This is a short post, one of several where I’ll toss out an idea or two to (maybe) help people get their foot in the door of the game’s industry.
It does not matter what role you want to play for a game developer — storyboard artist, animator, writer, or producer — honing your technical skills makes you more valuable. Period.
Too many applicants hope to land their dream position and are so focused on that they miss numerous other opportunities that would help get them into the company. Want to be a storyboard artist? Its going to be tough to land that position, especially with an established developer. But if the aspiring storyboard artist learned how to make icons and even better learn tricks to make them faster than anyone else — batch files to do color filter on the icons, building icons out of smaller components to easily be able to ‘mix-and-match’ new icons, that sort of thing — that artist’s value is going to increase. They might not be able to start as a concept artist, but getting hired is the first, not the final step, in their game industry career.
Likewise we had designers apply to be scripters when I worked at BioWare. Now a scripter has to take dialog, locations, creatures and make them all function, generally with a pseudo programming language. So, knowing how to program, was essential. In the art department there were technical artists who were whizzes at exporting and converting art data between various formats. In the quality testing department there are testers who write testing tools, build automated tests and so on.
Learn Excel, no matter what position you’re taking — being able to whip up a simple spreadsheet on demand comes up often. If you can, learn a database such as MySQL — databases can be hugely useful for tracking gameplay data, user feedback, locations of art files, and so on and allow the proficient user to export that data into any format that teammates or management might need.
Over the years I worked at BioWare as a designer I learned how to build art models, automate Word documentation, create databases, PHP & MySQL coding, advanced Excel programming, worked with numerous asset and bug tracking packages, and built prototype tools in a variety of programming languages. Being flexible and willing to learn new skills — and demonstrating that you have done this previously, before the job interview — helps nudge your potential employer into well, employing you.