Tagged in: resume

Q&A: Junior Positions, Experience Required

Most junior programming positions I’ve seen so far require 2 years experience, did you apply for jobs that expected more knowledge then you had at the time? If so, were you honest saying that you didn’t meet all the criteria?

First off, have you heard the joke about the job that asks for “5+ years of experience with the PS4” (or another, equally impossible, endeavor)? If you haven’t heard about this… well, it’s not just a joke – it’s something that actually pops up in job listings. Business people without knowledge of technical details and startups are particularly bad about listing qualifications that describe senior level responsibilities, but for a junior position. Beware of these. They are likely looking to underpay you, or have unrealistic expectations of the amount of work you can do.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s get to the details of this specific Q&A.

Two years of experience is not to much to ask for a junior position. The question then comes down to, “What counts as experience?”

Personally, I would consider upper-level coursework, internships, and time spent on personal (but substantial!) projects as experience. You need to be honest with yourself, though. If your programming reflects a couple courses taken over two years… that’s not two years of experience. If you graduated with a CS degree and did some independent projects that are directly related to game development (or to the position in question), then maybe that’s enough to qualify.

It does require some introspection. Take a look at all the other qualifications listed and ask yourself if you are actually able to do that kind of work. Don’t apply to a senior position if you are obviously not a senior level candidate. If a company asks that you’ve shipped a game on a specific console, you should probably only apply if you’ve done that since it means they are looking for specific experience. If a company asks for someone with a few years of C++ and all you took was a couple courses in college, you probably aren’t what they are looking for.

But “two years of experience” is one of the fuzzier job requirements. If it said “five years of experience” then they are looking for people who have worked in the industry previously as professionals. Two years is short enough that all it means is that they don’t want someone brand new and doesn’t know what they are doing. They are trying to weed out fresh-faced college grads that will apply to jobs in droves because the vast majority of them are terribly underqualified. If you otherwise fit the criteria for the job, then go ahead and apply.

Whatever you do, don’t admit you don’t meet the criteria. That’s like saying “I read the rules but decided they didn’t apply to me.” Just apply. Just remember to only apply to jobs that you believe you’re reasonably qualified for. If you aren’t, your resume may not just end up in the trash but also on a blocklist with a long cooldown timer.

(And yes, I applied to positions that I was not qualified for based on years of experience. I don’t remember if I ever heard back from any of them. Take that as you will!)

As usual, if you have questions about game development, feel free to email me. Sometimes I’ll ask permission to post a question to my blog anonymously if I think it’s something others may want to know.

From Student to Designer: Part 3 – Cover Letters

As usual, my advice is specific to design and to seeking a more traditional job in AAA development, as opposed to breaking in as an indie, but most of it can be applied elsewhere. This is just my personal advice, so I recommend getting others to review your work for second and third opinions, and ultimately make your own decisions.

Part 1: Websites & Resumes
Part 2: Portfolios
> Part 3: Cover Letters
Part 4: Design Tests
Part 5: Interviews
Part 6: Entry Level Design Jobs 

 

COVER LETTERS

I’m going to start off this article being honest – I actually don’t see many cover letters, and there’s really nothing that qualifies me to give advice on them. I think I write them well and often review them for my friends and the occasional student, so I am going to write about them anyway. I’m sure there are other articles out there that will contradict me, so, like always, try to use your best judgment!

A cover letter is the first thing most companies read, before they even look at the resume. It should be written specifically for that studio and the position you’re applying to – you really can’t get away with using the same cover letter at multiple places.  Cover letters should be about communicating important and necessary information, not for showcasing your wacky humor and unique personality. You can show off your personality in your portfolio, your projects, or even in interviews, but I would keep it out of your cover letter.

Of course, some people get away with wackier takes, like Tim Schafer’s infamous cover letter. But you are probably not Tim Schafer. Creative cover letters are more likely to turn people off because tone and humor are hard to pull off, especially with strangers..

 

WORD COUNT

Your cover letter is 350 words or less.

The reason I put this first is that the biggest mistake I see in cover letters is that they are too long.  So, so long. A cover letter is not the story of your life, it’s not you justifying why you deserve the position, or how much you like games, or why this is your favorite studio working on your favorite games.

Put that stuff in an “about me” section of your website or on your Linkedin profile or a blog post. I would not put it in your cover letter.

To repeat: your cover letter is 350 words or less. Don’t forget the “or less” part.

If your cover letter is longer than that, then start cutting. 350 words seems like an arbitrary number, but really it’s slightly longer than a traditional print page (250 words) so I am giving you guys some leeway. Obviously, if you are over this word count that doesn’t mean you’ve made a grave error – just that perhaps you need an editor. If you are seriously over this number than I think you should stop and re-read this article before committing to such a grave sin.

Everything you put in your cover letter should have a purpose. Every sentence should be delivering new and relevant information to a potential employer. Everything else can be cut.

350 words. Remember that!

Now that this is out of the way, I can get to the bulk of my advice.

 

FILL IN THE [BLANKS]

There are a few key things I think you should have in your cover letter.

  • Greeting
  • What job you are applying for
  • What makes you qualified for the job
  • How YOU can bring value to THEIR company
  • Where they can find more information
  • Sign-off

That is, incidentally, the formula I use and recommend for people when writing a cover letter. I make each of these a separate section.

Dear Hiring Manager.

I am applying for [position] at [studio].

My relevant experience is [degree] and [shipped games]. I also have experience with [tool/engine] and have [relevant skill].

Your studio excels in [field/type of game]. I can bring value to your studio because I also have experience in [field/type of game], as you can see in [games/projects] in which I used [relevant skills].

I’ve [attached/submitted] my resume and you can find more of my work at [portfolio website]. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Thank you for your time,
[Name]

Now, this hypothetical cover letter is awkwardly worded if you were to just fill in the blanks and send it in, so I don’t recommend that. Instead I think it’s very useful for a rough draft. Lets take apart each section.

Greeting

“Dear Hiring Manager,”

Use a person’s name if you have one – maybe from a business card, from a career expo or networking event, or from browsing Linkedin. If you don’t have a name, I would go ahead and use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “To Whom It May Concern”. Those always feel old-fashioned, but I haven’t found a better alternative.

Don’t overthink this. Definitely don’t misspell someone’s name or address the letter to the wrong person.

What Job You Are Applying For

“I am applying for [position] at [studio].”

This should be one of the first things you write. It tells the reader why you are writing them so they can immediately pull up the job listing, or pass the cover letter on to the person handling that position, or even to just put your email in context. You really only need a single sentence to get this across.

You should know the job title you’re applying for at that company – you get this from the job posting.  If you have to, I would use Linkedin to find the proper title. If you are applying without any open positions advertised, you could write something like, “I am applying for a position in the design department at [studio].” I would not apply to more than one position at once, except at a large publisher that usually fields applications for multiple studios.

(Unless you’re experienced, I recommend sticking to applying to open positions. Otherwise I hope you have a lot of free time on your hands.)

Sometimes it’s good to also mention location –  large publishers have many studios, so it’s important to name the specific studio and not just the parent company (Sony vs. Sony Santa Monica). Most of the time you’ll be sending your resume and cover letter to that specific branch, but if you are applying to an international job – where you, for example, live in the US and are applying to a job in France – it’s might be good to be clear about your willingness to relocate and so they don’t think you’re applying without realizing the distance involved.

What Makes You Qualified For the Job

“My relevant experience is [degree] and [shipped games]. I also have experience with [tool/engine] and have [relevant skill].”

A translation for this is, “I can prove that I read and understood the job description.”

I fill this out by going to the job posting and writing down all the key words. Most postings are great about detailing them out with bullet points and letting you know which details are necessary skills and which are supplemental skills that are nice to have. I would mention as many of those necessary skills as possible here. If the job is looking for a C++ programmer with experience in networking and mobile development, this is where you;d say, “I have extensive experience with C++ in networking and mobile development.” Of course, only do that if it’s true!

Wherever possible, I would give specific examples – such as shipped games you’ve worked on, certifications, or degrees. Just make sure that it’s relevant to the specific job you are applying for.

How YOU can bring value to THEIR company

Your studio excels in [field/type of game]. I can bring value to your studio because I also have experience in [field/type of game], as you can see in [games/projects] in which I used [relevant skills].

This is the section where I get a bit more free form. This is where I show how my interests and the studio’s interests align. Think of it as your way to show them that you are valuable specifically to them by telling them what YOU can bring to the table.

This is also where you could lay down a little flattery. Not a ton, mind you – no one wants to hire a rabid fan. But it’s nice to let the studio know that you are applying to THEM because THEY are your ideal place of employment (rather than just one studio on a list of 50 that you are writing cover letters for…). But I would rather you be honest about your interests than lie, so if you’re applying to a company that only makes sports games and you don’t like sports? Don’t lie about that. I would just neglect to mention it (though, I probably would opt out of applying in that case).

If the studio focuses on narrative games and that is why you are applying, say that, and show them you experience in this subject. If the studio focuses on multiplayer games, hype up your experience in multiplayer level or system design. If it creates free-to-play iOS games, talk about that. I would make it clear that your passion and goals as a developer is an ideal match with the direction of that studio.

Fro example, While above in qualifications you may have written, “I have level design experience in the Source engine,” here is where you can expand to say something like, “I’ve created several multiplayer maps for Team Fortress 2, focusing on asynchronous competitive gameplay.  I would love to bring that knowledge over and continue developing similar experiences on Evolve.” Here, I am showing that I understand the nature of the position, have knowledge about (and admiration for) the types games the studio makes,  and show that this position is part of my career goals (and not just a last-ditch desperate attempt to land a job!).

Whenever I’ve written cover letters, this is the section that ends up being the longest.

Where They Can Find More Information

“I’ve [attached/submitted] my resume and you can find more of my work at [portfolio website]. Feel free to contact me with any questions.”

This is called a “call to action” in creative writing. Once someone has your cover letter in hand and has read it to the end, tell them what to do next. This leads people to find out more information – your resume, your portfolio, your projects. Make it inviting for them to respond – but don’t beg!

Sign-Off

“Thank you for your time,
[Name]”

This is simple. Don’t overthink it. You can go ahead and use exactly what I just wrote up there, or whatever your favorite variation is. I don’t think you should sign off with, “Love,” but you get the idea.

 

COMMON PROBLEMS

Many of the cover letters I see and proofread for friends or others who ask the favor seem to suffer from a few main problems. I wrote them down and canvassed a few other people who have experience looking at cover letters to get an idea of what the common mistakes are. There are probably more than the ones I listed, and some of them may not be too big of a deal with some people.

  • Too short – This is rare, but I have seen it. Usually it means either you don’t have enough experience (so you have nothing to talk about), or you just don’t know how to market your skills.
  • Too long – much, much too common. Do you remember what I said about 350 words? If it’s long, I hope there’s a reason.
  • Not being specific – this reads as a generic letter that could be sent to any company, and makes me think you don’t care about this specifiposition. You wouldn’t (shouldn’t!) do this on a dating website, so don’t do it here.
  • Being too specific – reads like an FBI brief!
  • Not talking enough about your qualifications – says you don’t value yourself and what you have to offer. Like I mentioned before, think of the cover letter as an opportunity to market yourself.
  • Talking entirely about yourself non-stop – This makes me think that while you value yourself, you don’t actually know much about the company. Again, think about how you can help them and try making that part of the cover letter.
  • Applying for more than one job – I recommend making one cover letter for multiple open positions because to me it implies you are either unfocused or desperate for a job. I am sure there’s exceptions but I’ve never seen a justification for it.
  • Applying for a job you are clearly unqualified for – This tells me you don’t follow instructions. Unqualified really means you are a junior level person and apply to a lead position, or you are an artist applying to a programming job. There’s a balancing act here between imposter syndrome and the Dunning-Kruger effect that only you can answer.
  • Applying for a job you’re qualified for, but not communicating this – Try looking at that job posting and make a Venn diagram of “what you know” and “what they want”. I would put any items that overlap into your cover letter.
  • Talking about your passion for games, how young you were when you started gaming, how much you like games, etc.I think some people appreciate this, but I (and others I talked to) have seen whole paragraphs dedicated to this. Loving games isn’t really a relevant qualification for making games – it’s a given.
  • Being jokey, tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating, or writing a “unique” letter. It can be hard to get jokes across in such a short letter, and harder to entertain an unknown stranger whose tastes you don’t know.
  • Fawning over the studio like a fan rather than a peer – Making games is a job – it’s work, and sometimes it’s hard, frustrating, and imperfect. Hero worship for a creative director, or being the world’s biggest fan of a game, sets off a red flag for me that you may not be objective and critical of your work or your peer’s work. If you want to mention it, its a fine line to walk – but I do know a lot of people who were fans of a studio’s games before they started working at that studio.

 

CONCLUSION

That’s it. That’s all my advice – and obviously it’s advice and not a formula for success.

Cover letters are stressful because every single one is unique and there aren’t a lot of examples out there.  Once I started treating cover letters like technical documentation, it became a lot easier. Since every cover letter is context sensitive, I recommend finding at least one buddy who will help proofread for you – not just to catch spelling errors, but also to gut check whether your cover letter and the job description seem like a good match. Remember to keep it simple, keep it short, and keep it to specific and relevant information.

From Student to Designer: Part 1 – Websites & Resumes

It’s May and, as a friend pointed out, this is the month when students all over the country graduate from game design academic programs and look for jobs. So I am going to lay out my advice on game design portfolios.

This is so long I’ve split it up so I can post each part separately. I’ll update these with links as I roll them out.

> Part 1: Websites & Resumes
Part 2: Portfolios
Part 3: Cover Letters
Part 4: Design Tests
Part 5: Interviews
Part 6: Entry Level Design Jobs

A Note on my Advice

  • I’m giving advice on design, not art or programming or production or audio. I am a designer, so I can only really evaluate and comment about design.
  • Some of my advice assumes you’re interested in AAA, but I think it applies to most parts of the industry (mobile, indie, mid-sized studios, etc.).
  • I am assuming you are a student that has not worked at a professional game development studio, except as an internship.
  • You don’t actually have to follow my advice. That’s why it’s called “advice” and not “rules”. I don’t actually get any say in hiring anyone, so my advice is less useful than, you know, someone hiring you.
  • I use a lot of bullet points.

The Checklist

These are the basics. I really think you need to have all of these if you are a student, because you can’t point to a game on the shelf of Gamestop and say “I made that.” Once you’re in the game industry, it’s a lot easier and you don’t have to prove yourself as much. But until then, you are untested and a risky hire.

  • Website
  • Resume
  • 3-5 game design projects, showing breadth and depth of your experience
  • Videos, documents, demos, downloads, and/or supporting content

When I look at a student’s portfolio, I ask myself, “Could I hire this person and immediately put them to work? Do they have experience in the genre I am making? Do they have experience with our tools or tools very similar to ours?”

Sadly, the first question I have is not “Is this person a good designer?” That is the follow-up question and definitely needs to be answered. But when I go over someone’s portfolio and resume for them, I am usually looking for reasons to rule them out – and the fastest way to rule out a design application is to see if they have any relevant experience with the kinds of tools and content the studio actually uses.  You can be the best undiscovered board game designer, but if you know nothing about first-person shooters and have never made anything in a 3D level editor and you’re applying to work on the next Call of Duty, I think your chances are a bit slim.

YOUR WEBSITE

The purpose of your website is to showcase your skills and work related to the job you are applying for. It should be easy to use and navigate, and I should be able get to all the information I need in just a couple clicks, and not get bogged down or distracted by content unrelated to game development.

Generally, website design is its own beast and hard to get right. Unless you have experience, I really recommend trying to design a website from scratch. Grab a couple people to go use your website after you make it and give you feedback (much like you would when playtesting a game).  Below are a pile of mistakes/suggestions that I’ve seen come up, or questions people have asked me:

  • Try to purchase firstnamelastname.com or something very similar for your website url. Alternatively, if that is not an option, you could use something that is fun and easy to remember (example: tomtomtom.com). This is one of the few things that I think is worth spending money on.
  • Do not use a URL that is difficult to remember, misspell, is unprofessional, or can turn people off (xxxHardCoreCha0s.weebly.com is a no-no).
  • Use a simple WordPress theme or similar popular packaged template that is simple, clear, efficient, and easy to use and navigate. Check that it works on mobile, too, if you plan on going to GDC or another career fair
  • Do not try to make the website from scratch if you have no web design experience. Web design is hard, and a poorly designed website can turn some people off. I’m personally pretty picky about this because I used to do web design before I found games, though I know others will overlook it.
  • I should be able to reach your resume in just one click.
  • It should be clear from your home page what game development role you are looking for. I don’t want to be confused about whether you are a level designer, programmer, writer, or environment artist.
  • I should be able to quickly find all of your major portfolio work from your main page. I should have a good idea of how many portfolio pieces you have. Before navigating to one of your projects, I should have an idea of whether it’s 2D or 3D, and/or what engine it was created in.
  • Your design work should be the most important thing on your website. Don’t clutter it up by adding a whole bunch of unrelated or non-design work. I recommend using a separate page and dumping all this stuff there, but make sure it’s set aside and clearly labelled as separate from your design work.
  • Don’t rely on icons, thumbnails, or images with no text, especially if these are supposed to be links. I need more information before clicking them, and a lot of times I don’t even realize they are links so I never see the content behind them.
  • Don’t use a lot of flashy stuff like sliding image galleries. It makes it hard to find what I am looking for when images disappear moments after I see them. Sometimes I want to link someone directly to a page with an image on it and many of those plug-ins prevent that.
  • No auto-play videos or audio please.
  • Don’t use a contact form – just share your email address. Most people do not use or skip contact forms – it can be a turn off, and extra hassle. If you’re looking for a job, a contact form ends up being an extra barrier. Just post your email on your website for people to use.
  • If English is your second language, ask a native speaker to proofread your website for you. Misspellings and improper or unusual grammar give people an easy (and lazy) reason to dismiss you, which is totally not fair for non-native speakers. Find someone or ask twitter or facebook or reddit to proofread it for you.

YOUR RESUME

Think of your resume as a list of qualifications, rather than a complete history of your education and experience. You probably have details in your history that aren’t related to games (the so-called Starbucks barista job) that you can  skip because they aren’t really relevant to the job. A lot of advice I’ve read online says that you should tailor your resume for each and every job you apply for separately. I think that goes a bit overboard (I never did it), but a couple selective edits may be useful if there’s something in your history that is irrelevant to everyone except that ONE studio you are about to apply at.

Formatting:

  • I want to be able to read your resume on your website, AND download a .pdf or .docx (or both) copy to my desktop.
  • I should be able to easily print your resume without requiring color ink or text cut off because it bled too much into the margins. So try not to make the background black or add a ton of images. I think that sort of thing is better suited to graphic design jobs rather than game design jobs.
  • Don’t have a multi-page resume unless you’ve shipped games and worked professionally (paid) in the game industry. Students normally have to add more information than is really relevant in order to get to two pages. I think editing down a resume to one page almost always makes it stronger.
  • Try to pay attention to white space and avoid big blocks of text. Make sure your sections (Skills / Experience / Education / Etc.) are clearly separated. I want to be able to scan it and immediately pick out your education background, or your list of skills, with no effort.
  • If you are applying for a job internationally, learn the resume standards of the country you are applying at. In the US, you do not include your picture or your parent’s occupation. This is true vice-versa – if you are applying for a job in South Korea, you might need to include a photo with your resume.

The Basics of a Resume

I think most resumes for student designers should follow this general format – at the very least, it’s a good place to start.

  • Header with your name, contact info, website URL, and job title (“Designer” is fine)
  • Objective Statement (though honestly I always skip these)
  • Skills section that focuses on, in order of importance:
    • Game engines (Unreal, Unity, Hammer/Source, Skyrim/Fallout Creation Kit, and many other programs)
    • Design skills that you have done extensive work in (3D level design, combat design, first-person shooters, documentation, 2D level design, economy balancing, creative writing)
    • Scripting languages (Lua, Python, Kismet, Javascript, C#, C++, Java…)  should clearly identify what level of skill you have (basic scripting experience vs. programming knowledge).
    • Supplemental game development skills: (Maya / 3D modelling, Perforce). This section is optional and supplements – not replaces – other skills. I would only include skills that are relevant to the jobs you are applying for, and include any tools that are industry standard.
  • Games section that lists major game projects completed as a student or on the side. (Yes, side projects count as experience! I care that you’ve made games (or levels for games), no matter where you gained that experience.)
  • Education section that includes all degrees you’ve earned (or expected to earn). If you did not attend college, then I would include high school diploma / G.E.D. / other certifications, but if you’re a college grad I don’t think you really need it.
  • Previous Work Experience: I think this section is optional for students but your mileage will vary. It’s a good place to call out military service, substantial jobs (if you are switching careers, for example), game industry work like journalism, internships, related jobs like technical writing or a freelancer that made flash games for an advertising firm (that kind of thing).  I don’t think you should include working as a cashier at Gamestop or shelving books at your local library because they are not relevant to the job, but there’s no rule against it. I would include any jobs where you worked in design, art, or coding roles since those share a lot with the skills you need in games.

 Content

  • If you include an objective statement, be specific. Don’t go into how much you love games (that’s usually a given). If you include an objective, I’d keep it to one line. If you are a current student and sending out resumes with a specific start date in mind, then you can use this space to include the relevant info (“Looking for a full-time entry-level design position starting May 2014”). Like I said before, I honestly skip objective statements because I don’t think they are that important.
  • Skip references. I am pretty sure the standard in most industries is that if they want references, they will ask for them. Just make sure to have them on hand (and always ask your references ahead of time if they are okay with it!)
  • Avoid listing basic computer skills or experience with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel.
  • Avoid hobbies. I would not include things like being on varsity sports teams, earning awards for debating, being president of the anime club, or similar supplementary experience. I don’t think they add anything since they don’t qualify you for the job, but, then again, if you played football and the person looking at your resume used to play football, that could be a good opener. I usually leave that informal stuff to bring up in interviews.
  • If you have hobbies that are relevant to specific companies (ex: you play soccer in college and are applying for a job on the next FIFA), you should totally selectively edit your resume for those companies, or include it in your cover letter. Actually, you should definitely include stuff like this in your cover letter, but I’ll get to that later.
  • You can include really important game-related activities and achievements on your resume. If you are a competitive gamer who’s played ranked matches (League of Legends, Street Fighter, Starcraft, DOTA, Magic: The Gathering, and more), I’d love to know about it on your resume. If you’ve done Let’s Plays, video game podcasts, contributed to games journalism, or taught games at a kid’s summer camp, let me know.  I don’t think being a guild leader in World of Warcraft or starting a gaming club at school is not that interesting or unique, so be judicious about what experience you include.
  • Do not list C++ as a skill unless you can really code. A single class on C++ does not count. I would list these as “some experience with” as a qualifier, and lump them together as scripting languages, or skip it. Remember that a lot of designers have programming backgrounds, and a lot of entry level jobs also have programming tasks, so try not to misrepresent yourself here.
  • You should have experience with a 3D level editor! Top picks are Unreal and Unity – other people in the industry I talk to universally pick those as examples. There are lots more out there, and some studios have favorites (for example, Blizzard often suggests making Starcraft maps on their job positions).
  • Experience with Maya is good to have, but not necessary. You probably don’t need to mention specifically that you can model, unwrap, and texture art assets – designers don’t usually do this work these days, though that changes with smaller studios, mobile, and indie startups. You can just say you have experience with Maya (or another 3D modelling tool) and leave it at that.
  • You don’t need to include every project you’ve worked on. I would only include large undertakings that required a lot of work – things you would consider major milestones. I suggest that any projects or games you list in your resume should also be in your portfolio somewhere if I want more information.
  • Game jams, prototypes, unfinished projects, and short school assignments do not belong on your resume. If you picked up skills from these projects, I’d expect to see them in your “Skills” section, but they are usually too small and not polished enough to really act as a substantial project. (I’ll get into better definitions of what unfinished or prototype means later).
  • Do include any shipped game you’ve worked on. Shipping a game, or working on a game for an internship, makes a student’s resume stand out from the rest.
  • Clearly label your game projects so I know what tools you used, what genre it is, when you created it, and how much time you spent creating it (3 months, 6 months, 2 years, etc.). I like this because I can get a better feel for your experience.
  • Don’t list student projects as though they are industry experience  (ex: “lead designer on Tales of Nartharathia at DarkDev Inc.”) unless this was your professional job title and a real business. This is another one of my pet peeves, and I’ve spoken to a few other designers who get annoyed by this. It certainly won’t tank your resume but it’s pretty transparent.
  • Do list student projects clearly labeled as student work, and include your role, highlighting any leadership experience (ex: “lead designer on student game, Tales of Nartharathia”). Make sure the game was finished, and that you put it on your portfolio when I want to see more information.
  • You do not need to list every single thing you did on a student project – that can get long and unwieldy. Go with the 80-20 rule: 80% of your details should be core design skills, but 20% can be supplemental skills (sound design, art, writing).
  • If you can code, I want to know. Like, really code. Video games are still software development, so while you do not need to know how to program to be a designer, it’s a huge boon – especially for students.
  • You should be general enough about your responsibilities/experience so that if I never heard of your game I can still get an idea of what you did. If you say “Created level 3, Into the Ice King’s Lair” I actually don’t know what that means. I’d prefer seeing something like, “Level design, documentation, & puzzle design for 10 minutes of gameplay”.
  • “Shipped” is a really nebulous term these days. In my opinion, you shipped a game if the game was sold for money at a retail outlet or online game store. If you put a game on the AppStore or sold it for Android or got it on Steam, I would consider it shipped, but I can’t really speak for others. Some sites are still pretty new – like itch.io and gumroad – and most developers will not have heard of them, so they fall into questionable territory. The important thing, though, is that you do not seem like you are intentionally misleading employers.
  • You can list additional coursework under education even if it did not grant a degree (ex: additional coursework in economics, playwriting, film, and Japanese language studies). I like seeing this, but then again I have a pretty high esteem of academia. I would only list coursework that is relevant- no one cares that I did additional coursework in Spanish or Social Work when I was in college.

So that’s my advice. Some of this came from others when I asked what they thought were common mistakes, and others are just things I’ve seen when I volunteered time to review resumes for students. Obviously, you’ll run into some conflicting ideas – I think the most contentious part is which games/projects to include, how to label them (work experience? student projects?), and exactly how to describe your role for each. That is something I leave students to figure out on their own. Like always, I recommend getting a few different people to look over your resume and website before you send it out to get different opinions. Think of it like “playtesting”.