Working in the games industry might be your dream career, but in the beginning, it can feel like a nightmare! Here are five tips I’ve learned from my time in the industry that I hope will help you as you begin your career.
1. Be flexible – Working in the video game industry, you’re going to be learning new programs and doing things that aren’t in your job description. Not every studio will be using the same 3D program, and most use their own scripting and coding tools.
For my first job, I was hired as a 3D environment modeler. For the first two weeks, all I was doing was rigging characters. I didn’t even get to model until almost a month into working there. Even now, at the current studio, I’m mostly doing 2D motion graphics.
Most studios can’t hire a new person for every little task that goes on during game development. If you’re a 3D modeler, chances are you’ll need to help out with animations. If you’re a programmer, you might be asked to do QA testing.
The point is, the more versatile you are, the more likely the studio is going to keep you.
2. Work on projects at home – This is probably one of the hardest things I had to learn. Who wants to come home after working eight to ten hours and work on more stuff? Nobody! As I said previously, you’re not going to be doing what you love all the time at work. Working on projects at home is a great way to keep improving your skills while learning new ones. Which ties into…
3. Prepare for the unexpected – Working in the games industry is kind of like a roller coaster. Projects have their peaks and their lulls. You might be downsized unexpectedly. You need to build a small savings to get you through the drought as well as having an updated portfolio.
It’s happened to me a couple of times before: the publisher pulled out, I lost my job. My résumé wasn’t updated, and my website was out of date. I lost out on applying for a couple of jobs just because I was preparing. Now, I know to update my résumé a few times a year and always keep a fresh website. This is where working on projects at home ties in.
4. Know your rights – I’ve heard these statements a lot: “The entertainment industry runs differently.” “Working extra hours just comes with the job.” “I have to wait until the next milestone to get paid.” Look, yes, the game industry does run differently than most nine-to-five jobs, but that doesn’t give studios an excuse for being slave drivers. Game companies have to follow state labor laws just like every other company.
Yes, you will work weekends, and yes, there will be crunch times. The point is, if you’re basically working overtime and there’s a crunch every weekend, you might want to call your State’s Labor Department.
Also, your employer has to pay you to work. A lot of studios do pay by the milestone, and milestones do get pushed back. But, if your milestone keeps getting pushed back and pushed back and pushed back and you haven’t been paid in a month, again, call the Labor Department.
**This subject is a very, very grey area that is constantly being revised. Please do not use this block of text as legal advice.**
5. Learn to relax – The final thing I learned is to relax. We can get so caught up in our jobs, working freelance, and doing personal projects that we all need to just take a night off. You can feel guilty about relaxing, especially when you have deadlines and things do. Push those feelings aside and take a moment for yourself. You need a break to refresh your energy. So, go ahead and go out with friends or stay in with your favorite game.
I hope these tips help you as you begin your journey in the industry! Have another tip? Add it in the comments!