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Getting Into The Game: Jobs In The Video Game Industry

The gaming industry is tough to get into, but there are a few tricks for getting your foot in the door.

According to a release by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 300 educational institutions are now offering gaming, video game design, and development programs to students. This means that there are more and more graduates with video game design and development degrees than ever, making the fight for jobs in this field highly competitive. To grab one of these coveted jobs you need an edge that makes you stand out from the stack of resumes.

Get Creative with Your Career Path

Many students dream of working for the big player of the gaming industry in a starring role, but that could be a mistake, according to Jeremy Roden, director of the interactive simulation/game technology program at Richland College in Dallas, Texas. “It's not all about being an artist or programmer,” says Roden. “The gaming and film industries require a ‘beautiful collaboration’ among a diverse group of talented people. For example, look at the production pipeline of Electronic Arts, Dreamworks, or Lucasfilm.” Roden suggests looking for positions that may be easier to get into, like educational gaming.

Go Beyond the Degree

Having a degree isn't enough to get your foot in the door at most gaming companies. You have to have a little extra that sets you apart from the pack, according to Dana Dominiak, president of Webfoot Games and adjunct instructor at Lewis University in Illinois.

“The best way for artists and writers to get into the gaming industry is to be extremely useful to a game developer,” says Dominiak. “This means not only having great creative ideas, which are common, but also have technical ability.”

How do you apply this idea to your own career? Get as much technical knowledge as you can. For example, if you're an artist, go beyond basic design knowledge and get advanced training in particular game development software like 3D Studio and 3D Character Studio.

Work Your Way Up

The best thing for a shining resume is experience. This shows prospective employers that you have what it takes to work in the gaming industry. “I know that's what my company looks for: young game developers who are so excited about making games that they make them on their own,” says Dominiak.

So how do you get experience when no one will hire you? Dominiak suggests working on “indie games” to build the kind of experience that will draw the eye of potential employers in the gaming industry. Look for work on indie games by trolling concept art and gaming forums.

Do Your Research and Practice

It's not enough to be good at video games, you also have to know your niche inside and out, according to Tom Rassweiler, one of the lead programmers at Arakdium. Here are some of his tips for preparing yourself for job hunting:

* Read blogs to see what’s hot in the industry and go social. Rassweiler says the number one thing his company loves to see on the resume of potential employee is social gaming experience. "Social games are very hot right now,” says Rassweiler. “Not only do they have a huge audience, and are making big bucks for the game industry, but the audience is growing.”

* Look at games in the niche you want to target and take notes. Come up with ideas for making current games better. This will help you prove you have great ideas in interviews.

* Practice writing and talking about your ideas. “Have some writing samples, but be ready to think on your feet,” says Rassweiler, “because design is very dynamic and collaborative.”