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Games industry
careers guide

Fancy a career in the games industry? We have all the knowledge and tips to help you become a games pro.




What is gaming?

Introduction to gaming

“The creation, development and product testing of video games”

Bigger than Hollywood and making more than $60 billion a year, the gaming industry is one of the most popular creative sectors. Combining computer code with artistic design, this industry is extremely varied, and involves large teams of people working together for many months.

You’ve probably played many games yourself and know what’s popular, but have you ever thought about the complex design process that goes into making these games? Even things as simple as a scoring system have to be meticulously planned and calculated so that the game makes sense and is fun and rewarding to play. In an age of increasingly immersive games the artwork also has to be more stylish and realistic than it has ever been before, as well as being able to support smaller devices with the emergence of mobile and free-to-play games.

A knowledge of computer coding goes far in this industry, especially being literate in C, and C++ as well as more basic languages such as JavaScript, as this will enable you to learn the common logic and principles of video game making. Roles in the design and artwork departments also require proficiency in software such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash as well as 3D graphics and animation packages like 3D Studio Max, NUKE or Maya.

The best way to get experience and impress potential employers is simply to build your own games. Whilst students have the technical knowledge many can’t provide examples of their own work outside of uni assignments - it’s essential to have your own portfolio to demonstrate your ability and to stand out from the crowd. Start off small with programs that have lots of built in behaviours before moving on to more complex software. With the amount of online tutorials available on YouTube and forums dedicated to gamers it’s easy to teach yourself - even coding! It’s a great idea to collaborate with friends who have similar interests and take part in game jams which aren’t only great for networking opportunities but are also heaps of fun! Don’t be afraid to experiment - the games industry is all about risk-taking and initiative to find the new Call of Duty.

How does gaming work

The design process goes through a number of different stages and involves several teams working together in one of the most collaborative industries.

Firstly is the concept stage, where game designers first come up with an idea for a game. They have to come up with a basic plan, detailing the genre of the game, its target audience, platform and predicted budget. They will then present this to other members of the team to convince them to take the game forward.

Next is pre-production, which involves building a game prototype to build and test game mechanics. The graphics are usually temporary and the ‘dirty code’ used is often thrown away, but it enables teams to see if a game is worth pursuing further. Engine components are built and visuals are provisionally designed to test any technical limitations and decide upon which platform the game should be released and can support.

Now it’s finally time for production! 3-4 week long sprints are scheduled to get different parts of the game completed and tested. This isn’t for lone geniuses in a basement, however, as all the different teams have to communicate with each other effectively to ensure that the various elements work together. Meaningful stories have to be created over various levels and build modes to ensure maximum engagement with the game. In the last few weeks, known in the industry as “crunch time”, the game undergoes rigorous testing by quality assurance technicians as the graphics are polished and the game perfected before it goes on sale.




Gaming examples

  • Pacman, Namco, 1980 (Arcade game)

  • Call of Duty, Infinity Ward and Activision, 2003 (PC)

  • Flappy Bird, GEARS Studios, 2013 (Mobile App)

Jobs in gaming

The games industry is one of the most innovative and exciting creative sectors, but also requires a lot of mathematical knowledge. Game development is not usually an entry-level role, but getting involved in quality assurance testing and building your own games can help you to build experience in the industry that will help you land that dream job.

Below we’ve listed some of the key roles in the gaming industry and all the basic info you should know about them. Find out what happens, the skills you'll need and what you can expect as a starting salary. If you see a job title you like, pop it in your profile so we can match you with employers.

Game Designer

The idea generators. Game designers come up with the general concepts for the game, detailing how the game is played, rules and scoring systems for smaller games and dreaming up story, plot and character backstories for larger, more immersive games. During the development stage the designers are also on hand to make adjustments to the original specification in response to any technical constraints and train QA testers to play the game, ensuring that they understand what is expected of the finished product.

Skills required:

  • Idea generation
  • Communication
  • Knowledge of coding
  • Passion for video games
  • Maths
  • English

Roles:

  • Junior Game Designer
    £18k-£25k
  • Game Designer
    £35k-£45k
  • Level Designer
    £20k-£25k
  • Script Writer
    £15k-£25k
  • User Interface Designer
    £18k-£25k


Animator

Animators design characters and objects to make them look as realistic as possible. Characters are ‘given life’ by animators, who enable them to express emotion and move around to improve a game’s immersive experience.

Skills required:

  • Creative
  • Proficient in animation software
  • Psychology
  • Maths
  • English

Roles:

  • Junior Animator
    £18k-£25k
  • Senior Animator
    £35-£45k


Games Programmer

Responsible for the more technical side, programmers design and write the computer code that controls the game as well as detecting and fixing any bugs. Programmers may specialise in a specific area, such as physics programming (which governs the natural laws of a video game such as gravity, i.e a character will fall to the ground if they run off a cliff), artificial intelligence (allowing the characters to walk around on their own) and 3D engine development.

Skills required:

  • Advanced knowledge of coding
  • Passion for video games
  • Communication
  • Maths
  • Logic
  • Problem solving
  • Work to deadlines

Roles:

  • Physics Programmer
    £25k-£35k
  • Artificial Intelligence Programmer
    £30k-£40k
  • 3D Engine Developer
    £35k-£45k


Audio Engineer

The audio engineer creates the soundtrack for the game, incorporating background music to add tension, sound effects for a more immersive experience and character voices to aid the storyline and plot development.

Skills required:

  • Proficient in audio equipment software
  • Communication
  • Resourcefulness
  • Able to create dramatic tension
  • Work to deadlines

Roles:

  • Junior Audio Engineer
    £16k-£18k
  • Senior Audio Engineer
    £18k-£25k


Quality Assurance Technician

An entry-route for most people wanting to work in the games industry, QA technicians test games before they are released and are there to suggest improvements to ensure a game’s quality and playability. A passion for games is a must as QA technicians have to play the same game repeatedly to test different levels and build modes - this is a serious role and shouldn’t be seen as easy!

Skills required:

  • Avid game player
  • Willingness to play games outside of comfort zone
  • Understanding of what other gamers will want
  • Awareness of programming
  • English

Roles:

  • QA Technician
    £15k-£22k
  • QA Technician Manager
    £18k-£25k



Gaming companies

  • Media Molecule
  • Codemasters
  • Rare
  • Mode7Games
  • Dakko Dakko
  • Dlala Studios
  • Zee-3 Digital Publishing
  • FourDoorLemon
  • SizeFiveGames
  • Xiotex
  • Nyamyam
  • Vlambeer



  • 3D Game Programming All-in One by Kenneth Finney
  • Physics for Game Developers by David M Bourg
  • Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman
  • Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster
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