Getting a job in the games industry Q&A

Following our previous blog posts series about how to get a job within the games industry, we did get some additional questions and decided to follow up with this Q&A. Thank you everyone for all your comments, we hope that this has been useful for you all!

If this post should get you thinking about additional questions – post them in the comments and we will add them to this blog post.

Are there any programs or techniques that are particularly important in your workflow at Arrowhead?

The most common ones are (but can be subject to change) Maya for modelling and animation, Zbrush, Photoshop, Substance Designer. Mostly standard stuff! We are making games in a PBR engine, so texture after that. For programming it’s good to know DOD (Data oriented design), Visual Studio and C++.
Whatever tool which you use that we don’t, we might be able to get for you. We don’t expect you to know everything and every program, we are happy to help you learn and expect you to be a bit slower in the start.

Can I drop by and have a look around the studios?

The short answer is probably not. We can seldom allow people to look around the studios due to privacy reasons, especially when new projects are still unannounced. The second reason is that we just don’t have the time for an employee to drop what they are doing and give a tour of the studios.
With that said, if you for example are leading a class or something similar, it doesn’t hurt to contact us and ask. Whenever we could help out schools and students in some way, we like to do it if time and timing permits.

How could someone with a different background than actual game creation get into the industry? For example business, administration, economics or marketing.

Hmm, this is definitely an interesting question. For us I’d say it’s got quite a bit to do with luck and timing if there is a needed position in this area. We’re still a fairly small company (30 people) and therefore don’t yet require an enormous amount of administration. The larger the company, the greater is the chance that they have accountants, business strategists, lawyers, HR and managers on board. So far we’ve also worked with publishers who handle many of these areas so we only need to cover certain things ourselves.
But there’s always a chance of course, especially if the company should be growing or doing a project independently in the future.

You could still use many of the tips from our previous blog posts for writing a great application and letting the company know the specific skills that you have and what you could do for them. If you’re trying to find a position at a small and fairly new studio, try letting them know a couple of examples how you could improve their work – maybe they haven’t yet though about it.

Do I need to apply in English, or would Swedish also work? Is there any other language I could use at Arrowhead?

Swedish would work fine as well as English. We have few people who mainly read English anyway and we’re hoping to Swedify them a bit ;) There’s no other language that is widely understood at the studio unfortunately.

Does Arrowhead offer student placements?

We don’t specifically have open positions for it, but have taken aboard quite a few student interns over the years when we received an application from a particularly talented student. When taking on interns we look for people who we think have the potential to grow into a future employee after the internship, and most of the interns became employees afterwards.

Do you consider Music Composers to be Sound Designers? If the Composer has basic sound design skills, would it be preferable to have the Composer doing all the sound design themselves?

We don’t consider Music Composers to be Sound Designers. We’re not trying to merge the roles – in our studio they work fairly independent of each other and require require totally different skill sets. Both should collaborate, but we expect each will have difficulties when put out of their comfort zone.

Our Sound Designer creates sounds, records sounds, edits sounds, sequences sounds, mix and masters sounds, implements sounds, tests sounds and edits dialogue. If you apply for a Sound Designer role at Arrowhead we don’t want to see a showreel full of music. Make sure you understand what role you are applying for and make your application relevant and to the point  read any job description thoroughly as the job title will not always tell you everything you need to know.

We don’t have a full-time Composer position on location so we can’t give any specific information for composers. However, we have worked with the same freelance composer since we started the studio and are generally not looking for anyone in that area. If you excel at what you do and you manage to get your foot in the door somewhere, you can normally expect to be contracted by the same company multiple times. 

I don’t see anything in your blog posts regarding production roles. Do you think those are important as well?

We’re still quite a small developer and have a little less need of team management than bigger studios. There are very few people at Arrowhead who are not directly involved in the development in some way, even if they are a Lead or a Director. Everyone needs to be flexible and many have multiple areas of responsibility.
Publishers generally can have a lot more varied production roles such as External Producer, Product or Brand Manager etc., so it’s worth looking at both developers and publishers if you’re purely into production roles.

Would a degree in graphic design be beneficial in being a successful applicant without doing a game design course?

We couldn’t really tell without seeing the work you can do in a portfolio. For our studio we’ve never looked for anyone who only does 2D art and illustration. If you were applying here for a 2D artist position, 3D modelling skills and being able to work with a game engine would be required.
As we’ve mentioned in the previous blogs, we care very little about what education or courses you’ve done – the important part is the work you can show skill with and there are many ways to get there; school, self-taught, modding with friends etc.

Which types of 2D Art (concept, game assets, illustration, keyframe paintings, promo or website art) can motivate an in-house employment vs will be outsourced? How often do you require out-sourced 2D services?

It’s pretty tricky to get a job with illustration within video games (the same as 2D art or concept art). Outsourcing completely varies from studio to studio. Large studios may have more 2D artists and illustrators on board, but may also outsource work within their own branches or sister studios  they tend to have access to all the contacts they need. Sometimes there’s a bigger intake during particular times of a project and scaled down later.

In AAA studios it is becoming a little more common to hire more illustrative artists to design very specific areas of the game. This can include things like posters, in-game world advertising etc. There’s a lot of people getting involved in concept art and 2D art but less people gravitate towards illustrative and graphic design. This means that there is a higher potential for a job here.
That being said, the illustrative area is still extremely small compared to 2D and 3D art, so getting a job will still be very tricky. If the focus is to get a job then it is probably better to move towards a 2D generalist and concept artist. As long as you can demonstrate a range of styles you can prove that you are able to fit to different projects.

At Arrowhead we do almost everything in-house because we want to have control over the quality and style of production to match our in-house standards, as well as direct communication and ability to make changes fast. When we do need to outsource (extremely seldom), we use the same contacts which we already have a previous relationship with and know that they can deliver.
For our studio, great 2D work alone will not motivate an employment. There is not enough need for concept, illustration, promo art etc. that we fill a position with that only. We also need flexibility in our artists to be able to jump on the project and create in game assets when the demand is higher there. We have multiple 3D artists who are very talented with concept and illustration and will create things for those areas when needed.

The latest and the very first Arrowhead games together

The latest and the very first Arrowhead games side by side

Any more questions? Just post them in the comments below!


2 responses to “Getting a job in the games industry Q&A”

  1. Eric Gulve says:

    Great article series! Thanks for the write-up Malin :)

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