One of the most common questions I get as the community manager is on how to get into Sanctuary or the games industry in general. Naturally, I am a point of contact for people looking to enter one of the roles before handing over to decision makers once some minimum requirements are passed. I know a lot about the process from both the decision maker and applicant perspective and today will be sharing with you what you can do to best improve your chances in applying. Generally, a lot of this advice will transfer over to other companies or industries. Often the best advice is simple but universal, so even if you feel like you’ve heard many of these before, consider what you can do to improve your fundamentals, as they can often make or break a job application. It always pays to work on the basics.
Before you can take on any job, you need to build on some talents and transform them into proficiencies. With regards to the gaming industry, there is a lot of competition because of the passion and craftsmanship required to see success in it. Transforming a passion or hobby into a job requires a level of sacrifice. Before you do anything, it is incredibly important you decide not only on what skills you wish to cultivate, but whether you’re willing to experience the hardship and possible disappointments along the way, because these will be a foundational experience before you capture the success on the other side of your journey. Too often, aspiring creators will attempt to jump straight into positions, hoping to be part of something amazing and learning from the best. But in reality, the best aren’t created from instant successes; they work their way up from earlier projects or even transfer over from another domain entirely. Getting there requires an immense level of devotion before you see the fruits of any of your labors. If you really enjoy the craft, you can always treat it as a hobby and one day turn that hobby into a completed project of your own. There is no need to rush into a position where you will be required to complete work under tough deadlines and often sacrifice some creative freedom.
For many people, the above won’t deter them initially, because we are often confident about what we can accomplish, but if you’ve tried applying to games studios before, you’ll soon hit the stonewall of silence, rejection and general uncertainty associated with job hunting in games. This developer log will help you on your journey to reaching a position, but only if you dedicate the time and effort required to see it through. There is no substitute for mastery other than consistent practice.
So, you have an education, and you’re ready to become a game developer! You know some stuff you can apply, and know what makes a good game, so that’s enough to start right? Well, the first realization you need to have is that: Almost everybody applying has these things.
With a competitive discipline, you not only need the minimum requirements, but you need to be able to be the best candidate from the myriad of individuals that want the same things you do. This can be tricky if you don’t have any existing games industry experience. There are a few ways that you can stand out on the skills front. The easiest way to show this is when you have performed a similar role, but if you have never been hired for your target position, then a great way to accomplish this is to develop a portfolio. A portfolio may include images, textures, models, music, videos, technical demos and presentations, depending on your chosen role and are usually provided alongside your résumé, website link or a technical test. It is a snapshot of your best work and is focused on by studios to see what you are capable of. It is therefore important to tailor your portfolio to put your best foot forward. Some tips for creating a portfolio:
If you don’t have any existing work, build it slowly over time. Instead of trying to rush things out, build the pieces as part of a hobbyist project. When you have made many such pieces, you will soon be able to tell which you are most proud of and which can be discarded. As mentioned before, it is part of the process to realize you will not always produce your best work, but the best work is often built after many prior failures and successes.
Once your portfolio becomes big enough, tailor it to the role you are applying for. If a studio demands high fidelity models for example, your low poly models may hinder you more than they help.
If you use external assets to produce portfolio work, be extremely clear about what pieces are your own creations, and what are licensed or created by others. You do not need to mention tools used, but you may do so to help verify skills. Plagiarism is a high crime in any artistic endeavor and you will be quickly booted out of the door if discovered.
Where possible, keep a copy of your portfolio digitally and link to it from your other materials. Make it easy to reach your work.
What a portfolio for a 3D modeller might look like.
A good portfolio can set apart a candidate from others, and will allow you to be treated more seriously than potentially higher skilled candidates. If you are serious about joining games, start creating one today, whether making something for it, or collecting what you’ve already done.
While a portfolio and strong skills on your résumé will go a long way, like in any industry, you ideally need to give a strong first impression even before your interview. Take a look at these two example résumés, and ask yourself, if you were given a stack of them, which of these you might look at, and which might you set aside as a last resort?
The bar for the games industry is actually a lot higher than even the better one I've shown above. Some people will create interactive websites or graphically impressive layouts. At a minimum, you should use some graphic design to give yourself an edge. I recommend using the service canva.com as a free alternative. If you can snag a free trial of their premium, you can make a great looking one that will really stand out and be unique. Next, you will want to be well prepared for meeting your employers. This should be a real reflection of yourself, so you don’t necessarily need the charisma of a salesman, but you need to be confident in your craft and be able to talk about your experiences. Memorize some good answers or phrases to the common interview questions. Try to format your answers in a STAR approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result), even in interviews for non-games industries. When you are finally taking the interviews, answering these well can differentiate you from the crowd. In Sanctuary, we use many of these questions for initial pre-interviews:
Who are you and what do you do currently?
How did you find our studio and why are you interested in working with us?
What skills do you have that make you a good fit for the position you are applying for?
Have you worked with X tool before? What is your workflow with it?
What kinds of games do you like to play?
Creating a good answer should not only present why you’d be a fit in the team, but also show what makes you unique. If you give formulaic answers, you will not stand out at all and you might come off as either faking it or just lacking experience.
Sealing the Deal
With the above sections, you’ll be a strong candidate, but you need to also find a place to fit a company’s goals. A job placement always starts as a negotiation; you are attempting to fill a business need and trying to get a good deal for yourself in return. In order to accomplish this, you need a strong idea of what the expectations will be, and here’s how you can figure this out:
Do research on the company you are applying to. This is always important in any industry, but doubly so in the games industry because of the huge diversity in processes, tools and crafts. You may be a great asset but the company may not align with your creative ideas or require someone with niche experiences or roles.
Find the community for the game(s) and interact. Sanctuary doesn’t always post their roles publicly but will announce business needs in the community beforehand. You can often find a lot of information there about what will be needed and if you’re in the community, can get a lot of insight into how a team works and how they might use your talents.
Maintain professionalism. Avoid bad language, controversy and inappropriate behavior. Gaming might be a fun, modern industry, but it is still a place of work and needs to be treated with respect.
Do not give up. You may be rejected initially because a fit isn’t ideal, but if you maintain an eye on the roles or company, you may be seriously considered for future positions. There is nothing personal in business rejections. Sanctuary would love to take every good candidate if they could but budgets are a reality and therefore not everyone can be brought on board. If you maintain a good relationship, you might be able to come on board later if some new work has a need to be filled.
Thank you for reading today's developer log, and be sure to check out our job roles on our Discord if you're interested! At time of print, we are currently looking for a Cinematic 3D Artist to create a Kickstarter trailer video.
If you’re looking to work towards creating something for a portfolio or just really want to see your talent within our game, we have already gotten some amazing volunteers and will happily credit you if you’re interested in smaller contributions towards our game. We are currently looking for 3D Prop Modelers and UI programmers (using Vue3 or JS).
Till next time,