Advice on Getting Advice & Mentorship (in the Game Industry)

TL;DR: If you’re about to DM or email a game development professional for advice, you can skip to the “what to ask” section. But I suggest reading the whole article too 😉

I was writing a shorter block of tips for seeking mentorship in a large post about breaking into the game industry when I realized I couldn’t condense this advice into bullet points while addressing all of the important nuances.

As a professional game developer who’s mentored through programs like the Glitch Power Leveling program at GDC in 2019 and the online bootcamp Code Coven; mentored and spoken at classes and events at universities including UCI and UCLA; and who’s been a mentee myself, I’d love to share some detailed advice about mentorship in the game industry. I can’t possibly cover every potential mentorship situation in one article, so this one is focused on guiding people new to the industry on how to approach industry professionals (online and in person) for 1-1 conversations for advice about the game industry and turning those relationships into longer-term, more formal mentorship relationships. I always recommend that you think critically about the advice I present, consider what does and doesn’t work for you, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet. 😉

I hope this article both sets you up with realistic expectations for what you can get out of mentorship and gives you practical advice to follow to seek it and benefit from it.

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Questions to ask game studios you’re interviewing with

When you get to the end of an on-site interview with a team and they ask you:

“Do you have any questions for us?”

The worst thing you could do is say “no”.

If that’s the case, then what DO you ask?

Remember that, if interviews are functioning correctly, you’re also assessing the company and team as much as they’re assessing you. You should ask questions that demonstrate that you’re carefully considering whether or not your career goals align with this team’s goals and the position’s responsibilities. This demonstrates that you’re somebody who takes their career seriously and can bring that focus to the team.

Having said that, I also know that sometimes you’re in a position where you’re almost certainly going to take the job if you get an offer regardless of what their answers to these questions are. Sometimes you’re new to the industry and you don’t know what your goals are yet. Or maybe it’s just because the job market and interview process just isn’t actually balanced or fair in many (..most?) situations. I’ve been in that position before. I still think you should ask these questions, even if you have to feign some confidence about your ability to be picky.

Both a disclaimer and a possible boon- I’m writing this from the perspective of somebody who is an individual contributor, not a hiring manager. Although I’ve never made a final call on hiring somebody before, I do participate in the interview process and have interviewed for jobs many times myself. I encourage you to think critically about what advice here applies to you, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet. 🙂

With all that in mind, here’s a list of questions that I think are good conversation starters, helpful insights into company culture, and will help you figure out if this company and role are actually a good fit for you. You don’t need to ask all of them; pick a few that you think will help you make the best decision in your job hunt and make the most sense for your role and experience level.

Good luck!

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Game Dev Portfolio Guide

Other than making games and networking, creating a quality portfolio to display your work is one of the most important steps of applying for jobs in the game industry. Luckily, it’s also pretty simple compared to the first two steps! XD

This guide should be helpful for a variety of asset creation jobs- mainly, coding, art, and sound design– as that’s my biggest area of experience and therefore what I can give the most accurate advice on.

Remember that your resume and portfolio are living documents; update them with new work you’ve done and remove old work as you advance in your career.

Good luck!

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How to Start a Career in Games

SO many articles I’ve encountered about how to get a job making video games are misleading. They spend too much time over-emphasizing, and sometimes exaggerating, how competitive the game industry is, and yet simultaneously propose a perfect formula for “breaking in”.

Even the phrase “breaking in” is a misnomer- although it can be difficult to get a paid job making games, if you’re making games at all, then you’re contributing to the game industry, and you are a game developer already. You’ve already taken the most important step to making games as a career: making a game. Let’s not gatekeep the terminology.

I can’t tell you exactly how to run your game development journey. Maybe you want to secure a AAA job, maybe you want to do your own indie thing, or maybe you need help taking the first step to make a game. I’m not going to be condescending and tell you what you want out of your game journey or career, or try to look cool by exaggerating how competitive this field is to get a job in.

Instead, I’m going to do my best to present a list of adaptable ideas for improving and finding paid work as a game developer. Because hey- once you’ve made your first game, you already are one. ❤️

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