Is there a golden ticket for software developers searching for jobs in games — aside from mad math skills and passion? From where recruiters stand, the only real unifying factor is experience. “The common denominator for most software development ads we see isn’t that surprising. It’s experience,” says Paul Teall, a New Orleans-based game industry veteran. “Studios are looking for people who can jump right in and get the job done. Candidates need real-world examples of work that they’ve done to show proficiency in what the studio is looking for.”
Teall’s position is echoed by Kainne Hansbury, principal consultant at WinterWyman Technology Search in New York. “It can be really challenging to break into the game space,” Hansbury observes. “Employers want to see the complexity of a developer’s work. A lot of engineers have the capacity to build a game but they wouldn’t be able to add the polish of a true game developer, and really connect the functions and the features that build the presentation of graphics on screen.”
That said, it’s hard to pin down the specific technology needs of the game studios. With so many different distribution channels — consoles, mobile, the Web — it’s impossible to point out any specific language demand that’s trending across platforms. Employers’ wants are specific to their titles’ designs and platforms. However, both Teall and Hansbury note that in general there’s always a demand for the essential C/C++ and C# skills.
Meantime, Teall’s noticed an uptick in posts that include experience on mobile and social platforms. “Those requests often include things like HTML5 or Java,” he says. “Experience with specific game engines also gets mentioned frequently, with Unreal and Unity probably being at the top of the list. They’re both very popular right now, and both are available at attractive prices to studios of all sizes.”
Besides technical skills, developers need to know how to play well with others. Soft skills, says Hansbury, are necessary but often downplayed. “A lot of engineers that track toward game development tend to be introverts,” he notes. Still, they need strong collaboration skills because there are so many elements and other people involved in creating a game. “A viable game developer is going to be able to communicate really well with the game designers,” Hansbury says.