Want to Work as a Video-Game Developer?

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Wouldn’t it be great to get paid to work on video games? Who wouldn’t want to become the next Markus “Notch” Persson, who just sold his game Minecraft to Microsoft for a couple billion dollars? (He wanted to spend more time creating games, not managing a global phenomenon.) But gaming’s popularity also makes it difficult to get a proverbial foot in the door of a major company; to enter this highly competitive industry, you need a great resume and cover letter.

Get to the Point

Gaming companies field hundreds of inquiries for every job opening. As a result, reviewers initially scan each resume and cover letter for a mere 90 seconds to see if an applicant is qualified.

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That means you must front-load your resume with the most relevant information, advised Charles Kerr, director of HR for Laser Shot, a developer of training simulators based in Stafford, Texas. Insert a tabled list of achievements and skills right below the headline on your resume and in the second paragraph of your cover letter.

“If they have experience with C++ or Unity, then I look at their project summary or work history to see how they’ve used it,” Kerr said. “I don’t spend much time on resumes that are focused on Android or Java.”

Play the Name Game

Under your resume’s profile and opening summary, provide a list of the games you’ve worked on; use boldface type when referencing those titles in your cover letter. Links to your portfolio, website, and videos, photos or games you’ve created in your spare time will also help.

“Your experience with a game speaks volumes about the type of work you’ve done,” Kerr said. “Our developers are intimately familiar with all of the games, so it’s one of their key considerations in deciding who to interview.”

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Be Succinct

“Some programmers submit a 13-page resume and I have to scan through 12 pages to see how they’ve used C++,” Kerr noted.

Most reviewers aren’t as diligent as Kerr, so failing to focus on relevant skills and competencies can hurt your chances at obtaining an interview. Make it easy for the reviewer to fall in love with your qualifications by summarizing relevant projects and work experience and offering a comprehensive list upon request.

Limit your cover letter to three paragraphs, suggests Yvonne Sommerfield, CEO and founder of San Francisco recruiting and HR consulting firm InspiredHigher, Inc. “Explain who you are and why you’re interested in the company and position in the first paragraph,” she said. “Outline the benefits you offer in the second paragraph and provide specific examples of your relevant experience, skills and achievements in the third paragraph.”

Tailor Your Information

In their resumes and cover letters, some candidates go on and on about having MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online Game) experience. While MMOs are popular among developers and players at the moment, that experience doesn’t impress Kerr or his managers, since Laser Shot doesn’t utilize an MMO environment.

In other words, omit unrelated experience, acronyms or technologies from your materials; and answer “so what” questions by explaining how you’ve used your technical and creative skills to manage projects effectively, improve game players’ experiences, or stimulate game sales.

“I know what someone’s role and responsibilities were by reading their job title,” Sommerfield said. “I want to know what you achieved or accomplished, so don’t start bullets with ‘responsible for.’”

Stick With the Basics

Certainly designers, artists, animators and modelers want to showcase their creative skills. But a resume littered with photos, pictograms and graphics can’t be read by resume screening software. To be on the safe side, always submit a Word document or PDF and include a link to a creative version of your resume. Or, see if you can email an artistic version to the line manager or recruiter.

“Sometimes, I can’t even open a candidate’s resume,” Kerr says. “Unfortunately, most recruiters only have Word or Adobe.”

Some people create lavish videos or customized game content to catch an employer’s attention. Is that really necessary?

“We look for skills and experience first, and then our programmers and creative staff review an applicant’s portfolio,” Kerr said. “If all things are equal, then going the extra mile might make a difference. But most the time a qualified candidate can distinguish himself without going to all that trouble.”

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2 Responses to “Want to Work as a Video-Game Developer?”

  1. Mark Kennedy

    I’m confused, I thought this was an article for people looking to get there foot into the door of a gaming studio. It seems like this article is for someone who already has experience in the Field.

  2. P. Temple

    Input for this article, on the wide subject of video-game development, was obtained from one developer of training simulators, and one recruiter.

    Hmm…

    There was nothing on the other elements of this industry, like how the Ouya and others like it are having an impact on the video console side, or video game console platforms vs. computer game platforms; which one is growing, which one stagnant; which one best poised for growth/infiltration/integration into a home entertainment environment; Which content plays best on the new crop of smartphones, and the companies that create that content..

    The paths for growth in video games thru the harnessing of the cloud versus “traditional” game delivery methods, show a glimpse of the history on that in the present, and forecast on its impact in the future and prospects for growth..

    And, uh, how would a a developer of training simulators have any idea of what kind of software most recruiters have on their systems when he isn’t in the recruiting field at all?