So you finally think you’ve got what it takes to land that fabled ‘Game Designer’ job you’ve dreamed of.
Perhaps you’re fresh out of college with the ‘game design’ degree you worked hard to obtain, or you’ve already put your skills to the test by developing a few indie game projects—maybe one entirely on your own.
Or maybe you’re already designing games somewhere, but want to move onto a bigger and better studio.
If you’re reading this then chances are you’ve already applied to that amazing game company you’d absolutely love to work at, confident you’d at least get a response, only to never hear from them.
It’s no secret that in today’s not-so-peachy economy everyone is competing for the good jobs worth having, and the gaming industry is no different. In fact, it’s worse than most.
Before you try sending out another application, check out the following tips to see if you’re making the one mistake we’re positive could be the reason your application got looked over: you didn’t do a good job of communicating both your skills and passion.
Before you apply, make sure you’re the guy (or gal) for the job!
Most game developers do a fantastic job of letting you know in the job description exactly who or what they’re looking for.
Before you get all worked up on updating your cover letter, resume, etc. upon noticing a great job position, make sure you actually fit the bill or at least can reasonably convince them that you do.
If you’re going to apply to Telltale Games then you better know something about episodic choice-driven games since those are the kinds of game they’ve always made and will probably continue making in the near future.
Even if you’re just a big fan of their titles and have never worked on a similar game, you can still frame your primary game development experiences so that you at least demonstrate some skills that could be useful.
However, you’re much better off applying to studios that make FPS games if most of your experience consists of making levels in Unreal or some kind of mod for a shooter.
Simply put, make sure you’re what they’re looking for before applying! It will save you both time and heartbreak when you’re left wondering why Blizzard isn’t interested in you as their new game designer for Hearthstone when it’s clearly because you’ve never designed a card game (or something similar) in your life.
Your cover letter is more important than you think!
Sometimes a game designer will get hired simply for their incredible experience and list of acclaimed games, even if their cover letter is garbage.
Since this is rarely the case, make sure you craft a cover letter that will both engage the reader and convince them that you’re worth considering, even if your resume is lacking.
Avoid the mistake of simply repeating your resume in prose form. The goal of the cover letter is to express your genuine interest in the company, show a bit of your personality, and communicate why you want to be a game designer in the first place.
No life stories and no entire paragraphs about how you’ve dreamed of being a game designer since you were a kid (most developers fall into that category anyways). Instead, focus on showing why you want this job and why you would be good at it.
Show some passion without overdoing it!
Every hiring manager will want to know they’re hiring someone that’s genuinely passionate about the job.
This doesn’t mean you should suck up to The Best Game Developer Ever as this will only get you so far or even label you as one of the many fan boys that apply (without any game design experience whatsoever) simply because they like playing the games.
Instead, express why you’re passionate not just about games but about MAKING games. What is it about designing games that makes you want to do it as a living? Feel free to get specific by talking about how much you love balancing game mechanics or coming up with fun ways to increase challenge and difficulty as a game progresses.
Convince the reader that being a game designer is the best job ever, even if it isn’t always the easiest job ever.
Convince them you know both game design and their games.
It’s one thing to talk about how rewarding and challenging designing a game is, but it’s another to talk about actual experiences.
Hiring managers at game companies love seeing applications where their potential new recruit actually talks about the process of game design, the roles they served, their successes and failures, etc.
Demonstrate that you’ve learned from previous projects, even if they were a total failure. This will show them that you actually know what you’re talking about.
If you have experience making a fighting game, don’t be boring and say something obvious. This would sound something like “making fighting games are hard because you have to balance the characters so that none are too powerful and none are underpowered.”
Instead, talk about how you decided to tone down the powerful characters and beef up the lackluster characters, all while making sure they were still fun to play.