Networking in Games- Covid Edition

Article / 18 January 2021

Networking in Games- Covid Edition

You have recently graduated or you are still trying to land your first job, but the advice you keep hearing is to just ‘Work on your Portfolio’ and ‘Network’...

But how can you Network when you can’t see people or attend events? You can’t work on your portfolio because you don’t know how to fill those gaps or perhaps don’t yet have the experience. Never fear, because Victoria is here to advise you how to help ‘yourself’, - yes yourself,! Stop relying on individuals who may let you down, help yourself and come out fighting. 

I am going to write this article in two parts, first will cover ‘Networking’ and the second will cover ‘Working on your Portfolio’. 


LETS GO!




Building A Community

First off, the games industry is a very small community -driven environment. It is very open to new starters and will often share a wealth of information, a lot of it for free. When you are starting out it is good to dip your toe in the water and to get involved in this community, it’s great for learning, making new friends and making those all important career connections that could possibly help you out in the future (and vice versa). 

Remember that networking is as important as ever, so don’t allow Covid to become another barrier to your future. Instead let’s use this time as an opportunity, - an opportunity to build a community. Lots of professionals have more time than ever,: no commuting, less distractions and they too generally miss human interaction. So now it is actually a great time to reach out and talk, so let’s talk!


Some Tips as to HOW:


1. Networking Etiquette

Networking is a little bit like investing. You wouldn't expect to earn money straight away from investing just like you shouldn't expect a job straight away from networking. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn't. Except Networking doesn't cost money; it instead costs time and energy, but it is still worth putting in the time for the right person. 

In simple terms, when you are networking you are looking to seek wisdom. You are not out right asking for a job. Your job will potentially come afterwards, or in the future, if you're the right fit. When an opportunity becomes available your hope is that person thinks of you. 

People love to give advice, and most have a soft spot for students or people starting out. We have all been there and it's relatable. But the thing that people really love the most is when you take the feedback and have the manners to say thank you. You would be surprised how many people seek advice, are given it and don't have the courtesy to even say thank you...trust me people remember the ones that thank them and those that don’t. Most importantly it will be remembered if you return with portfolio improvements, it shows you took the direct feedback and applied it, that's a very valuable skill.

Respect the person's time and boundaries, don't feel like you need to apply all the feedback given within a week, give yourself the time to digest your improvements, the person isn't going to forget you, so giver yourself the time to take action.


Tip: Remember that no one one owes you anything. Be respectful of someone's time and boundaries, not everyone is a mentorship/feedback kind of person. 


2. Targeting individuals

Messaging individuals is great if you have a goal in mind, it could be to gain insight into a company, following up an application or asking someone for specific portfolio feedback. Think about what you want to say-It sounds quite simple but before you message anyone you need to figure out exactly what you want to ask or say.

I would suggest a mix of both approaches, but never mass message individuals if you don’t have a reason or a conversation in mind. Networking doesn’t mean going onto Linkedin to ‘copy and paste’ the same conversation to everyone, it’s finding someone you want to connect with. 

Here are a couple of good examples of when to message someone relating to a job:


Example 1:

You have looked at a company you would like to apply for, you see you have a connection to someone working there. Message the person and introduce yourself, share your portfolio to ask for some feedback. Often companies have incentives for employees to recommend talent and the employee could give you some valuable feedback that could help your portfolio stand out, or even refer you!


Example 2:

Perhaps you would like to gain someone's insight as to how an individual got to the role they have? It’s very rare to land your first job at a AAA company, it’s sometimes the journey to get to that point which is the most interesting. It takes hard work and dedication to land those ‘dream roles’.


Tip: When you’re speaking with someone try to come up with a short version of your story, just a few minutes long. The rest of the time you are seeking someone else's wisdom and time, you don’t want to spend half of that time talking about yourself. 


3. Set Goals

Write some individual goals for yourself that can become action items for yourself!

See examples below: 

  • Find a games group you would like to engage in and join in!

  • Follow three companies online that you would like to work with

  • Find three people that work at the company you’re interested in and see how your portfolio compares. Are there any questions you would like to ask them?

  • Try to set up a coffee talk with someone 



Where To Network Online

Participating online can help you make new networking contacts. Here are a few places you can try below :


1. Discord

Discord is great for building a community and learning, there is a Discord for any kind of discipline that you could want. Some channels are invite only but once you start networking online you will come across several you can join. 


Some Examples:


@FlippedNormals

https://discord.com/invite/uXtDUqs

Curated CG Marketplace


@DiNustyEmpire

https://discord.com/invite/5Qe3Skg 

A 3D artist community for the masses. 


@HPGuild   (Hand Painters Guild)

https://discord.com/invite/9JkZKPu 

Posting hand painted texture related news & art!


@TheClubDiscord

https://discord.com/invite/kjtQD3S

We are a friendly Discord community where you can show off your 3D/2D work, receive feedback and help, and hangout with other art!


2. Game Jams

Game Jams can be really useful for gaining experience working as a team and meeting people who want to make games. You never know who you will meet! You could work with someone that is at a company that could recommend you for work or be in a position to recommend you in the future. Also if you have a Game Jam piece it would be great on your CV or portfolio if you’re starting out, it proves you can work in a time under deadlines.


3. Twitter

Twitter is great for making Dev connections who can give you the heads up for jobs to apply for in studios. But in terms of getting attention from companies a very small percentage of the hiring team will be on Twitter so keep that in mind. Twitter can be useful for finding jobs from Retweets and hashtags #gamedevjobs 


4. LinkedIn

If you don’t have a LinkedIn account yet, sign up and make a profile. Make sure it has a professional photo, not an avatar, as it's better to have a recognizable picture so when normal networking resumes people know what you look like. It is useful for other professionals to have clear access to your portfolio links and see your resume, particularly when you start landing jobs. For someone starting it out it can feel quite daunting, but it is great for seeing what companies are recruiting and new opportunities that someone else might share. It is also really useful to see who works there and do some research for yourself, as Linkedin is also great for reaching out to individuals. As you grow your experience will be documented on Linkedin, which is great for others to witness and see how well you’re developing.


5. Recruiters 

A good recruiter is worth their weight in gold. When you’re starting out it can be quite frustrating to feel as though you’re messaging lots of recruiters and not being successful with applications or even feeling ignored when you have reached out. Part of the issue could be that it is exceptionally hard to get your first job, so it could be down to your portfolio, but a good recruiter should be able to give you the correct advice or feedback. It is good to try different recruitment agencies to see who you like, if you find one recruiter that puts in the time and effort it is well worth keeping that relationship going by updating with new portfolio updates or a new CV. 


www.amiqus.com

www.Opmjobs.com

www.aswift.com


6. Joining a Community

There are lots of communities you can join if you're looking to make friends or want to feel supported by a community. Here is a list of a selected few, but feel free to have a look around to see if any take your interest. 


POC in Play 

www.pocplay.org 

POC in Play is an independent organisation creating a range of initiatives and programme of events designed to increase the visibility and representation of People of Colour in the video games industry.


Limit Break

www.limitbreak.co.uk

Limit Break is a mentorship program aimed at people of underrepresented genders in the UK games industry.  Participants are paired with a mentor who is an established professional in their field.


Women In Games

www.womeningames.org

Women in Games WIGJ is the not for profit organisation that seeks a games industry, culture and community free of gender discrimination, where full equality of opportunity, treatment and conditions empowers all women to achieve their full potential.


Into Games

intogames.org/

Find a career, build a game, go to an event, get a mentor, find opportunities


Ukie

https://ukie.org.uk/ 

Ukie unites the video game industry and enables it to speak with a powerful collective voice.


Conclusion

Overall everyone's networking experience is different and there isn't just one way of Networking, it can be a combination of a bit of everything or it can be really focusing in one area. The important thing is there are choices and you can engage in as much or little Networking as you choose fit, but I would say it is key in the Games Industry even if it’s just for making new connections to grow your network. 


Best,

Victoria 




Interested in more? Check out another article I wrote:


Breaking into the Games Industry:

https://www.artstation.com/lowpolyfish/blog/LQOV/breaking-into-the-games-industry

Art Test Guidance

Article / 18 April 2019

∷ There is a lot of mixed feelings about art tests with professional Devs & new Graduates entering the industry. Should you succumb to doing one? Is it a waste of time? Should you ask for payment ? These are the subjects I am going to cover ∷

I have done a fair few art tests , some paid/unpaid, some reasonable & a couple that were literally insane. One brief was so intense that the only thing that was missing on it was asking me to do a triple tuck back-flip (which I cannot do unfortunately)  I've also heard several horror stories from friends which is just gut wrenchingly awful. 

We are creative creatures & unfortunately always exploited because it's such a disposable sought out industry. Everyone is hungry for it. If you won't take the 'challenge' of an art test someone else always will so this continues in a vicious circle until the end of time...

(This article is my own personal experience & my own opinions, so take from it what you like)


What is an art test?

It is often another aspect of a job application which you are asked to complete a test within a given deadline with guidelines. 

It can be to create a small prop, environment, Character, shader or something within the job skills you would be expected to use for the job. Often a reasonable art test would be a week deadline and expect you to work on the piece start to finish, even if it's a week deadline you are normally expected to do two/three full days of work (this is dependent on the deadlines they set, it will be specified the time expected)

Submission files are always variable for the test, it can be renders, actual 3D meshes, texture maps , video playthroughs, it all varies. 


Why Do they give art tests ?

  1. The point of the art test is to gauge your skills as an individual. You might not stylistically have the style they require on your portfolio so it's a chance to see if you can be flexible with styles. It's an opportunity to see how you tackle a challenge or a brief so they can talk through this with you after.

  2. It is also a chance to see work without any smokes & mirrors. A student project for example might look amazing but they could have spent six months on it solid full time at school with professional help & guidance every step of the way. Work like this shows the potential of what a graduate could create with guidance, but what about when they work alone? An art test is a way to see exactly how far the skills go & under timed pressure.

  3. Companies can receive hundreds if not thousands of applications, it's an easy way to see the strongest work against the weakest.


Payment

Most companies will not pay for art tests because it's expensive & they won't want to invest in a candidate that might not be successful. This is not really fair but generally this is the case, work in my opinion should always be valued , time is money.  

You can always ask if it is a paid art test, remember the conversation goes both ways so don't be afraid to ask. Weigh up if it is worth your time if it's unpaid. Normally I see this as a reflection of the company culture so it is something to think about.


Why Art Tests are Bad?

  • Art tests are often unpaid. 

  • Most are not monitored at all, unrealistic briefs are given and you're expected to kill yourself for a test that you might not even pass

  • Often you won't get feedback if unsuccessful

  • You can never ever show the work (EVER) (Most of the time) 

  • It is point blank EXHAUSTING

  • You can do multiple art tests & burn yourself out before you have even got your foot in the door 

Personally I think if your CV & Portfolio is solid & the company likes you that is more than enough. That's what probation is for right? To test if your fit.


Things to watch out for

If you're asked to do an art test early on before you have even had an interview I always get a bit wary, to me it smells like a time waste . An art test should be the final stage. Almost like the final test..

But some companies like to give them early on so it saves them time, then they don't need to waste interview time as they can just look at your finished test as a guide. Personally a portfolio & interview should be the leading factor and a test after if applicable. 

Just make sure you have at least had a Skype interview or something before you start working on random art tests, otherwise you will get burnt out & disheartened.


Should you do an Art Test?

This is totally down to the situation you are in, I am not saying don't ever do art tests, just set boundaries for yourself. If you feel it is something you are willing to try and you are really interested in a company & feel like you're a good fit by all means try, you never know. But if you don't feel like you match at all be selective. 

You don't want to fall into the trap of doing every art test that comes your way, then being rejected so many times that you have your lost time & energy.

If that's the case look back at you portfolio, is it up to scratch? Is your time better suited putting your energy into a killer new piece? 

I would never take on a test that would jeopardize my health, ever. The games industry is hard enough so pick your battles and win the right wars! 


Tips

  • Be selective

  • Time manage the test given & assess what can be done in the time given

  • Impossible tests are sometimes given to see where your time is spent the most & basically stress you out (tests like this avoided like the plague, it's not healthy) if a company is treating you like this before a test imagine what working there is like 

  • If you are not given enough time ask for more within reason. If you're working full time for example & have work deadlines 

  • Always do what is best for you 


Conclusion

  • Be kind to yourself. No Game Dev will work on a project totally alone (unless he/she is an Indy Dev) A project is made up of a TEAM, so give yourself a break & remember do what YOU can. 

  • Set work boundaries for yourself

  • The conversation goes both ways for an art test

  • Health first

  • Be selective & use your time wisely 


Don't let an art test determine your career or be afraid of them, you always have choices. 

Good Luck & Stay Awesome! Victoria x



www.artstation.com/lowpolyfish

Breaking Into The Games Industry

General / 09 September 2018


∷ As it is September and a lot of new Graduates are trying to break into the industry I wanted to offer some advice that I have learnt from my own personal experience. ∷

∷ All views are my own and every individual has their own path, so don't be afraid to do it your own way ∷




Breaking Into the Games Industry 


1. Networking is key

The Games Industry is a really small one and everyone knows everyone, it's "not what you know" it's 'Who you know". Go out and meet other Devs, go to  'Game Jams', networking events, career fairs. Try to think of it as building relationships rather than just trying to get a job.

If you are shy take a friend with you for the first time so you can get comfortable meeting people or even network online. There are a lot of great people online wanting to help the gaming community so get talking!

2. Don't rush applications

It is really tempting.. you have just finished University and you immediately want your first job. You hop onto Linked'in and ask around in the hopes that someone will just hand you a job just because you have messaged them. It doesn't work that way and no one owes you anything. Take the time to research the person you are messaging, are you asking for advice? A portfolio review?

If there is a job you really want tailor your application/portfolio just for the company. Ask yourself if your work represents the company you are applying to. Take the time on a new piece in there style to get their attention, stand out from the crowd. 

3. Experience is Experience (Lose the attitude)

You can gain relevant experience for Games by working in the Film Industry, architecture, advertising and even from some freelance. Your first job after University might not be the 'Blizzard' job you were hoping for but it could be a paid job that can teach you valuable skills that brings you one more step closer to your dream job. A lot of people I know have worked their way all the way from QA to Senior positions, or worked in the Architecture Industry first.

A job teaches you how to work with people, deadlines, adapting to different situations and most of all building confidence.  There is no shame in not getting a Games Job straight away, try to open as many 'doors of opportunity' as you can.  If someone is giving you a chance take it. 

4. Focus on Your Skills

It's a tough one but your portfolio is the key, is it up to the same level as other professionals in the Industry? 

When I left University my portfolio was nowhere near ready. At Uni you are learning as you go, that final project is a result of putting in what you learnt the last few years into a final piece. Take the time to make new work if it's not quite industry standard yet. It's like when you learn to drive...You only really learn once you have past your test and you are out in the open.

5. Keep Your Portfolio Sharp & Focus 

Always show your best work. 

It is good to show development work but showing a whole project of something you have just learnt from a tutorial is not the best approach. It's time to present yourself as a 'Professional' not a Student.  It's good to show growth and development but let that show through your work not from a tutorial you have just finished. Take what you learnt and apply that to a new project. 

Make sure your portfolio focuses and represents what you want to work on. If you want to be an 'Environment Artist' and you have Character art on your portfolio which isn't that good get rid of it. Character artist is a whole new career path to Environment art, show only your best. Make it clear from a glance what you want to do. 

6. It is NOT A Race

Slow down and cool it. Go at your own pace. It is really easy to get caught up in what all your friends are doing or how well they are progressing but it's not about them, it's about you. Everyone has different skills and a focus , go in a direction that is right for you. 

7. Don't be a DICK! (Seriously) 

Games is a community, and a close one. No one wants to work with someone that has an ego bigger than Trump or a keyboard warrior that wants to tear everyone down on the internet. Be nice, it pays off. Don't go slagging off your friends at University because the chances are you might be working with them one day or they might be in a position to recommend you. Us Artists are hard enough on ourselves we don't need anyone else putting us down. 

8. Make A Plan 

Decide where you want to be, what company, what game, what Country? Then work backwards...How would you get to that position? Make small steps to get there. It could be a case of building up experience over the years or taking that time to work on a skill to make you a better artist.

9. Be Kind To Yourself

This is a big one that might not be so obvious. Give yourself time to become who you want to be, everyone goes at a different pace so believe in yourself. Stop telling yourself you're not good enough because you are, use that passion to get GOOD. If you don't believe in you no one will, 'fake it till you make it'. 

10. Never Give Up!

It always easier said than done right?  But don't give up...really.

You love games right? It's your childhood, a lifestyle, it motivates , captivates you and you want to make them! A lot of people want to make games and not everyone can make a career off it, it's tough, realllly tough and I won't sugar coat that bit for you. With hard work and persistence it will pay off.

I went through every hard turn that was I presented because I was stubborn and I didn't listen to the advice I was given, so I went the longgg way around. All I wanted to do was work on stylized assets, which is great but there are very few jobs with that sort of style. I had to remake my whole portfolio and redefine my work. You will be forever learning and making yourself better that is life and in Games you are against the best, so be the best you can be and you will get there.



Good luck & Kick some Ass!

Victoria 



www.artstation.com/lowpolyfish