We at Rupie obsess over helping earnest, driven talent land the right conversations that lead to the right game jobs specifically for them.
For those new to the games industry, we compiled a starter guide to inspire action and provide clarity in navigating an often confusing and opaque industry.
- Why working in games is super timely in 2021
- What feasible steps anyone can take to get started in games
- What resources are available to learn games job skills more actively
- The key ingredient to truly carving out a career in games
There is no better time to work in games
Between the COVID-19 pandemic, recent NFT gaming boom, and continued growth of global interest in games as a virtual social activity, demand for talent in the games industry has never been higher.
A few stats to help put this in perspective:
- The global pandemic drove a 20% boost in gaming sales and created nearly 20,000 jobs (TechCrunch)
- The global game market is on pace to grow from $175B in 2021 to $200B in 2024 (Newzoo)
- Roughly 2.81B people globally play games, growing an average of 5.6% per year (Finances Online)
- The games industry has eclipsed the combined value global film industry and the North American sports industries (Marketwatch)
- The games industry unemployment rate is near zero in the US (IBIS)
- Senior gamers (ages 55-64) grew by 32% in the last 1.5 years (GWI)
Beyond the sheer expansion of the games industry, the definition of what it means to build a "game" has widened in the last year plus of global isolation, spawning use cases that blur the lines between gaming and augmented reality, virtual reality, work telepresence, or even virtual live concerts.
Whether you're a newcomer or a seasoned vet, any individual with a keen interest in building the next wave of digital gaming experiences has never been more rife with opportunity in game development.
No prior games industry XP? No problem.
A common misconception games industry hopefuls have is that prior studio experience is absolutely required to enter the games industry workforce.
While having prior exposure to working on and shipping a game is a differentiator, there are a few ways to let your passion for the industry shine without already having a foot in the door.
Below is what we at Rupie believe to be one of the most realistically viable paths into the games industry as a novice:
Step #1: Dabble with ideas, assets, and/or mods to your favorite games
One of the best places to start your game industry exploration journey is within a community you are already engaged in and passionate about.
Whether something as specific as scripting for Roblox/Minecraft or as broad as sandboxing it up in Valve's Garry's Mod, tinkering in an environment that you love immediately lowers the activation energy required to diligently "work" at learning how to give back to the community that has already given you so much.
Having near-infinite energy to work on a game you actually love and knowing that the mod you create will be played by a real audience of engaged people can be intensely and intrinsically motivating. Do not underestimate this seemingly unending well of motivation to learn.
Channeling this will not only embed you further within a known developer community, but it will also begin to forge a certain level of expertise and therefore reputation within the particular engine your favorite game(s) was/were built on. If the said engine and its programming language/visual style happen to align with the environments and styles other modern titles are developed in, you will be extra well-positioned to take on fresh games industry jobs.
A few easy ways to start contributing:
- Engage with the game's asynchronous community on Twitter, subreddits, or forums
- Engage with the game's synchronous community on Discord
- Participate in art challenges on ArtStation
- Play with existing assets or submit your own assets on platforms like Unity Asset Store, NexusMods or Mod.io
Step #2: Self-train/self-teach with online resources
Once you begin to cut your teeth in producing real assets or mods that get real engagement from real players, you begin to create a foundation of knowledge and experience upon which additional instruction can begin moving your progress needle.
What does "progress" mean at this point? That you now may be ready to move beyond the walls of your favorite game into contributing to other games built on similar platforms. Not only will you have begun to familiarize yourself with the expectations of a particular game's community, but you will have also begun to understand the in's and out's of your software tools.
Starting by running cursory searches for your chosen creation tool(s) and environment(s) on free video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo can yield a shockingly rich library of walkthrough content from indie game devs and experienced game devs alike. This content serves as a wonderful entry point into that layer of understanding one level deeper; the only downside is that there is very little accountability baked into the free experience.
If you feel ready for something a bit more hands-on that also may require a small upfront financial investment, game development course offerings within platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Skillshare provide thorough instruction, detailed tutorials, and accurate assessments to help you hone your expertise in your particular area of focus.
Here is a complete list of the various engines being used by game programmers, game designers, 3D modelers, animators, et al. : List of Game Engines
With these very accessible resources and the right motivations, the world of game development truly is your oyster.
Step #3: Participate in game jams
A game jam is exactly what it sounds like: a semi-competitive "jam session" experience where teams of developers convene to design, build, and release a fully playable game within a set amount of time. Game jams generally comprise multiple teams building around a predetermined theme and winners are usually decided upon at the end of the jams by a panel of judges.
Why do we at Rupie recommend game jams so highly? Because few things scream "draw on what you know" and "lean on each other" quite like building a real game with real people in the face of real table stakes.
The accountability called upon within the game jam pressure cooker helps train key execution muscles around time management, resource management, and deadlines that translate nicely into the broader games industry workforce.
A few great resources for game jams in your area/time zone:
"Sweet! I've made stuff solo & with others IRL — what's next?"
If the game development journey were viewed in its entirety as the original Star Wars saga, the aforementioned steps would be akin to one facet of Luke Skywalker's training with master Yoda on planet Dagobah.
If you're to take anything from this exposé, let it be that the true first step in carving out a career in games is learning not just whether you intrinsically care about contributing to game development, but also how it is you want to contribute through experimenting in safe environments in order to understand where you see yourself in the bigger picture.
With that, stay tuned for Part 2 of breaking into the games industry, where we'll dive into the in's and out's of the preparations needed to start building direct relationships with key folks in the industry.