If you’re interested in any field, especially game development, then it’s important to get your foot in the door early in order to learn how things work and to get yourself some real experience on your resume. It’s a good idea your sophomore or junior year to try your best to find a game internships for the summer so you can be moving ahead and preparing for your career after college.
There are hundreds of game companies out there, but only the largest of them have online job websites where they list open positions. Many of them may just have a website with no job information at all, or a general “we’re hiring!” page. Some of the large companies like EA, Activision, or Zynga have job boards, but many companies don’t have the time to put these together. Yet, there are lots of students who find positions at small game companies who earn themselves a decent wage and some notches in their belts that can then help to propel them to better job opportunities later on.
So how do you find these hidden game internships? Where do you go?
What do companies with game internships want?
There are a few simple concepts to understand in order to answer this question: you need to understand how game companies think. First, game companies are trying to be successful, which means they are trying to make money by building and selling popular game titles. So that’s what they want to do. Anyone who can help them do that will immediately be of value to them. Second, game companies, like any other business, operate on relationships. If they need someone to get a job done, be it mobile game programming or web server development, then they first think of who they know who can get the job done. Can they think of anyone that comes to mind? If so, they contact those people and see if they are interested. If not, they use other tools like job boards or advertising to find people they don’t yet know.
Understanding these two concepts and getting into the minds of game companies can help you find unlisted game internships.
By understanding that companies want people who can help them build their products, you can learn and tailor your skills and resume to the products they want to build. Do you dream of working for a company that does XBox development? Then work on a lot of Xbox games and make sure you have a solid understanding of XNA, then when the opportunity comes, you’ll be able to say, “I’m the guy for the job.” Do you want to work in mobile development, making games for iPhone or Android devices? Then start working on them now! Get familiar with the languages associated with those devices, or making artwork for small screens or designing tiny UI interfaces. Pick the type of companies you want to work for and then go from there.
By understanding that companies try to think of people they already know as a first step to hiring someone to do a job for them, you can be proactive in finding and building relationships with people in companies. When I work with parents and students for career advising, I always tell my students to pick out companies that they’d like to work for and then try to politely get in contact with someone at that company. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find email addresses or phone numbers if you do some digging. Once you find someone, then ask if they’d be willing to speak with you about what they do, saying that you are a student interested in careers in games. Most of the time they will be happy to, and then you’ll have a phone conversation with them. This gives you a good opportunity to say, “Thank you so much for your time. I have experience doing X, if there is ever anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.” You can then send them your resume with your contact information, which can lead to game internships and other opportunities.
Have the skills, make the connection
This is how I got my first game internship in the industry. While I was in college then I heard that there was someone who graduated from my program who was working at a particular game company. I searched online and got their email address, and then I emailed them and asked if I could chat with them for a few minutes on the phone to learn more about what being an engineer in games was like. They agreed, and after a discussion they recommended that I send my resume to their hiring manager, and a few months later I ended up with an internship that hadn’t been listed on any website. They saw that I could help them and they thought of me, and the rest flowed from there.
Developing skills that companies need and then building relationships ahead of when the job is posted is a great way to sow seeds that can grow into game internship opportunities.
Best of luck!