With rapid growth year on year, the video games industry has come a long way since the halcyon days of Pong and Space Invaders. Indeed, with the help of established AAA franchises such as Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed and Grand Theft Auto, video games are now more profitable than the film and music industries combined. This industry is projected to be worth around $300 billion by 2025.
With this in mind, there’s never been a better time to pursue a career in the video game industry. To offer some ideas of where you might fit in, we’ve compiled a list of the most essential roles.
If you possess the skills discussed, you are determined to succeed, and you have a genuine passion for video games, then there’s no reason why one of them can’t be yours.
So, if you want to get involved in one of the biggest and fastest-growing commercial sectors in the world, pay attention: here are the 10 best video game careers.
1. Game Developer
Although video game production is a hugely collaborative endeavour, it’s fair to say that developers are at the core of everything. They are responsible for programming all the visual ideas, animations and sounds into the actual game itself.
As a result, they need to understand the wider vision of the game’s creators, as well as possess the technical expertise to implement it. While a degree in computer science (or a related field) is generally a requisite for this, many successful developers are actually self-taught, honing their skills by working on unofficial modifications, contributing to fan projects or even building their own games from scratch.
At the larger production houses, such as EA, Rockstar Games and Bethesda, many developers go on to specialise in specific areas of game development, including engine development, controls and interface, or artificial intelligence.
Working closely with the game’s design and development leads, you’d be responsible for visualising the aesthetic of the gameplay. On bigger projects, this would include buildings, backgrounds and landscapes, while, due to the rapid evolution of computer graphics systems, there is also now a high demand for those who have a talent in creature and character design.
Video game worlds are not constricted by the real-life limitations that other media productions are, either, so if you have a vivid imagination and a proven design background, this could be the gig for you.
Animators take the visual concepts that have been created by the art department and, using specialist software that is aligned to the game’s graphics engine and technical limitations, make them come alive.
This includes making character movements as lifelike as possible, as well as virtually recreating the movements of other objects, such as vehicles, weapons and other gameplay-related tools.
At the bigger studios, particularly when working on high-budget AAA titles, your work would be supplemented by additional technologies, such as motion-capturing human actors, or employing the services of ballistics experts and physicists to recreate explosions or weapons activity within the game.
4. QA Tester
Video games are complex productions and, therefore, often contain coding and technical errors that can affect the gameplay. To ensure that a game is released and free from errors, production companies employ quality assurance testers to find and document them so that they can be fixed.
Although this role can sometimes be romanticised as ‘playing video games for a living’, the reality is different. Your task is to try and ‘break’ the game, and due to release deadlines, the hours can be long and repetitive, especially when you are trying to recreate a bug that you found. It is, howewer, still a highly desirable job and a great way for aspiring developers to break into the industry.
5. Audio Engineer
If your expertise lies in the creation and recording of sound and sound effects, then there is a strong demand for your services in the video game industry.
Sound is a hugely important part of modern gaming. It is a highly effective way to build atmospheres and make certain aspects of the game more authentic or engaging. For example, you may be required to locate and record real weapon sounds for a historic shooter game, or create new sounds from nothing for a futuristic sci-fi game.
On larger scale productions, you’ll also have to work with composers and voice actors to record music and dialogue, meaning you’ll also need to have extensive studio experience.
6. Game Designer
Video game designers are the visionaries who are responsible for the overall direction of the game’s creative aspects.
As well as constantly producing ideas, they need to be astute project managers, capable of handling setbacks or finding ways to circumnavigate technical or budgetary limitations. They also need to be able to communicate their vision clearly to their team, especially on more complex projects.
Many designers start from the bottom, working on small-scale indie projects and learning on the job. With success, they can then start pitching ideas to studios or, in some cases, get headhunted to lead specific projects. If their initial output gains enough commercial interest, some even start their own studios.
Forging a successful career as a game designer requires a lot of patience, dedication and an ability to handle rejection, but for the select few who make it, it’s a highly paid dream role.
7. Professional Gamer
With the huge popularity of multiplayer-specific games such as FIFA, Counter-Strike and Dota, dedicated gamers can now translate their talent and experience into a paycheque. Professional gaming – or eSports as it’s better known – is a rapidly evolving field, with the most elite gamers able to attract sizeable sponsorships and prize money through competitions and tournaments.
The very top gamers, such as Johan Sundstein, Kuro Takhasomi and Amer al-Barkawi, all earn seven-figure salaries, while public and commercial interest is only set to grow.
Gone are the days when video games were a waste of time!
There are actually several video game careers available to writers, depending on your background and interest. For instance, creative writers and scriptwriters are always needed to write dialogue, as well as structure stories and plot points in larger games.
Technical writers, meanwhile, are needed to write game manuals and provide other support and instruction materials, while content and copywriters help to market and promote games online, in magazines and through social media.
One of the main reasons gaming has gained global popularity is that most releases are translated into different languages. Therefore, professional translators are always required.
There’s the potential to get a lot of work, too, with in-game text and dialogues, manuals, promotional materials and customer support materials all needing to be translated into a wide variety of languages.
10. Marketing Professional
Video games are a highly creative endeavour, but at the end of the day, studios are businesses that want to see significant returns on their investments. Whether it’s a big-budget studio release or an indie studio using guerrilla marketing techniques, there is demand all across the industry for people who know how to sell.
For example, larger studios always require market research analysts to explore potential markets and genres, while the games themselves – especially the major AAA titles – require marketing directors, campaign specialists and digital marketers to support their release. No matter what your specialism is, there’s bound to be a suitable position.
A career in video games might sound like a pipe dream, but as this list shows, there are plenty of potential – and realistic – ways to become involved in the industry. If you are prepared to work hard, demonstrate your commitment and apply your skillset in the right way, then there’s no reason why you can’t forge a definitive career for yourself in video games.
Which of these roles would suit you? Let us know in the comments below!