It’s not all fun and games...
...but it’s better than a lot of other things I can think of.
Tom Sloper
Lots of careers in games
 Programming
 Audio
 Art
 2D
 Concept art
 3D
 Animation
 Game Design
 Producing
 Level Design
 Financial/accounting
 Writing
 Testing
 Customer Support
 IT
 Marketing
 Legal
Types of companies
 Publishers
 Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, THQ...
 Development studios
 Pandemic, Savage, Naked Sky...
 Platform holders
 Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft...
 Quality Assurance providers
 iBeta, VeriTest, VMC...
Big vs. small companies
 Big companies – for experienced candidates only
 Narrow specialization
 Numerous specialties
 Numerous departments or studio teams
 Opportunities for lateral, diagonal, vertical movement
 Small companies – good for beginners breaking in
 Everybody wears numerous hats
 Few departments/teams
 Opportunities vary, but boy will you learn a lot!
 The most in-demand position, and the most
 Requirements:
 4-year degree or better (CS preferred)
 Solid portfolio (“demo disc”)
 Salary: the highest in the industry (see
GameCareerGuide Salary Survey); avg. $83K
 Entry-level positions abound, mostly at smaller
companies (don’t hold out for top companies only).
Internships may be available
Programming specialties &
languages, etc.
 A.I.
 C++
 Engine
 C#
 Tools
 Flash
 3D Graphics
 Java
 Physics
 Brew
 Online/networked
 Mobile
 Scripting languages
 Web games, IPTV
 Engines
 Also highly in demand, but very competitive
 Requirements:
 Art degree
 Outstanding portfolio
 Comfort with Photoshop, Maya, 3DS Max
 Entry-level positions plentiful but don’t hold out for a
job at one of the top companies – be willing to start
 Salary: avg. $67K
2D Art
 Yes, 2D. User interfaces, mobile games, web games,
 Requirements:
 Art degree
 Outstanding portfolio
 Entry-level positions plentiful but don’t hold out for a
job at one of the top companies – be willing to start
Concept Art
 Niche position, requiring extraordinary talent and
 Requirements:
 Art degree
 Exceptionally outstanding portfolio
 Optional: film, comic book / graphic novel experience
 The extraordinarily talented candidate might be able
to get a full-time job making concept art for games. But
mostly it’s freelancing...
3D Art
 Highly in demand, but very competitive
 Requirements:
 Art degree
 Outstanding portfolio
 Entry-level positions plentiful but don’t hold out for a
job at one of the top companies – be willing to start
 Narrow specialty
 Requirements:
 Art degree
 Outstanding portfolio (“demo reel”)
 Knowledge of MoCap and Facial MoCap & other
animation tools
 Entry-level positions unlikely. The candidate may need
to gain experience first in film, TV, commercial, or
Web animation
Game Design
 Highly competitive position. It’s not what you think.
(It’s not about “ideas.”)
 Requirements:
 Bachelors degree, liberal arts
 Strong résumé (a lot of industry experience)
 Entry-level positions do not exist. Game industry
experience required. Usual entry paths: QA, Level
Design, Programming
 Salary – lower because of the high competition (the
glamour and cachet of the title); avg. $64K
Level Design
 Very much in demand
 Requirements:
 One or more degrees: Art, Game Design, Programming,
 Outstanding portfolio (“demo disc”)
 Comfort with 3DS Max and/or other level design tools
 Entry-level positions exist, but the candidate must
demonstrate proven ability to create levels that are fun
to play. Internships may be available
 Demand vs. supply: many want to do it; few are
qualified; few openings
 Requirements:
 Writing degree
 Writing experience credits (film, episodic/dramatic TV,
comic books, graphic novels)
 Entry path: Writers for games are normally freelancers,
not full-time employees. (Exceptions exist.)
 Freelancing...
 Demand vs. supply
 Requirements:
 Bachelors degree
 Audio experience credits (film, radio, TV, commercials,
books on tape...)
 Entry path: Audio engineers are often freelancers, not
full-time employees. (Exceptions exist.)
 Freelancing...
 Average income: $73K
 Every project needs someone to manage the details,
communication, expectations; only open to industry
 Requirements:
 Bachelors degree a plus
 Outstanding game industry experience
 Entry-level positions do not exist. Most producers
migrate into project management from other jobs: QA,
programming, art, design, marketing, legal...
 Salary – not as high as you might think; avg. $79K
Testing (Quality Assurance)
 Demand vs. supply: testers are always needed; lots of
people want to be testers; easiest entry path
 Requirements: good communication skills; good
technical skills; experience playing games
 Opportunities for advancement: can be a good entry
pathway, depending on company type. Best
opportunities with smaller companies; no
opportunities at independent test labs
 Salary: the lowest in the industry; avg. $39K. And
expect frequent layoffs
Customer Support
 Demand vs. supply: not highly competitive. Openings
may exist, when the position isn’t outsourced.
 Requirements: candidate must be a helpful “people
person” with excellent communication skills
 Opportunities for a move into the studio: depends on
the company and whether or not it has an internal
game studio
 I consider game masters as belonging to this category.
Sometimes unpaid volunteers (but pay is available)
Information Technology
 All big companies need IT (at small co., someone in
engineering handles IT)
 Requirements:
 Degree
 IT experience
 Entry path: none (just apply at a large company)
 Opportunities for a move into the studio: depends on
the company. If there is an internal studio, may be
possible to migrate into game creation
 Requirements:
 Marketing degree
 Marketing experience a plus
 Entry path: apply when nearing completion of
marketing degree. Internships a good way in.
Experience in other industry? Apply!
 Salary: avg. $73K
Legal (in-house counsel)
 Requirements:
 Law degree (contracts, IP)
 Bar exam
 Entry path: none (just apply at a large company).
Internships a good way in
 Opportunities for a move into the studio: Depends on
the individual
 Requirements:
 Degree
 A plus: CPA or MBA
 Professional experience (good résumé and references)
 Entry path: none (just apply at a large company)
 Opportunities for advancement: managerial only (no
movement into game creation is likely from here)
Switching into games from another
 More doable than you might think
 Professional experience means a lot
 Game degree not needed, but might help
 Solid portfolio essential
 The path of least resistance
Switching jobs within the industry
 Doable but requires patience and serendipity
 Depends on company type and structure
 Depends on individual’s experience, cooperative/
collaborative attitude, and what the company needs
 Individual must prove he’s capable, enthusiastic, hardworking. Self-driver who’s not afraid to seek assistance
and learn
 Realistic approach required; willingness to do
whatever is needed
The Egg
The egg is “the game industry.”
The yolk is whatever job it is that YOU want.
Moving around in the egg white is comparatively easy.
Getting into the yolk takes time.
The really hard part is getting inside the shell in the first
Job vs. Indie vs. Lone Wolf vs.
 Many seem to think they have to start a company right
out of high school or college!!!
 Indie (or modding) is good preparation for Job.
 Job is best preparation for Startup
 Experience
 Contacts
 Maturity
 Money
 Lone Wolfdom is only for the exceptionally
accomplished Renaissance Man
The keys to breaking in
 Location, location, location
 Realistic targeting
 Research, research, research
 Networking
 Solid portfolio (body of work)
 – yellow zone
 (job aspirants, professionals)
 (indies and lone wolves)
 (students, wannabes)
 Introduction to Game Development (Rabin)
 Secrets of the Game Business (Larramée)
 Game Design Workshop (Fullerton)

Careers in the Video Game Industry