This post is aimed at game dev students to help them secure an internship in the game industry. It’s a collection of do’s and don’ts on a few topics like portfolio, interviews, internship fairs, business cards and emails. I compiled it from a series of posts I did on our own website.
This is the most important asset you have as a student to showcase your skills. Since it is likely that you don’t have any previous job experience or references, it is the tool game studios will use to judge your application. Your portfolio is the collection of (hard) work you’ve done over the years. Make it shine.
- Don’t wait until the last minute to make your portfolio. It shows. Put in some effort. A nice design, complete with bells and whistles will make you stand out.
- Put the work that best showcases your skills first.
- Focus your portfolio on what you actually want to do; don’t show us your 3D art if you want to be a programmer. It’s nice to include it in your profile simply to show that you have those skills, but put all of that stuff on a separate page.
- It’s better to have a few stellar pieces than 200 average ones. If you still want to show them, keep them separate from your main portfolio. It helps us assess your progression compared to your older work. But be careful with this; it can be both an advantage and a disadvantage.
- Don’t make excuses for your school projects. We see the same project executed in a myriad of different ways. It’s a good way to gauge your skill level against your fellow students.
- Tell us if a project was a group project and what your role was, what features you programmed, or assets you made. How did you work together?
- Don’t just tell us what you did. Show us. If you made the models, add some images solely of these and explain how they were made. Wrote the code? Give us some code samples.
- Show us your personal projects too. We want to know what you are interested in.
- Please actually have some personal projects. It shows that you work on your skills besides what you’ve been told to do at school.
Portfolio tips for artists
- Don’t be a one trick pony. Add in different styles, some 3D models, 2D art, concept sketches … We want to know what range you have.
- Do not put manga in your portfolio. Seriously.
- We often see shots of the whole project without closeups of the work you made. Saying you did A or B doesn’t really tell us much if you don’t show it. Show the details. If you are a texture artist, a level shot is good, but we also want to see the texture up close.
- Show your work in-engine. It’s great that you can create a fancy VRay render but we want to see how your work holds up when implemented in a game engine.
- When showing 3D models for games we want to see more than an in-engine shot of the asset. We also want to see a wireframe of the model. Your modelling could be amazing but if its built horribly we want to be able to see that.
- While wireframes are important, it’s more crucial to see whether or not you understand the principles of art (or 3D art) rather than that you know how to be as efficient as possible with the model, as the former is harder to learn in an internship than the latter. Obviously though, having both is best.
- Don’t do the sliced texture overview shots. We cannot see if you understand proper texturing if you only show the corner of your roughness map, another corner of your normal map and a little slice of your albedo.
Portfolio tips for coders
- If you are a programmer, don’t make excuses for your programmer art. We understand and we don’t care. It’s your code that is important.
- Which brings me to: show your goddamn code. We can learn a lot from looking at a few lines of C#.
- Explain to us why you chose a certain solution.
- Run us through your code. If you can explain it so our producer understands, we know you can defend your choices in a production environment.
Portfolio tips for level designers
- We want to see your level flow. Either supply map overviews or a video in which we can clearly see how the level is constructed.
- Show us some editor shots so we can see how your entity placement and lighting setup is structured.
Interview and Internship fairs
Interviews can be a daunting experience for some, while others might tread too lightly. It’s a bit like the first time you meet the parents of your partner. You need to show that you are a good fit and be on your best behaviour. It’s serious now.
First impressions are important.
- You do not get a redo.
- Remember, this is actually a job interview. Take it seriously. You are applying for a job at our studio. Act and dress accordingly.
- Be confident about your skills. If you make excuses for your work, ask yourself why would we hire you?
- Be proud of your accomplishments… but not too much, nobody likes a douchebag.
- Personal hygiene is important.
- An internship is an opportunity to learn as much as possible from the studio. Know why you want to apply to that particular studio and what the internship can offer to you.
- But also, think about what you can bring to the studio.
- Many students don’t have an answer to what they want to do or what they are looking for in an internship. Do you want to be a 3D artist, FX artist, programmer, tech artist, generalist? Think about this and present yourself that way.
- FFS show a portfolio. Don’t waste our time if you have nothing to show.
- We need to be able to judge your skills from your work. Enthusiasm is good, backing it up with a nice portfolio is better.
- Don’t show your portfolio on a phone. Give it the screen real estate it deserves. Better to show your portfolio on a tablet so we can zoom in on the details.
Do's and don'ts at an internship fair:
- If there are multiple courses at your school, tell us which you are enrolled in. We adapt our pitch to your skill set. We also don’t want to waste our time on a profile we’re not looking for.
- Have a business card at the ready. If we ask for it, you probably made a good impression. Have at least your name, a link to your work and a way to contact you on the card.
- Don’t come up to our booth and rudely ask what we do. You need to research the studios you are interested in. In case you didn’t, we all have a smartphone, so Google us while you wait in line.
- Internship fairs are exhausting for the studios. We talk with a lot of students, and by the end of the day we are beat. Come and talk to us as early as possible.
- Sometimes, there are assigned time slots. Be punctual, because nobody likes to wait.
- If you weren’t able get a time slot, come and talk to us after. Even if we’re beat, we appreciate the extra effort.
- Bring a laptop with enough battery power to last the day or charge up regularly. You don’t want it powering off in the middle of the interview.
- It’s ok to tell me that you are not interested in an internship at our studio. You can do that at any time during the application process. We’re adults. We can handle it. Just don’t be rude about it.
When you hand me your business card at an internship fair, it is the only physical thing I have to remember you by. At a full-day event, we can easily see over 30 people. It’s very important that your card stands out and has your basic info.
There are no hard or fast rules about what your card should look like. That’s all up to you - be creative. We do, however, need to have enough info to assess your application and get back to you.
The front needs to have your basic information:
- Your name.
- What you do: artist, coder, etc.
- A link to your portfolio
- Your email in case we like you and want to contact you
- Your phone number is good to have too. Don’t forget your country code.
- Your twitter, if relevant to your gamedev career
- It is even better if you have an example of your work printed on the back, or maybe a picture of yourself. Anything that helps us remember you.
That said, one thing I like to do to remember who’s who is to write little notes on the business card. If both sides are printed all over that is difficult. Not saying that you need a notes section on your card, but some whitespace is good =)
We understand money is tight as a student and you might want to save some by printing your business card yourself. Don’t. A professionally printed card makes all the difference.
Some schools don’t organize internship fairs, in which case you may need to contact the videogame studio by mail. Most game studios are pretty accessible - you can find their contact info on their Twitter profile or website a lot of the time. If you know somebody at the studio, contact them directly for a better chance to have your application picked up.
Some tips about emailing:
- Be polite; it is equally important in real life as it is in an email conversation.
- Include at least a link to your portfolio.
- Do not attach your resume or portfolio: have an online version that might include a link to download.
- If we put someone in CC, reply with reply-to-all. There is usually a reason for them to be in the mail.
- If you get an out of office reply, think before you start mailing the emergency contacts, especially if the person you contact is only away for a short time.
I would like to give a big thank you to the people that helped out with the tips: Brecht, working on Trifox at Glowfish Interactive, Andrea, developing Bombslinger at Mode4, Juda, working on Flotsam at Pajama Llama, and Seb, making Ary and the Secret of Seasons at Exiin.