How Combining Soft Skills and Technical Expertise will Advance Your Video Game Development Career

Every game company has specific requirements you’ll need to meet before they’ll hire you as a game designer. The number one requirement listed on those job listings (72%) was communication skills. Why do soft skills matter in video game development?

Video game design continues to be an industry exhibiting substantial growth. That’s probably not the reason you’ve chosen to be a part of it, but it’s good news for your career. Still, after you’ve put in the long hours learning code, design, and production pipeline, what will put you ahead of the swathe of technically qualified candidates?  

To be frank, the cliche programming or artistic “genius” with an abrasive personality is not the person who most companies will want to employ. Game design is a competitive, creative, and — perhaps above all else — collaborative industry, after all. To be brought onto a team, you’ll need to show your range of soft skills alongside your technical prowess. 

Let’s take a look at the personal traits that will boost your professional attractiveness. You can develop those you have, as well as learn new ones in order to bring them in line with the current market requirements. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s achievable.

Look at the Shape of Soft Skills

It can be easy to discount the importance of soft skills. Don’t let the title fool you; these are vital abilities, and often seen as more important to potential employers than technical skills. But what are we actually talking about here? 

While hard skills are teachable and often quantifiable, soft skills are more personal to each of us. Communication, leadership, teamwork, self-motivation, passion, perseverance under pressure — these are all qualities that can be considered soft skills. You’re unlikely to learn these skills in a coding class, but by possessing them you have a distinct advantage.  

These traits are often closely tied with our personalities and aspects of ourselves we have developed through our various life experiences. Some of your soft skills will have come to you quite naturally, while others are hard-won through taking on new challenges — the fruits of both our successes and failures. 

Indispensable Tools in Video Game Development

Games are rarely the product of designers’ technical skills alone. Sure, you may be able to create a title that will capture the imagination of a generation of gamers, knowing precisely how the engine, physics, and mechanics of it will work. But over decades, designers — from major studios and indie teams — have learned that the long process of development needs employees contributing something more. 

Games are exercises in problem-solving, and the development process reflects this. Each member of a team brings their unique set of soft skills to tasks. Your personal approach to solving problems within the design process can make a huge difference to any project.

Development is a complex process that relies on the ability for the product to make a connection with the gamer. It’s often fraught with frustrating technical and personal challenges. The most effective team tends to be one filled with solution-oriented thinkers who exhibit empathy, and who can not just appreciate the ideas of other team members but build upon them. In these scenarios, soft skills are king. 

Stray from Your Comfort Zone to Develop Soft Skills 

First, you need to be able to identify your areas for improvement, which is a great soft skill in itself. There are some which you may already be aware of, either from comments made by friends and previous employers, or from your own knowledge of what situations you find least comfortable to work in. You’ll often find that companies will say on their job postings what soft skills they’re looking for in potential employees.

The best way to develop these soft skills is through experience. While it’s true that many technical skills are gained through industry-specific experience, the development of soft skills can take place almost anywhere. In fact, hunting for self-improvement opportunities is useful for your motivational and personal initiative skillset. 

If teamwork is something you struggle with, volunteering with any outreach organization will provide you with opportunities to learn how effectively contribute. If your independent drive is lacking, start and — more importantly — finish some small personal projects, building up to more ambitious ones. Approach this as though you’re looking for excuses to be taught something new; going outside of your comfort zone can often lead to the development of skills you didn’t know you needed. 

Showing Off Without Being a Showoff

If you come across anybody who claims to enjoy creating their resume, you may have found some rare species of cryptozoological significance. The truth is, showcasing your various talents is that weird balancing act of trying to make yourself seem like the best possible candidate for the job without sounding arrogant. It’s an art, but one you need to learn. 

You’ve worked hard to gain the collection of technical and soft skills you need to work in the industry, so it’s vital that you showcase those in a way that will get you an interview. Your first step in making your resume fit for purpose is to go through the job advertisement and pick out those soft skills that are specifically listed. You might have an overabundance of skills now, but those are the primary ones to focus on. 

The easy part is listing your hard skills: your qualifications, employment history, and relevant projects you’ve worked on. However, be sure to intersperse these with examples of your soft skills. The “experience” and “skills” sections of your resume are ideal placements for these, and you should utilize the personal statement section with references to your various soft skills. 

Contribute Both Your Skills and Yourself

As an industry, video game development thrives by the creative thinking, co-operation, and passion of its production teams. The very act of creating games is a fantastic breeding ground for a range of both hard and soft skills. If you can show that you can contribute not just your technical skills, but give something of yourself, you have a leg up in succeeding in this business. 

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