Portfolio

I would like to emphasise at this point the importance of building a portfolio. Although your studies may be providing you with the necessary skills for game development, you also have to be able to demonstrate those skills to a prospective employer.

A portfolio can be made up of a number of different items. For a coder, it can include small programs demonstrating an algorithm or technology across different programming languages, small games, or even more off the wall stuff like robotics. For an artist, it can include models and textures, animations, interface and character design examples and should always include work with traditional media (drawings, paintings, etc.)

Obviously, if you are trying to get into a specific area then develop your portfolio to highlight skills applicable to that area. For example, if you want to get into AI you could put together a demo showing something finding its way through a maze. If you want to get into animation then including a short animated walk cycle of a creature of some description would be appropriate.

If possible make any design materials, source code and concept artwork available as developers will want to examine your basic skills and your ability to take something from the design stage through to completion.

Try not to be too ambitious with any one part of your portfolio. A complete game demo, model or animation is better than something half finished - it demonstrates an ability to complete a project as well as being an indicator of your skill.

Also, don’t worry too much about the quality of components which are outside of your skill-set. If you are a coder developing a demo then it is okay to have filler or low quality artwork. If you are an artist, don’t be afraid to mock up your game using Flash or Director.

Collaboration on a demo project with others interested in the same goal is a good option if available. Working with others whose skill-set compliments your own will add polish to those areas you are weak in and you should hopefully be able to produce material superior to what you could achieve by yourself. A successful collaborative effort also demonstrates your ability to communicate with others and work in a team environment.

The Job

There are basically two ways which you can approach a game company for a job; either directly or through a recruitment agency.

The vast majority of game companies tend to do their own recruiting as they are usually small sized firms who either don’t have access to game recruiters or don’t have the funds to pay for them. Often developers will have a listing of available positions on their websites, usually with a specific vacancies email contact listed and/or details of the application process.

In New Zealand at present there are only a couple of game companies in existence that I know of; Wellington developer Sidhe Interactive and Auckland based Liquid Edge Games. A less focused alternative would be local multimedia companies who develop simple games for interactive CDROM and the Internet (not really the same though).

While there are limited opportunities to work on game development in New Zealand, Australia offers a wide range of possibilities with its rapidly expanding game development industry. One drawcard for working for an Australian company is the fact that New Zealanders can work there with a minimal amount of paperwork. Check out Australian gaming website Bigkid (www.bigkid.com.au) for a list of Australian developers you may be interested in working for.

Alternatively, you could try placing your CV with one of a number of recruitment agencies which specialise in the games industry. Recruitment agents are generally free of charge for candidates so it generally doesn’t hurt to list with an agency when you start looking. Check out the Mipmap (www.mipmap.com) website to get you going.

For more opportunities Edge and Next Generation magazine generally have a number of job vacancies towards the back, advertised by both developers and recruitment agencies around the world. Make sure you have a recent air-freighted copy to ensure the ads you are looking at are reasonably up to date.

Advising on creating CVs and the interview process could make up a column in itself, however, I will offer the following snippet of advice. Make sure you understand the company you are applying to before contacting them - try to find out what types of games and platforms they have worked on, the direction they are taking, and the individuals who work there (the Internet is a valuable tool in this respect). This will give you a better idea of how you will fit into the company, allowing you to customise your CV as appropriate and enabling you to answer some of the more touchy-feely interview questions with confidence.

Don’t get discouraged if you get turned down by one or more developers initially. Use the opportunity and any feedback offered to realise what skills you are lacking or are weak in and try to develop those further. Also, understand that every company is different and while that particular company may not find you suitable for a role another developer might consider you a perfect fit.

The above outline does not of course guarantee you a job in the game development industry. But hopefully it will provide positive guidance which you can tailor to your own personal situation. Good luck with your journey.