Computer Games Technology

Computer Games Technology

With the arrival of digital distribution, games now have a bigger audience than ever – making it a good time to get into the industry.

Within the industry there is great scope for artistic creativity and expression, but whilst previously technological constraints would have required a large team to produce a high quality games product, there is now potential for a lone individual or small team to launch and promote a project to a worldwide audience.

The opportunities available to you as a computer games technology graduate are varied. Roles can range from game developer to animator, from lead programmer to DevOps engineer or you could consider setting up your own game-related business. 

Where Do I Start

Getting Experience

Finding A Job

Need More Information

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Where do I start?

Within the computer games sector you could be looking at a wide range of positions. Prospects.ac.uk has a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements and career prospects with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.

Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):

As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on developments in this sector and keep track of any vacancies that are coming up. Below are some key resources to help you research opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to target your applications and will help you when preparing for interviews.

  • Creative Skillset is the industry body which supports skills and training for people and businesses working in the creative industries, including computer games, animation and interactive media. The site offers further information about the games industry; how to get into the games industry; useful links; and specific job role profiles. The job roles can be accessed here.
  • Games Careers offers career guiding interviews with video and computer games industry professionals, full games industry job descriptions and up to date video game salaries.
  • Creative England champions talented individuals and their ideas working within creative sectors, including the games industry. The site showcases and promotes different projects and offers news and stories relevant to those interested in or working in the industry.
  • BAFTA Guru aims to inspire those working in the film, TV and games industries. The site offers advice from industry professionals and you can search by skills or browse features to find opportunities relevant to you. 
  • Grads In Games is a national initiative to improve the links between the UK games industry and academia, providing resources and guidance designed to increase the employability of students and graduates. 

Developing a strong interest in games and a knowledge of recent developments in the industry will be vital. Therefore, joining online forums to increase your knowledge of current trends and topics may be beneficial, in addition to accessing relevant games development magazines such as Gamasutra and 3D World. You can also show your commitment to the industry by attending games festivals and events to speak to companies.

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Getting experience

Many potential employers in the industry will emphasise the development of transferable skills, such as communication, problem solving, teamwork and the ability to learn and take on board feedback. Required software skills will vary depending on the area chosen, but can include C++, Python, Maxscript and HTML. Artists might need skills such as Max, Photoshop and Illustrator.

Roles in the graduate market exist for specialists, but new recruits might begin in a more generalist role, making these varied skills essential. Whilst activities and projects are likely to be a core part of your course, embracing additional opportunities to gain experience will help you to stand out from the crowd and provide working examples to support your graduate applications.

Different opportunities to gain experience

Placements

Work placements can provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer a unique opportunity to apply the industry knowledge you are learning as part of your studies. Placements will also enable you to develop transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, teamwork and time management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating.

On some degrees work placements are part of the programme, whilst on others you can choose to complete a placement as one of your modules. Many courses at the University of Portsmouth enable you to complete a year’s work placement or self-employment placement should you choose to.

Your first point of contact to arrange this will be the Creative Careers Office, which provides a comprehensive service to both students and employers, including coordinating the advertising and recruitment for placement and internship positions. Find out more information here.

Internships

An internship is usually a work experience opportunity that is offered for a fixed period or a limited amount of time. Internships tend to be undertaken by students and graduates who are looking to gain more relevant/industry specific skills and experience in their particular field. These opportunities can be paid for a period of between one to four months and typically take place over the summer, with closing dates generally around January to March, but some can be earlier.

Within the games industry competition for internship positions is fierce and it will be essential to stand out as a candidate. Therefore, it will important to consider the following:

  • How many games have you made yourself?
  • Have you entered competitions such as ‘Search for a Star’?
  • Have you learnt to do any programming and/or art?
  • How have you showcased your games and other creations on online sites or forums?
  • Have you covered a broad range of game genres in the content you’ve created?

Searching for placement and internship opportunities

The websites below provide further information about placement and internship opportunities in the industry:

  • Creative Careers will be your first point of contact when seeking a placement or internship opportunity.
  • Games Industry Jobs advertises a limited number of internship opportunities with companies across the UK and around the world.
  • Grads In Games list some internship opportunities aimed at both current students and at graduates.  

Volunteering

Getting involved in volunteering gives you the opportunity to develop employability skills and experience a variety of working environments to assist you in discovering the right career path for you. It also provides the chance to network, meet new friends and boost your confidence.

Volunteering enables you to gain practical experience and working examples to support your graduate applications. If you choose to commit a significant amount of time and impress the organisation during your volunteering, they may also provide you with a professional reference.

Volunteer to gain practical experience

Being a student at the University of Portsmouth provides you with access to numerous student groups, clubs and societies at the students’ union, and you specifically have the opportunity to join the Gaming Society. Throughout the year the society hosts several events providing the opportunity to socialise and trial new games. Within each society there is also the chance to apply for a committee position, which could enable you to develop transferrable skills, such as organisation, events management and teamwork.

Alternatively, you could approach local organisations, charities or community groups who would benefit from your skills. The transferable skills gained from such experience will be invaluable and enhance any speculative applications you make for further work experience.

Purple Door offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank, which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly, you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in Purple Door.

Examples of computer support/design roles that the Volunteering Team have previously advertised and recruited for include:

  • Code Club Volunteer – supporting children aged 9-11 years old as part of Code Club, which is a nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs. Inspiring them to get involved in digital making and developing skills in Computational Thinking. Recruitment takes place in August and September each year.
  • Computer Club Volunteer with Personal Choice – working with the organisation’s 50+ Job Club to assist members with developing and enhancing their computer and digital literacy skills.
  • Lead Computer Tutor Volunteer with Citizens Advice – building and developing workshop courses for members of the public covering computer skills and supporting Assistant Tutor volunteers to facilitate the sessions.
  • Social Media and Website Management Volunteer with Portsmouth Food Bank – assisting with the development and maintenance of the organisation’s dedicated website and promotion of work through social media channels. Specifically using social media for marketing, creating connections and using it as a publicity tool to recruit other volunteers.

nest – Project Exchange

At the University of Portsmouth our Student Enterprise team are available to support students with getting ideas off the ground or take an existing start-up to the next level. They offer expert advice and support, workshops, co-working space, networking opportunities and a whole host of useful resources.

As part of their offer they also host a Project Exchange though their site where companies are able to advertise freelance opportunities to budding entrepreneurs. Some of these have previously included software development roles, website design and development roles and project animation. Some of these roles will be voluntary, whilst offers may pay for freelance work.

Get involved in competitions

There will be opportunities in your industry to become involved in competitions or development programmes where you are able to showcase your work.

Opportunities include, but are not limited to, Grads In Games 'Search for a Star' competition, which is designed to highlight the most promising video games programmers and artists around with job opportunities at leading games studios and Tranzfuser™ which is an innovative talent development programme developed by UK Games Talent, working with a host of regional contributors and funded by the UK Government.

Tips for success when looking for experience

Key considerations before starting your search for work experience:

  • What are your career goals and aspirations? How might the opportunity help you work towards these?
  • Think critically about gaps in your skillset that need to be addressed? How might an opportunity enable you to fill this gap?
  • How much time can you commit to work experience?  How will you fit it in with your plans and other commitments during term time or over the summer period?
  • What type of organisation would you like to gain experience with? A bigger national or multinational company? A small to medium-sized enterprise, charity of not-for-profit organisation?

Make sure you carry out thorough research

Explore the various areas within the games technology industry before you apply for work experience; knowing what you want to specialise in will help you to focus your research and ensure you gain relevant skills. As a starting point take a look at the job profiles included on the Prospects website to consider the type of work experience recommended and the skills you will need to develop to enhance graduate applications for specific roles.

Use your networks

Utilise your personal networks to find out if anyone you already know working in the gaming industry can offer a work experience opportunity. When you are studying at university your network also extends to your tutors and other members of faculty staff who may be researching in the areas that interest you. They may have opportunities or contacts that they are willing to share with you.

There are also other sites and resources online to support you in networking, for example:

  • BIMA - the British Interactive Media Association - aims to showcase and reward great digital work, share knowledge and best practice and support and develop future talent.
  • The Creative Industry Network - aims to connect individuals and companies, providing a platform to showcase and share work, follow and connect with agencies, brands and freelancers. The site also offers a job search function across creative industries, including games.

Be proactive

Use your initiative and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively – send a targeted CV, a link to your portfolio/examples of your work and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.

Build your portfolio

When aiming to enter this industry it is essential that you create a portfolio when applying for artistic roles or a working demo when applying for programming roles with examples of the work you have produced.

By building a comprehensive portfolio showcasing your products/ideas you provide employers with an insight into your talent and creativity as an individual.

Grads in Games offers portfolio and demo tips, highlighting key rules to follow when creating a great portfolio of your work, whatever path you’re taking:

  • Make your work accessible by having a dedicated place to host content with a short, direct link. Options include WordPressWeebly and Wix, or as an Artist you may choose to use Artstation or Behance.
  • Keep it simple by being selective about the projects you include – the portfolio to be shared with employers offering potential work experience should contain your best, most recent projects.
  • Ensure you visually showcase your work – this may include images and videos showing your projects, particularly if there are areas that you want to draw attention to. Also be sure to demonstrate the different stages of project development; highlighting the skills and techniques used.
  • Discuss what you have done by including explanatory text, telling the reader why decisions were made, what you have learned and what you may have done differently. This can also be included in video content as commentary or visual annotations.
  • Be sure to include your CV and/or contact details clearly – you want to make it as easy as possible for companies to get in touch.

Create a positive online presence

Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers – see our ‘Networking and Social Media’ section for further guidance.


Making the most of your experience

Once you have secured your work experience, it will be important to recognise that you will be working in a professional environment - your appearance and attitude will need to reflect this. Importantly, let your enthusiasm for the opportunity shine through and aim to get involved - a positive, ‘can do’ attitude will help you stand out.

Below are some ideas on how to impress the organisation whilst on your internship or placement:

  • Maximise the variety of different experiences you will get whilst you’re there. Be sociable and get to know the different people within the organisation. Don’t be afraid to volunteer for more work if you see something that needs to be done and you’ve got time.
  • Ask for feedback on your performance from an early stage. This will help you to identify any gaps in your skills-set and enable you to develop these whilst with the company.
  • Recruiters will look for interns who can work as part of a team and get along with their colleagues - offer your support and assistance with tasks where you can.
  • Utilise the opportunity to network -the experience will provide a great way to build your professional network. Before you start your work experience, be prepared - savvy networkers know who they are going to meet, so carry out some initial research on the organisation’s website.
  • Use the professional networking site LinkedIn to connect with your co-workers, enabling you to stay in touch after your work experience has ended. The contacts you make can be a valuable resource when you are looking to source further experience or a job opportunity in the future.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make suggestions; take an active interest in the company and the sector to enable you to develop commercial awareness. This will involve you developing an understanding of what makes the organisation successful in the sector/market. Graduate employers are increasingly looking for this as a key attribute during the recruitment process.
  • Consider how you can incorporate the experience you have gained and the projects you have worked on within your portfolio. This provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate real-world application of the skills you have been developing as part of your degree programme.

Before you leave your work experience…

Don’t forget that before your work experience opportunity comes to an end, you may want to do the following:

  • Ask if the organisation/your manager will write you a reference to use for future applications.
  • Ensure you have the contact details of colleagues who may act as mentors, sources of advice or may even help with finding employment opportunities in the future.
  • Ask for feedback on your performance – this may include seeking your manager’s or colleagues’ perspective on what you need to do to further enhance your employability in order to be successful in your chosen area of work.
  • Make sure you have clearly identified what you have gained from the work experience in terms of skills, experience and personal development. You could complete our Key Skills Audit to help you think about the different skill sets you have developed, for example, when you have worked with others, problem solving skills and work ready skills.

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Finding a job

There are many different job roles within the games industry and the work can be extremely varied.

The main employment opportunities for graduates can be grouped into:

  • Games design and development – this involves devising what a game consists of and how it plays – defining all the core elements and communicating this to the rest of the development team who create the art assets and computer code.
  • Artwork and modelling– this could include work as a concept artist, animator and 3D modeller. These roles focus on creating the visual elements of a game, such as characters, including movement and behaviour, scenery, objects, surface textures and even user interface components. They also create concept art and storyboards, which help communicate visual elements during the pre-production phase.
  • Game programming – this is at the heart of the game development process and focuses on writing the computer code that runs and controls the game. It also incorporates writing custom code as required and testing and fixing code and bugs.
  • Audio engineering – involves creating the soundtrack for a game, which may include music, sound effects, character voices and spoken instructions. This area of work is likely to be based in development studios.
  • Software testing/Quality assurance - this involves testing, tuning, debugging and suggesting detailed refinements that ensure the quality and playability of the finished game.
  • DevOps engineering – involves creating and maintaining network systems for games with online components and solving problems for the design and development teams by using web services. This role may be referred to as “Network Engineer” or “Web Services Engineer”.

Employers

Employers within the games industry are largely games developers or games publishers. Development studios may be owned by a publisher or may be independent and their work may be carried out internationally, nationally or regionally.

Companies within the industry can vary in size – from small companies employing less than five people, to multinational studios offering opportunities to hundreds of potential employees.

Depending on the nature of the opportunity pursued and the purpose and format of the game, target clients could range from educational institutions to broadcasters, from marketing and advertising agencies to mobile phone companies.

It is also worth noting that project work forms a large proportion of employment in this sector and therefore fixed-term contracts and freelance work are likely to be available to you. In order to pursue such opportunities you may need to explore working on a self-employed basis. Further information on self-employment is available through the Prospects website.

Below is a list of useful websites to help you start your job search 

  • MyPurpleDoor - can be accessed through our website to search the latest vacancies, save job searches and set up job alerts.
  • GamesIndustry.biz - offers news, features and events, as well as having a dedicated Jobs Board, which will help you to manage your career in the games industry.
  • Develop - provides a jobs board, which outlines opportunities in art/animation, design, digital media, engineering, programming, production, development and quality assurance.
  • Games Jobs Direct - a global video games jobs board for the games industry - advertising vacancies which cover games design, games programming, games development and commercial roles including sales, marketing, PR and operational functions.
  • Games Job Board - provides details of games jobs in the UK and internationally with job categories including artist and animation roles, contract and freelance roles, game programming roles and design roles. 

Recruitment consultants

  • Purple Door Recruitment Consultancy - works with over 6000 local employers across Hampshire and the South Coast, offering a job match service unique to University of Portsmouth students.
  • Aardvark Swift - a recruitment consultancy matching individuals to opportunities linked to video games, online and mobile entertainment.
  • Datascope Recruitment - recruitment consultancy for the games, online and mobile technology industries – based in central London with services covering roles such as programming, art, design, development, sales, marketing and PR.
  • Amiqus - a specialist games recruitment agency connecting skilled candidates to the right studios in the gaming industry and enabling individuals to create networks.

Tips for finding a job

  • Utilise the information provided by Creative Careers about getting into games, including information about what studios will be looking for in their candidates and how to develop a great portfolio. 
  • Keep your online job search flexible as some employers might use different titles to describe the same role.
  • Keep up to date with the latest developments and trends in the industry by following professional organisations on social media – this information might help you to identify opportunities to network and tap into the hidden job market.

Most companies have a Twitter and/or Facebook account – make sure you follow them as this is often a place where new opportunities are posted and where you can keep up to date with their current activities and events.

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Need more help and information?

How can Purple Door help you?

Purple Door offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:

  • Career options
  • Further study
  • CV and covering letters
  • Application forms
  • Job search
  • Interviews
  • And more......

Please visit services for you for more details about our support and services.

Purple Door has an online Jobsboard advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Recruitment Consultancy team that delivers a personalised job matching service. 

Remember if you are not on campus you can still access our services via telephone or Skype appointments - please contact us to discuss your needs. 

Further information:

If you need more information, why not check out some of the resources below to help you research this sector more in depth?

Networking opportunities

  • BIMA - the British Interactive Media Association - aims to showcase and reward great digital work, share knowledge and best practice and support and develop future talent.
  • The Creative Industry Network - aims to connect individuals and companies, providing a platform to showcase and share work, follow and connect with agencies, brands and freelancers. The site also offers a job search function across creative industries, including games.
  • Develop - in addition to its jobs board, Develop, which is a European-based website and magazine focused on the games development sector, offers the latest business, coding, art, sound and game design trends and features interviews with the creative and commercial leaders in the field.

Freelance, business start-up and self-promotion

  • nest - starting up and finding work as a freelancer can be a difficult task, but the Student Enterprise Team at Purple Door have developed a range of online resources through nest for you to access.
  • Prospects – offers information regarding different aspects of self-employment, including top tips for developing a successful business.

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