely advertised (hence why looking online won't bring up many results). This is because they all have so many people cold calling with applicants that they now have a 'back catalogue' of people to look back on when an opening comes up.

Senior/Experienced developers are trending moving out of the industry or out of the country due to QoL and raising costs in SoL so it is hard to fill the positions that are open at the moment. (I personally moved out and then back into the industry).

Regarding a statement made above, you have to keep making stuff and investigating new technology/learning new skills and this goes for both graduates and experienced developers. This appeals strongly with companies as it shows you have a base desire or passion towards your skillset and personal development.

I was recently out of work and rather then sit around applying to companies all day, I started to make an iPhone game intended for release. Never got it finished as I get hired pretty quickly but it is still something I am working on on and off.

Finally, different companies have different hiring procedures. For example, Media Molecule insist on a portfolio and/or recent demo of work regardless of experience. They hired a bricklayer with no degree/solid education (I think) based off levels he made in Little Big Planet. When I was at EA, we hired a gameplay programmer who was from a Java background. She knew some C++ but we were more interested in her creativity then C++ skill and taught her what she needed to know.

What I think is happening is that there is only small percentage of people who are really good enough for the role that they are applying for. I have interviewed a few experienced programmers a couple of years ago and some of them I really expected them to be more knowledgeable then they were.

What would be nice if there were stronger incentives by the government for companies to take on Internships and Placements. I don't what ones exist at the moment though.
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Ian Jarvis artist 6 years ago
Andreas Gschwari I totally agree with you, companies should hire the best they can! But the point of this article is companies being unable to find staff. If thats the case companies might want to be a bit more forthright about nuturing people fresh to the industry.
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Thomas Grant Software / Game Developer 6 years ago
I agree with a lot of these comments. It's a catch-22, you need experience to get the job you need to get experience doing! I finished Uni with a 2.2 in CGT (Games Tech) in 2009 and I've still to find a job. Had plenty of interviews but they all complain about a lack of experience. It's infuriating, I swear a few months ago I saw a job for a junior iPhone developer here in Glasgow, they were asking for a Masters or a 1st AND at least 2 years experience...for a junior role. It seems absurd to me. I'm also starting to feel that interviews, demos and technical ability do no matter, especially in Scotland, it seems to be more along the lines of
"Did you go to Abertay?"
"Well it's been nice meeting you."
Simply frustrating moment upon frustrating moment.
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The fact that at least 3 of the people commenting on here are ex colleagues goes to show that the industry is still comparatively small so, as has already been stated, anyone trying to get in at the moment will face a huge amount of competition. When I got my first job i found that uni hadn't really prepared me for the games industry at all. I found myself working in deepest Wales for near minimum wage but the experience I got was priceless. My advice is for graduates to take anything they can get, don't expect good money and be prepared to relocate miles from home if you're serious about making a career!

@Ian- never agree with Andreas Gashwari, you don't know where you'll end up.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Robert Adcock on 6th October 2011 6:06pm

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Steven Yau Senior Game Developer, King.com6 years ago
@Thomas Grant, are you running your site off your own server/PC? It is pretty slow :/
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I recently got turned down for a senior producer role because of lack of experience - which I found amusing as I've been in the industry for 25 years! I think the problem lies with poor filtering of CVs and this isn't just in the games industry - many employers in the current market don't look at transferable skills - just whether you've had the same job title as the one they are recruiting for....
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Thomas Grant Software / Game Developer 6 years ago
@Steven, No. It's actually free hosting. Not the greatest I know but I hope to get that sorted in a couple of weeks/months
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Steven Yau Senior Game Developer, King.com6 years ago
@Thomas Grant: Is the site your portfolio?
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Thomas Grant Software / Game Developer 6 years ago
@Steven: The most recent stuff yes. I also have old Uni projects about somewhere, I am also working on a few things with Unity, CryEngine and coding my own things.
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Dan Lowe 3D Animator, Ubisoft Montreal6 years ago
One quick point about getting a degree: Developers won't care, but immigration boards will.

The biggest value of a degree right now is that it makes visa applications a lot simpler, and with job security in the UK games industry being what it is, the ability to broaden your job search is invaluable.
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Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto6 years ago
Seconding the degree being important if you want to move abroad. This is especially true if you want to apply for jobs in the United States, where you'd need a ridiculous amount of experience (15-20 years IIRC) to have a chance of getting in without one.

I do feel for graduates trying to get their first job in the industry at the moment. I think it'd be hard enough for an experienced developer to get work in the UK right now (hence why I left after Realtime World's demise).

My only advice to would-be programmers, is to know your C++ inside out. Read "Effective C++" cover to cover until you know it inside out, and have a good demo with full source code (preferrably written in C++).
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Gregory Keenan6 years ago
I'll go burn my degree now...oh no wait! They actually count for allot outside the games world (I would not have my job without one - it was a 100% requirement ).

I think its brilliant that the games industry values experience over qualifications - but the comments here seem to be bemoaning degrees. It seems everyone in the industry is accepting the status quo.
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Daniel Cleaton QA Manager, YoYo Games Ltd6 years ago
I recently went the indie route after graduating Abertay from the Game Production Management course in 2010. Before, during, and for a short while after the course I worked in QA for several Scottish companies and have had internships, groups projects, game jams, additional education, etc.

Then I applied around for junior design and production roles, mostly within Scotland as my child was born not long after finishing uni (I was a mature student), and heard nothing whatsoever back - I think I perhaps received one or two actual rejection letters, the rest simply never acknowledged. In fact, one local company who shall remain nameless still has me under consideration for a job I applied for in February, and they're still advertising.

In the end, I can only say that if you're finding it hard to get a job then seriously consider doing your own thing. Get an AppHub/Apple/Android membership, some free tools (Blender instead of Max/Maya, Artweaver/Gimp instead of Photoshop, Visual Studio you can get the express editions of) and get making your dream games - hell, it would be YEARS in a company before you'd possibly be allowed the same luxury.

Yes, it doesn't pay great (hopefully, to begin with), but neither does the dole. You learn so much more and so rapidly, too, when you have to do everything to make the game. Teams are great, but when you can rely on yourself to get a job done that's a great feeling. And probably awesome on a CV if you went back to working for the man.
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Alex Wright-Manning Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist, Datascope6 years ago
I don't think there's too much decrying of degrees here; I don't believe that anyone here would deny they're fantastic at advancing your knowledge and expanding your skills in the core aspects of your target career. However, they aren't a magic bullet. There needs to be desire, passion, talent and application at work as well.

Programming can be learned by rote, but the best developers are those that have had a passion for programming since an early age, and in many cases a natural affinity with maths. A university degree will hone and polish those natural skills and attempt create a more rounded professional and individual, but it's not essential to get a job in the games industry. If you are talented and dedicated, and create your own work just because that's what you're passionate about and you love doing it, then you've got a great chance of getting a shot at a role in the industry. You want to be a programmer all your life guys? If you don't enjoy it, you should be looking for a different job!

The AAA games business is the most lucrative entertainment industry in the world, worth billions, and is very much an elite industry. Studios need the very best professionals to create the high quality titles that are demanded by the gaming public. There are positions there for you, but you have to be very dedicated and skilled, and to a a large extent, be prepared to hit the ground running. Fresh blood is vital to the continuing survival and success of the games industry, but you can't expect to bowl into it with just a degree and a head full of dreams.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alex Wright-Manning on 7th October 2011 9:37am

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Just as a indicator of the level of training required as a artist

A seasoned veteran concept artist - takes about 1 month to acclimatize to studio culture, game project and style (with some or minimal retraining)

A senior concept artist - takes around 2-3 months to acclimatize (with some filling of gaps in knowledge, production methods and adjusting to new art direction/style)

A concept artist - takes around 3-6 months to acclimatize (with more vigorous practise, self directed training and active hands on tutelage by senior artists/artdirectors). Often there is a readjustment period if previously working at another company -due to change in management, art management and feedback/support. This can even result in artists hitting a wall where they have had good success in the first job, but now due to differences have had to adjust

A junior concept artist - takes 6-8 months to become really useful (often these candidates can be preffered due to the potential to be re-shaped into the image of the company art style/direction. Large gaps in knowledge, lack of appreciation of production need to be instilled. bad habits need to be beaten out, and loads and loads of mileage required before they can bear fruit. Hopefully, this means a good investment when the artistic talents mature.

A internship - may take up to 1 - 1.5 years before maturing into a junior artist role. This is due to lack of solid grasp of basic art theory and application. Requires intense amount of mileage and structured education on the job. May not be suitable for live projects - and good as supportive role to senior concept artist (thus establishing a mentor-apprentice relationship / artistic mind meld). Will required intense out of hours work to hone up polish and knowledge to gain more art-fu
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Liam Wong6 years ago
Nicely said Dr.Wong ;D

I'm possibly a little late to the party but I've been following both articles recently and figured I'd jump in and say my piece since it's something which interests me. I figure I might as well save people some time and let people learn from my mistakes.

I graduated in 2010. I gained experience before, during and after uni which helped me get my first job in the industry and also bypass the Junior role. One of the things I'm passionate about is helping out people looking to get into the industry. It's quite depressing seeing so many graduates (and fellow classmates) come out of university and ending up in jobs unrelated to their studies. I don't think universities are to blame and as far as course modules go; they're pretty much the same across every university; now I know that's a huge generalization but it's something I always put forward. Some universities just have closer ties with the industry than others. It's difficult to create the perfect course with the perfect modules when you're essentially teaching students stuff which might not be relevant/current by the time they graduate. Top marks go to the studios who help universities develop their courses though. I loved my experience at university but I realise that others feel differently.

Here's some personal advice I've quickly typed up for artists looking to get into the industry from my experiences so far, (I'm still learning myself):

1. Don't rely on anybody but yourself. Improve your work and go out of your way to learn things related to your own area as well as the areas surrounding your work.

2. Be open to criticism. Grow a thick skin. Criticise your own work, but also learn how to separate the gold from the dirt since everyone has an opinion and they won't be afraid to tell it to you. Try to avoid people who just try to please you by saying everything you make looks 'nice'.

3. Maintain your portfolio. If you're just starting out then don't be afraid to put work online. If you're going to university then keep a site or blog with all of your decent work. When you finally apply for jobs you'll be able to choose your best work. Be realistic and understand that the aim of your portfolio is to show potential. If you don't know how to make a site then use something like Behance. It might be best to avoid putting your "professional portfolio" on furry/fan-art sites.

4. Do your research. Look at job sites, are people hiring Manga / Fan Art Artists? Probably not. Tailor your portfolio early on and figure out what you're working towards. Recognize niche areas such as VFX, Technical Art, and UI art.

5. Stop thinking about how many 'years of experience' you have, and focus more on how good your portfolio is.

6. Just because you love playing games, doesn't mean you should work on them. My university had a lot of people who just played games all day but never actually spent time on their work. Just because you like sausages doesn't mean you should go work in a sausage factory.

7. Learn to pitch yourself. Have a single paged resume which you can hand out in person, or better yet; set up a LinkedIn account. Be an active member of game sites such as Polycount if you're an artist. Believe it or not, people get approached through these forums and websites and end up in interviews and jobs. Get your name out there to be seen, buy a domain with your name, and use it for emails. Avoid using cringe-worthy Hotmail addresses. Never type anything online that you wouldn't say in person to somebody face-to-face (No trolling! Especially if it traces back to you). Learn how to type emails.

8. Work for free. Work on mods. Understand that it isn't always about making something outstanding; negative experiences will also improve you as a person.

9. Appreciate that university is about growing as an artist / person. You have 3/4 years to create whatever crazy ideas you may have, especially in your final year - it's probably your last chance to make something of your own. Balance work/play and realise that socialising is important.

10. Understand the importance of networking. Go to the usual meet-ups and conventions. Follow companies on LinkedIn so that you can have a look at any updates they make including new hires or recent departures. Snoop on the profiles of employees in your area of interest and check out the standard of their work. Twitter is also good for keeping an eye on jobs and studios. Once you're confident with your own work, start reaching out to people and ask for advice - most developers would happily answer a brief question or two. Keep emails short, a few lines; end with a question.

11. It's a small world. Try to be humble. Try to leave a good impression on people you meet/work with/study with, even if you fall out with people; always remain professional. If you're a student, realise that having the best grades in your class means nothing; it doesn't make you the best artist by a long shot - when you graduate you'll realise that some hobbyists are disgustingly talented. Just be "nice".

12. Fear can be a valuable motivator. One thing I always do is scour the internet for images which make me feel talentless - it helps me keep my feet on the ground by knowing that there is always somebody better and there always will be - but I'm cool with that so long as I can make something I like.

13. Be prepared to receive rejection letters. My advice would be to objectively compare the standard of your own work with that of current employees across all levels of experience and assess whether you think your application has a high rate of success prior to submitting it. If you apply and get a rejection then email them back and ask if it's possible to receive some feedback on your application. If you receive a string of rejection letters then be sure to take time out and reassess your portfolio. Never do a 'scatter-shot' approach where you email everybody the same CV for different roles.

14. Make use of opportunities available to you. If you're a student then check out Dare to be Digital, if you're an Animator then check out 11 Second Club, if you're a 3D Artist then look at forum competitions on places such as polycount, if you're a concept artist then look on ConceptArt and take part in daily sketch groups, if you're a graphic designer then check out design competitions on 99Designs. Form teams in person or remotely through the power of the interwebz.

15. "Shut up. Work hard. Be patient."

Hopefully someone reads this at some point and finds it useful.

Edited 5 times. Last edit by Liam Wong on 10th October 2011 10:40pm

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Nicky Rhodes Studying Environment Artist, University of Glamorgan6 years ago
Well said Liam, I graduated in 2009 and have only just got my foot in the door with a start up company. I left uni knowing I had to build on my technical skills, and further my portfolio. The uni I went to was a very good uni but I graduated at the start of the recession and I would have been more risky for companies to take on as an entry level artist. I have come to realise that you cant just walk into a well paid job. It's about having a good attitude and understanding what a good portfolio means. To help it would be nice if games companies were more helpful on what they really are looking for and who should apply. I recommend the guide to a good portfolio on the blitzgames website.I also refer to liams no.15 hang in there!
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Robert Baker 3D Artist 6 years ago
Excellent advice Liam, with something as dynamic as the games industry, university courses should be used by students as a catalyst for becoming more self sufficient in regards to skill development and personal progression. Teaching students the love for continual learning as opposed to teaching them the be-all and end-all of every skill they might possible need. Perhaps the lack of awareness that students will only get out what they put in to game related university courses is part of the problem.
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The thing is, University has a unwritten rule that IT is about the student learning to be responsible for themselves, to regulate their own sand box time and to be ambitious and aware. Gaining that ambitous awareness of their aims and goals is not something the tutors should willingly spoon feed into the students.

However, being aware that the journey of developing critical analysis will help you go that extra mile, thus leapfrogging your compatriots by miles and miles, that when you graduate - you stand a fighting chance of standing out above the rest when applying (you will still get rejection letters, but you're already up the curve...)
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Liam Wong6 years ago
Yeah that's why I often get people contacting me asking about which university to go to and I always tell people that it doesn't matter which course you choose. It's not even necessary that you go to university if you're an artist. You won't be spoon-fed information, you have to go and learn stuff yourself. A degree is great for various reasons but if you're an artist then you will be judged on your artwork; not what/where you studied.
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well sometimes, the University alumni old boys network can open doors in various non game related fields eg. join RCA for its transport course, Central St Martins for fashion, Oxbridge for pure snobbishness and rubbing elbows with future whitehall mandarins whilst learning history, english lit and politics. For art, if one could afford the extortionate tuition then check our ACCD or Savannah.

Otherwise, just find any reasonably useful university that can help hone some aspects of art (eg. fine art/atelier), whilst spend all your other waking time honing your skill in the profession you want to be in, because University is not going to prepare you for your job. Just allow you to mature and find the right outlet to apply yourself.

In contrast, one has to decide what sort of level of debt you want to be in from 2012, as UK joins the rest of the world whereby University education is not a right of passage, thus hammering home the home truth that a (non transferable/useful) University degree as no guarantee for future employment as UK hits the 8.4% unemployment mark (which is far lower than spain, greece or ireland).

Anyways, rougher times ahead, but with the right strategy and graft, there is always wriggle room opportunity. So dont drink your future career away.
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