Games development: graduate area of work
The UK is a leader in games development, creating commercially successful, challenging and varied games for a wide range of people to enjoy. Many large players have their studios in the UK (including Microsoft Studios, Sony and Rockstar), but there is an increasing number of smaller players as well.
Within the sector there are very distinct disciplines that work together to take games from initial concept through to the final product. These include programmers, project managers, musicians, artists and animators. In each discipline there are many specialists, for example concept artists, graphics programmers, production engineers, business analysts and product managers.
Be prepared for revolutionary developments… and crunch points
The industry regularly releases exciting news and leads the world in technology innovation. For example, 2014 sees the eighth generation of consoles attempt to reclaim an audience lost to the ever increasing tablet and mobile gaming market. With more power and more functionality, the new consoles continue to push the boundaries of what can be done. Meanwhile, the low start-up costs and rapid iteration provided by mobile platforms are allowing developers to rethink how they make games and target new audiences using new methods of content delivery.
Within the sector, working life is moderately paced but there are ‘crunch’ points near to product completion. The workload becomes intense but it is also engrossing because you want to get your creation to the people. Teams bring together creatives and scientists: animators and artists work alongside programmers to make sure a character moves realistically or to render a particular light effect in a scene.
Essential skills for graduate careers in games development
You don’t have to be a computer scientist, even if you want a technical job: clever candidates from physics, mathematics and engineering backgrounds also do well. For developer roles you need good core programming skills and an understanding of how code controls hardware. Ideally, your interest in technology should extend beyond your degree. Good interpersonal, presentation and documentation skills will make you stand out. There is also increasing demand for candidates interested in the business side of the industry who can support the technical side with analysis and business service support.
Applying for graduate jobs in the computer games industry
The games industry has always been competitive to get into. However, with the rising popularity of tablet and independent games, the sector is seeing a proliferation of smaller companies starting up and providing new entry-level positions for graduates. The mainstream industry is moving towards a model where short-term contracts are more commonplace. Alternatively, setting up an independent studio is an attractive prospect, as the overheads are very low at the moment. Some graduates are choosing to do just that.
Graduates typically start out as junior programmers working within a group, learning from the industry veterans around them. It is then normal to develop specialist skills, for example gameplay programming or graphics programming. In five years, you could lead an area of speciality, or take a lead production role.
Choose this IT career area if…
- You want daily variety: you’ll marvel at a complex formula one moment and be awestruck by an artistic creation the next.
- You want to work with a diverse range of people: creatives, scientists and engineers.
- You want to create a product that the world will enjoy, from start to finish.
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