/* Whilst this post is intended to accompany my talk for EGX careers fair about jobs in the games industry, it can pretty much apply to any job/industry, go out and work towards it. Right now!
As a Technical Evangelist for Unity, people often ask me how did I get my job straight out of university because I’m so lucky to get to travel around and talk about games. That’s obviously not all I do as that’s a perfect picture, but I guess it’s quite close. The answer though involves a lot of extra work around my university studies including being involved with a Microsoft student programme called Windows Games Ambassadors. This led me to be offered a job months before my final exams and graduation at Unity. So here is some advice on how to stand out and make you a student people want to employ *\
So it’s that time of year again, summer’s coming to it’s close, the university year is starting again, students returning from months of doing nothing and fresher’s heading into the unknown full of hope and wander. They’re going on an adventure.
But there’s one thing that’s wrong about that opening sentence, “students returning from months of doing nothing”. Why’s that? They’ve been “busy” they’ll say. I’ve met alot of optimistic students who believe they’ll walk straight into a job from University because they have a degree…. Yer, that’s very unlikely. Getting by doing the bare minimum and scraping through with a 2:1 sounds like a solid plan, far too busy partying and making lot’s of new friends. But remember, you’re against every single person on your course/department and every single graduate in the UK and beyond in a similar study, how are you possibly going to stand out?
I’m sure you’ve had plenty of lectures from your boring careers advisors banging on about creating a CV, but what are you going to put on there? Why are you interesting? Why are you simply the best!
10 little steps how to stand out.
Think about the work you’ve done for University, yes you’ve spent a significant number of hours creating that content and got an ok grade, but so has everyone else on your course.
1) Make Games… But think about Scope
You want to be a game developer right? So make games! Not tech demos, not cool little mechanics, make a full complete game. But what does that mean? I’m sure you’ve got your dream game in mind, something like an MMO RPG like WoW, but with Pokémon with GTA V graphics and a full open world, that sounds sooo awesome! Do Not Do That!
Think about making a game with one mechanic, look at super Mario. Move right left and jump, 3 buttons. Make a few levels, put a nice few animations together, some jumping sounds and a few menus for the beginning and end. You’ll realise this is much harder than you thought.
2) Show and Tell….. and FAIL
Release your game into the wild! Seriously, get as much feedback as possible, honest feedback that is and don’t be offended what you hear. Yes you spent ages on it but it’s probably going to be terrible, and guess what? THAT’S OK.
It’s ok for your first game to be terrible, if humans succeeded the first time they tried everything we’d definitely have hover boards by now. I’m still waiting!
You’re first few games are going to be pretty shocking, but you’re going to get better and better with the more you do. It’s easy enough to get your game on Android and Windows Phone with cheap and free developer licenses respectively, release updates to your game after feedback and update bugs/ content. Making a game is not just a one off release anymore.
3) Work with others….. Because other people suck
You’re not going to be sat working by yourself when you have a job so why are you doing that on your side projects? Find people with skills you are lacking or need more help. A general game development team is made up of Programmers, Designers, 3d Artists, 2d Artists, Producers, Audio Designers and many other roles. Think about the size of your project, how many people you might optimally need and work on making something awesome together. You’ll soon realise other people suck and are unreliable, have conflicting ideas and just don’t put enough effort it. But that’s ok, you can talk about the challengers you faced and next time your team will be better.
4) Social Media….. Don’t just share UniLAD posts
Share your work online, be part of the #gamedev community, it’s social media, everyone is invited!! Yes follow some influential people with like 100k followers to see what they’re up to, but also follow some developers like yourself, students at other uni’s, some indie devs, maybe some YouTuber’s or journalists.
Twitter is pretty tough to get off the ground initially but if you think about it, everyone started with 0 followers. Share your work with #gamedev, #screenshotsaturday's, #madewithuniy Fridays. Try Facebook groups and sub reddits like r/gamedev & r/unity3d.
/* At this point I started to feel this post could be one of those BuzzFeed articles where you have to go to a different page every time for the next step *\
5) Conferences & Meetups….. It’s not a members club
Attend local conferences and game dev meet ups, talk to similar minded people, share ideas. It’s no as scary as you’d imagine, people want to chat to like minded people, the after parties are often pretty great and lead to great conversation. There’s various Unity Meet-ups around the UK (Brighton, Bristol, Manchester and London) Everyone can be involved.
Major conferences like Develop Conference are actually free to attend for the show floor where the networking happens, so head down to Brighton for the day and meet some new people.
6) Get some business cards…. Card 4 Card
These people you meet, how are you going to contact them again if you need to ask advice or interested in a job? How will they find your portfolio or CV? Generally people are more likely to give you there’s if you give them yours. You can get a pack of 100 for £15 on Moo, it’s a great investment.
7) Practise public speaking, interviews and pitching…. Practise practice practice
So you might be a sweaty mess or stumble your words when speaking in front of people, public speaking is pretty nerve racking; it takes a lot of practise to be comfortable. Make sure you know your content, don’t just wing it. Eventually you’ll start to feel more natural as the repetition kicks in, then you’ll be start to feel comfortable. All major keynotes are practised near word for word, make sure you’re prepared.
Interviews are scary. You’re forced into a room for people to judge you and your skills. Ask your university to set up mock interviews, know your CV word for word and be ready to answer any part of it. Mention your hobbies, no drinking jager bombs every weekend with friends isn’t a hobby. Do you play sport? dance? Bake? Knit? Warhammer? How about your favourite games? You’re going to be working with people who love games. An employer wants to work with someone relatable and who can fit into their company.
DO NOT LIE! If an interviewer asks you a question, they generally know the answer to that question. Just say you do not know that but you’d be very interested knowing the answer. After, make an effort to find out that answer, why not email that interviewer thanking them for their time and tell them you found out the answer.
8) Do your homework ….. Stop watching pokemon
If you’re going for an interview, please please please at least research some of the games they’ve created or worked on, what IP’s they own, how many people do they employ, anything to show that you have personal interest in the company you could potentially work for.
But don’t just do homework about specific companies, know the latest industry news. Develop, Pocket Gamer, Euro Gamer, Gamasutra and PC Gamer are some of my favourite sites to know what’s happening.
9) Join a student developer competitions/programme… Be one of the best
There are so many opportunities available to students right now from some of the biggest names in the Industry. Look at the Microsoft Student partners programme, Warner Brothers, Bafta and take part in competitions like Global Game Jam, Brains Eden & Imagine Cup.
Take part in Game Jams because Game Jams are awesome! You learn so much in a short space of time, it gives you that initial push to make something quick and it’s great for working in teams.
10) Website, Blog, Portfolio and CV…. Show other people how awesome you are
So you’ve made an awesome game, you’ve got some business cards, you’re attending conferences, doing public speaking and people are interested about you to find out more. Where can they find more info? On your nice new website of course, so make one! It’s £6 a year for a domain and about £10 for hosting.
Throw up a word press, don’t bother making your own, you’re a game developer not a web designer and show what you’ve done. Start a regular dev blog showing your progress. This is the place you want to direct people to show how awesome you are. I was lucky enough to get quite a few of my post’s featured on MSDN students and in Develop Magazine.
At Hull Uni we had a blog aggregator with all different blogs from students on the Computer Science course (check it out here), thanks to Rob Miles for persuading so many people to write as much as possible!
/* So we made it to the end, hopefully the advice has helped you and you’re not even going to finish reading this sentence because you’re too busy working on your game/portfolio/website/business cards. It may sound like a lot but it’s actually not HARD to do. It’s just a lot of effort.
If you came to my talk at EGX, thanks for coming. Sorry about all the Pokémon references, now go be a gamedev Master!
Any questions feel free to hit me up on twitter. @joshnaylor *\