Article copied from National Association of Colleges and Employers Spotlight September 2, 2009
Video gaming is a well-established and growing industry centered on the younger consumer. It’s also an industry seeking top-level talent. These factors combine to present career opportunities for many college graduates.
“There’s more emphasis being placed on full-time opportunities for college graduates by employers in our field,” says Doug Fauth, university relations manager at Activision. “Gaming companies want to keep their fingers on the pulse of what consumers want. If our core consumers include those ages 18 to 24, that fits the bill of a college graduate. Who better to turn to for new, fresh, and innovative ideas?”
In terms of the breadth of work within the industry, Fauth makes notes of positions in art and 3-D animation (visual and sound), programming and game design, and on the corporate side with brand management, finance, production, human resources, quality assurance, to name a few.
What skills and qualities do recruiters in the industry seek beyond academic achievement? Above all, college students can impress recruiters by demonstrating a strong passion for gaming and the industry.
“Passion is huge,” he says. “We look for a passion around gaming. That may mean a candidate is a hardcore gamer, but it might also mean that someone who’s more of a social gamer (not as hardcore a player) has great passion for the industry as a whole.”
A student might demonstrate passion by participating in a gaming club or association, taking part in video game tournaments, or achieving a certain rating in a game.
The other thing recruiters look for—especially in terms of art and design—is a stellar portfolio. Meanwhile, programmers need to have examples of code that they’ve done and several examples of simple and complex games on which they’ve done coding.
“Students need to have a very well thought out and put together portfolio, otherwise they’re not going to get too far,” he advises. “Also, work examples are important to recruiters.”
Colleges are taking notice of the opportunities in the industry. Many—including University of Southern California, MIT, New York University, Northeastern, and others—have already included or have begun adding courses in game design, development, and/or production.
“From an academic perspective, it’s really important for career advisers to get students interested in the industry involved in those types of classes if they’re offered,” Fauth says. “If they’re not offered on their campus, tell them to take anything they can get online or in a class at a local junior or community college, or at a specialty school.”
Fauth also recommends that counselors direct students to MOD communities that allow students to download game engines they can use to develop their own games.
“[Creating their own games] shows what a student has done on his or her own,” he says. “One of our independent studios—Infinity Ward, which is famous for developing the game Call of Duty—has on its web site tips and direct links to some of these game engines for students or graduates to use if they want to work there specifically. [Editor's Note: See http://wiki.infinityward.com/index.php/Main_Page.] Students can develop a portfolio and get feedback on that work to see if they are making the grade in terms of the types of things the studio is looking for.”
Fauth suggests several web sites for college students to stay apprised of industry news, trends, and developments. These include:
He also recommends attending or tracking online industry conferences, like the Game Developers Conference (GDC), and gaming social networking sites for the latest news and industry insight.
In turn, when asked about what students can expect from working in the gaming industry, Fauth dispels two common myths.
“The first is that everyone who works here spends 10 hours a day working here and another 14 playing video games at home,” he says. “It’s simply not true. The second myth is that only men work in the industry. There’s no doubt that this is a male-dominated field, but the industry is changing. I meet women at every college I visit who are passionate about gaming and the industry.”
Additionally, Fauth says another thing often surprises interns and new hires.
“They are amazed at the scope of what we do here and how fast the industry changes and moves,” he says. “While we’re constantly busy, it’s not busy work.”