How to create an action plan
Action plans are ways for developers to plug gaps in their CVs. They can take a variety of forms, some games-specific, some not remotely connected with games, but for all of them, the question from a recruiter you must answer is “Why did you do that?”. Here are some ideas but please note that some might not be appropriate for you and your circumstances:
Artists, programmers and designers should all get as much experience developing games as possible. This often involves a lot of dedication and hard work to produce results that can demonstrate your potential in a job application. Artists can experiment with art packages, and produce artwork that’s applicable to a studio you’d like to work for. Designers might produce games designs using games tech or other media (such as Unity, GameMaker or even physical media such as cardboard or paper) that demonstrate your creativity and skill. Programmers might produce games code perhaps using games engines (Unity or Unreal Engine). Game jams and hackathons are brilliant ways to demonstrate your skills so we would encourage you to try those out. If you’re a producer, this could apply to you too - find a team who want to build a game and then manage them, perhaps learning some technical skills along the way.
If you’re studying a games development degree course, then you might have a voluntary work placement in a games studio. We recommend that you grab that opportunity with both hands. If you’re not studying a games degree course or are on a degree course that doesn’t do work placements, then you can take action by finding your local games companies and asking them directly whether they do internships or placements. Seeing the inside of a games studio is the best taster for you and for them. They get to know you a little and see your potential. You get to see what a games studio environment is like. Sometimes it’s not easy finding this kind of opportunity, but it doesn’t hurt to ask and some doors might open unexpectedly.
DIY technical skills
All four roles use technical skills which rest on tools and engines which you can usually access for low or no cost (by saying you’re a student). For instance, let’s say you’re a programmer. You’ve read five job descriptions for the programming role you covet and all list C#, but you don’t know C#. So your action plan would be to get a copy of Unity, find online tutorials, books or even courses like FutureLearn’s, and start learning C#. Perhaps you’re an artist but you need to learn to use tools like Maya or ZBrush, or a designer that needs to show knowledge of a specific games genre, freemium monetisation or analytics packages, or for a producer to get familiar with Agile development. These can all be learned from books, online guides and articles or from online courses. Some will be free, some will be premium, so use your judgement carefully to decide which are worth it and, if premium, what you can afford. How you acquire this self-taught knowledge will show recruiters in an industry that’s continually reinventing itself that you can adapt to learn new skills and have the drive to improve yourself.
Comparative work experience
You could find opportunities to organise events, perhaps for charity, university societies or clubs, local games communities or other community events which help you develop professional skills, even if they are not connected with games development. It could be organising a game jam, a games quiz night, a charity fun run, a comedy stand-up night, or helping homeless people. The important thing is how you approach the task – with drive, passion and professionalism. This is particularly appropriate for producers but also for anyone looking to develop professional skills and will show employers how committed and driven you are in general.
Use the side door instead
It’s an unusual strategy but it can work. You’ve heard Jess talk about starting a job at a games company as a receptionist before persisting in asking the Human Resources department for the chance to interview. Are there ways that your ideal studio works with consumers, perhaps online through communities, or at events that need enthusiastic people? Think laterally and creatively and you might find a way in.
Practise, practise, practise
No-one is expecting you to turn up at an interview for your first games job with a mastery of a skill, but the more you practice it, the better you’ll be at performing it. Even the most exciting games jobs involve a degree of repetition, and learning games development skills is no different. A lot of practice can only help.
Dedication is what you need
An action plan that you can complete in a weekend is unlikely to convince a recruiter that you’ve plugged a gap in your CV. It may take time, perhaps weeks or even months, if you’re working it into other parts of your life such as study or work. Recruiters don’t expect to see perfect candidates but they do want to see passion, drive and dedication.
Next, it’s over to you, as you have a go at creating your own plan.