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How to make it in the video games industry

teenager on a computer, gaming, cyber securityThe video games industry has experienced huge growth in the last year, particularly in the mobile games space. And it’s set to grow even more this year, with research by App Annie predicting that mobile games spending could grow by 20% in 2021.

This growth has already prompted a surge in applications from those hopeful of joining the industry, but what does it take to really make it in video games if you’re just starting out?

Aline Krebs, Game Artist for hyper casual mobile games developer, Voodoo, was encouraged by her parents, her father in particular, to follow a career path that she loves. For her, that was working with video games.

Aline shares her top tips on how to get into the video games industry, the challenges she faced on her own journey, and how to overcome them.

Follow industry trends and be curious about everything

Being on top of the biggest industry trends is vital in order to demonstrate your knowledge and value to potential employers. You should keep a keen eye on what the next big games will be, look at which ones were a success or a failure, and try to understand why.

And don’t forget to expand your industry research outside of your own personal interests. You might love mobile games above all else, but it’s extremely important to engage with AAA and indie titles so you’re well-informed on the biggest topics in the industry.

Inspiration can, and often does, come from outside the video games space too. Some of the best games that have ever been made have been inspired by other forms of entertainment such as board games, books, films and theatre, or even a personal hobby.

You can take any concept and make a video game from it, whether that’s playing as a slice of bread on a mission to be made into toast, controlling a goat with a penchant for destruction or turning the serious business of immigration into a game.

Make yourself visible on social media

It’s a no brainer to keep your LinkedIn profile updated from a professional perspective, but it’s surprising how many people neglect this and other social channels. By constantly maintaining and updating your social presence, including channels such as Twitter and Instagram, you will make sure you’re ready to send your portfolio to a potential employer or recruiter at a moment’s notice.

Think of your social channels like a live portfolio of your work. You don’t need to have thousands of followers, and sometimes all it takes is for just one person to see your work to change your life, but this won’t happen if you don’t make yourself visible and show off your skills.

Believe in yourself and ignore your inner saboteur

Impostor syndrome is experienced by millions across the world, including me, and something that women in particular face in tech specific industries. It can be challenging to fight, but it’s incredibly important as a woman in the industry to believe in yourself at all times.

When I was first trying to break into the industry, I was told that my experience with 2D and 3D graphics meant I was too much of a generalist, that I wasn’t good enough and required a specialism. It hurts when people tell you that you haven’t made the grade, but instead of dwelling on it and letting your inner saboteur take over, try to understand why they’ve said that and look at ways you can improve.

One of the best ways to fight against your inner saboteur is to focus on what makes you special, and boost yourself with positive affirmations. And don’t compare yourself to other people, because that’s a sure fire way to start the negative cycle all over again.

Always keep learning

The old adage that we’re always learning is true, and exceptionally so in the video games industry. Things move incredibly fast, so you need to make sure that you’re constantly developing your skills so that you don’t get left behind.

Nobody is a master of all trades, and you’re not expected to know everything when you’re just starting out, but prioritise learning as much as possible to give yourself a competitive edge. And just because you don’t have certain skills yet, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn them.

Don’t give up

The most important thing is to never give up. It took me several years to land a permanent role in the games industry, and there were multiple times where I felt like giving up. But I couldn’t imagine working in any other industry, so I kept pushing myself because I knew there was a job out there for me somewhere. Sometimes, you have to dig deep to find it and wait longer than you might want to. But it's not impossible, so don’t give up.

Aline KrebsAbout the author

Aline is a 2D/3D Game Artist for Voodoo Berlin, where she creates concept art and both in-game and production assets. With a passion for 3D environments and all things colourful, Aline has produced artwork for mobile games such as City of Love: Paris and Partouche Casino Games, alongside working as the solo artist for Steam and Switch game BAFL - Brakes Are For Losers. After being introduced to video games by her parents at a young age, Aline made the decision to enter the games industry as a teenager, teaching herself the skills she needed before securing a diploma in graphic design and attending Enjmin to study games and interactive digital media.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here

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How to get your big break as a games artist

By Jules Langran, Art Director, MAG Interactive

teenager on a computer, gaming, cyber securityAs many sectors of the economy are effectively on pause, the games industry is thriving.

The nature of the work means it’s possible to do the job remotely and thanks to technology like Google Hangouts and Zoom it’s easy to communicate. This also means candiates can take part in interviews from home and start their new job remotely too. A new recruit joined the company as the pandemic worsened and has already been made to feel part of the team, with virtual after work drinks and even yoga! So don’t let the lockdown be a barrier to netting your dream job as a games artist.

But how do you manage to nail down that first job? How competitive is it? And what do you study to get into this field? Here’s my advice to get your big break as a games artist.

Pick a discipline you enjoy

There are multiple disciplines within games design including 3D, 2D, animation, FX, GUI, or generalist, to name just a few. The best bet is to find a discipline that you enjoy doing and a suitable course.

It’s a great idea to support your study by attending industry events which will help you to keep up-to-date with current trends and give you the chance to hear some inspiring talks from experts within the games industry. Check out Develop, EGX Rezzed and Pocket Gamer Connects which are some of the best around.

Never give up

To get a head start on the other artists out there, gain an understanding of game engines like Unity and how you would import your art into a game. There are plenty of tutorials for beginners on the Unity website so you can be one step ahead of the competition.

Keep creating art and thinking about new ideas, then make sure you talk about them in your interviews. If you are inspired about working on your own projects then that enthusiasm will come across and shine a very positive light on your interview. And most importantly – don’t give up.

The games industry is competitive but don’t let that put you off! It just means when you land that artist role it will be all the sweeter. Persevere; you may not be successful in your first few applications but keep going. At the same time, ensure that you are creating new work all the time while you’re job hunting.

When putting together a portfolio, it’s likely the person hiring you will make a very quick decision to invite you for an interview based on the first few pieces so it’s better to show a dozen exceptional pieces, rather than 50 average ones.

Look at what is required from the role you are applying for. If the company is asking for a 2D artist who can create assets and also animate them, then show them you can do this.

Do your research

When researching job roles, study the games they have produced and think about if you would enjoy working on those types of games.

When applying for jobs, don’t just send out a blanket email. Look at the work each company produces and in the application email mention one or two of their games you like, and why.

Research the company ahead of the interview and think of some questions you can ask. How does the company run projects? How would it manage your personal development? Are you able to attend industry events? What is the culture like?

Stay humble

When you’re starting out in the industry my advice would be to be flexible on where you work, for example by looking at jobs in small to medium-sized companies. Be ready to switch between disciplines. One day you might be working on in-game assets, the next creating GUI designs, so it’s important to have some varied skill sets under your belt and be willing to use them.

The games industry is tight knit so you should check your ego at the door. Even if you’re the best artist out there, if you have a terrible attitude, people will remember that attitude more than your art - don’t burn your bridges!

Sense of pride

The games industry has a very positive culture which offers support, encourages personal growth and knowledge sharing. It’s also a very exciting industry to be a part of and everyone shares a love of creating games, which makes for a great environment.

As an artist there are so many areas of design that you can sink your teeth into so it’s multi disciplinary and there’s always something new to learn. It will give you the opportunity to work with some amazing people who will be able to teach you so much. At the end of a project you’ll have an enormous sense of pride in what you have helped to create. What could be better?

Jules LangranAbout the author

BAFTA award-winning games artist Jules Langran is an Art Director for mobile games company MAG Interactive at its Brighton studio.

Langran is currently working on the studio’s next smash hit game and contributing to MAG Interactive’s success as a leading mobile developer and publisher of casual mobile games, including Ruzzle and WordBrain. Combined, the company’s ten games have been downloaded more than 250 million times around the world.

A talented creative, Langran is proud to be part of the positive and trusting environment at MAG Interactive, where an open and collaborative working culture is key to its ability to continuously create top notch games. MAG Interactive has offices in Brighton and Stockholm. Visit www.maginteractive.com