Tips to Get the HECK into the Games Industry

General rambles of advice about any-and-all portfolios, getting ready for game art/concept art jobs, and what to definitely not really mess up (that a lot of people happen to really mess up.) Clean your sweet self up with these tips!

This is an unrestricted, incomplete braindump of advice for folks who are SO HYPED about video games, but NOT SO HYPED about the competition. It holds tips for not looking like a dingus online and bettering your chances of breaking into that first position. All of information below is, has been, and will be mostly agreed upon by professional artists that look at beginners' portfolios, but it's all subjective. Take all wisdom with a grain of salt.

Recruiters and companies mostly care about two core points for entry jobs:

  1. Can you do the work?
    • None of this advice will immediately help you if your work is not ready. Your skill level is the #1 barrier or boost to getting a job.
  2. Can the other people at this company not cry lots of sad tears working next to you for 40 hours/week?
    • Can you play nice with others? Make respect and genuineity habits. Get more comfortable with small talk. Be ready to heckin' collaborate.

General portfolio advice (any concentration):

  • The less clicks it takes to see your work, the better.
  • The less words on your site, the better.
    • Your "About Me" section should be kept short and simple: what's your full name, where are you located, do you like dogs, etc. Keep it to the important stuff in just 2-3 small paragraphs. Don't type out your resume here, but it's good to touch on the main points of it.
    • Keep descriptions of projects and images succinct.
  • Don’t have 80 submenus of the types of work you make.
    • "Illustrations," "Concept Art," "Client Work," "Professional Work," "AAA Pieces," "Weapon Art" ...This is hard to navigate. Trim the fat. 
  • Use. Some. Spellcheck. Please.
  • Don’t have links that take you away from your website.
  • Don’t post student work that looks like student work.
    • There are exceptions to this rule, but be carefully self-critical with what you present.
  • Don’t use more than 3 fonts on your whole website.
    • Use fonts that match on your resume, site, business cards, presentation sheets, and wedding invitations. Everything. Branding, yo.
  • Don’t try to fill more than your own role.
    • Animators, go online and find a good rig to show character animations. UI designers, don’t try to draw character icons if you don’t know how to draw characters.
    • Trying to be everyone can make you look significantly less self-aware of the quality of work you make. Not a good sign.

Game artists:

  • Quality awareness, confidence, and humility are absolutely essential.
    • Are you aware of the quality of your work?
    • Stand up for yourself, but don’t be prideful. No matter which position you apply to, assume that another artist that’s better than you has an application in for the same one. Hold tight to humility and manners- they go a LONG way and can set you apart.
  • Research everything.
    • Google is an unlimited resource with unlimited answers. Not sure how to script a tool in Maya? Google it. Want to get into new software? Google it. Not sure why Photoshop is freaking out? Google it. Not sure what breed of dog is your favorite? Google it.
    • Being able to teach yourself and adapt to the rapidly changing technology is a survival skill.
  • (Usually) don’t have traditional media pieces in your portfolio.
    • It communicates a lack of professionalism and awareness of what you’re applying to.
  • Keep the quantity of work that you show limited.
    • Less is more. Trim the unnecessary fat away and keep your portfolio to your absolute strongest pieces instead of drooling over websites that seem to have endless artworks.
  • Focus on your specific role.
    • What consistent tasks would (as an example) an environment artist do every day? Research your dream company and what they expect from their artists. It varies from team to team.

Concept artists:

  • Yet again, research everything.
    • After you’ve built up your artistic skills, about 80% of the job is being able to find strong references and apply them to your idea.
    • Practice pulling inspiration from a combination of photos, other concept art, and abstraction.
  • Get really comfortable with iteration.
    • Be ready to draw everything at least 8 or 10 times.
    • Designing a gun doesn’t mean drawing a single gun. Practice starting with 10 thumbnails, then 3 tighter drawings, then 2 final, clean renders.
  • Get flexible.
    • A single game company might be working on 3 different projects in 3 different styles simultaneously. Practice with different methods, experiment with new workflows, and get messy.

Resources to start using:

  • Look at other artists’ portfolios- but mostly that of those who have made it. Find people to look up to and get inspired by.
  • LinkedIn
    • Posting statuses more frequently puts you at the top of their non-chronological timeline!
  • Facebook Groups
    • Ten Thousand Hours, One Fantastic Week, CGSociety...
  • Artstation job postings & Polycount forums
    • Reach out to professionals. Everything is accessible. Be kind, respectful, brief, and professional.

I just want to end on this point one more time: none of this advice will immediately help you if your work is not ready. Your skill level is the #1 barrier or boost to getting a job. 100% of the time, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to keep working on your skills. If your work isn't ready, then trying to get your foot in the door will be significantly more difficult. I promise.

Keep investing time in your passions, make small games, keep talking to the people you respect, and with some patience, you can make it. Best of luck.

Feel free to comment with any suggestions or points that you'd like me to elaborate on!

Artstation • Twitter • Portfolio

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