The Lazy Designer

Getting into the Gaming Industry

I’ve been offering some advice to a few people who are interested in working for a gaming company and I figured I’d might as well summarize what I’ve told them.

Are You Sure?

First, I think someone wanting to enter the industry must be sure that this is something they want. Thinking that the job is going to be as fun as playing the end product is not entirely accurate. Working in the industry can be fun and rewarding but it can also be very demanding. Do some homework into the company you are applying at, especially if you have a family and/or will have to relocate. Some companies have groups online where past employees tend to congregate, you might want to check those out.

The Resume

If you are still working for someone, or have a long-standing engagement (even a volunteer position) with another studio you should be prepared in a phone interview to explain your status — you should be willing to leave them, else you wouldn’t be applying, right?

Don’t inflate your resume. Don’t exaggerate your past duties. Shouldn’t have to say that, but here I am, saying it.

The lighter your resume the better your portfolio should be — a writer should have great writing samples, an artist some amazing work. If you are relatively inexperienced being good at a variety of tasks might increase your chances of being hired.

The Cover Letter

Don’t get too crazy with your cover letter. You can find lots of general advice on how to compose one. Here is some specific advice in regards to what I liked to see:

  • You Play Games. Should be clear that you are a gamer and better yet, that you’ve played the games this developer has made. Specific examples work better than “I’ve played games forever. Used to drive my mom nuts.”
  • Focus on skills and what you bring to the company and what you value about what the company does: “I’d like to improve my understanding of blah blah blah and your company seems to be kicking ass at that.” Probably skip the kicking ass part though.
  • Get your terminology right. Look at job postings online to see what they call the various specialties. Calling yourself a writer might be better than saying “word monkey”, for example.
  • This is not a chatline Avoid using writing shortcuts that you might use when posting an update to your Facebook stay. Use proper writing. Doesn’t have to be an essay but it should be more formal than “Working for you guys would be teh sex bomb!”
  • Don’t make it obvious you are a user You might think that working for Developer XYZ is a great stepping stone for your career. Don’t say that though. No one wants to think of themselves as a stepping stone.
  • Don’t be weak Don’t beg for the job. Kiss minimal ass. Don’t talk about your sick kitten.
  • Don’t be arrogant Don’t go overboard on the other extreme and make it seem like that developer is going to go bankrupt if they don’t hire you. Telling a potential employer that “only an idiot would pass up the chance to hire me” is probably a bad idea. Just saying.


Use the appropriate application process as outlined on the company’s website. Blind e-mailing a generic cover letter/portfolio to 10000 companies will result in 9999 complete ignores (I’d like to think at least one company would reply, though probably rudely).

Also keep in mind that being able to do more than one thing is vital. You might want (and be qualified) for a particular position but if you can do other tasks you improve your chances of being hired. A writer who can do light programming duties or handle management will have a better chance at being hired, for example.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.