Applying to Work in the SA Game Development Industry

edited in Jobs
Given the number of people looking for jobs on our forums, and because I've been meaning to write this ever since we posted our "how to job shadow" blog post, here's my take on what you need to know and how to apply to work in the game dev industry in SA. I've included a mock CV as well as a mock intro email, which should come in handy.

No guarantees, of course.

Short snippet from the intro:
So, you want to make games too? That’s great. You’ve probably also figured out that you’re not going to be able to self-fund your own project and so you’d love to join an already established game development studio. Great. You might even have a particular skill set that’s appropriate. Super.

But before we get down to the business of applying to any of the game development studios in South Africa, let’s talk a little about our industry as it stands right now. Last year, MakeGamesSA ran a neat little survey that holds a lot of useful stats. The first of these is that there were 40 active game development studios in the country (well, that responded to the survey, anyway). Altogether, these companies created 253 jobs. Only 152 of these were fulltime positions.

That’s not a lot. The game development industry in South Africa is very, very small. And this means you need to be quite special to be paid to be a part of it.
And the TL;DR:
In short:

Make games and build a portfolio
Research the studios in the industry, focusing on those you want to work for
Put together a stellar, simple and short CV
Write a personalised email and hit send
Link: http://www.retroepic.com/applying-to-work-in-game-dev/

Comments

  • Useful article. I am sure I shall be sending this to more than one person in the future.

    That said, this looks like an elaborate ploy to get a Ginjah mascot. I don't have any issue with this BTW.

    I'm also pretty sure puzzle games have never been the "death" of anyone ;P
    Thanked by 2dammit Elyaradine
  • Oh no! You've seen through my evil plans!

    Interestingly enough we actually have a massive real life ginger cat available to us should we actually get our act together enough to finish ginjah and make a ridiculous video with the real cat.
  • edited
    Great post!

    (Very small thing: I think "loath" should be "loathe".)

    --
    I meant to say this in one of the other threads, but I didn't want it to be targeting them specifically because it'd come out pretty harsh: I'm doing all this stuff, like putting together a decent reel, maintaining a project thread with plenty of pictures here on the forum, having a portfolio website, having a resumé/CV and also writing a personalised cover letter to almost every studio I've applied to (the only time I didn't, I already knew the director and had chatted with him about it in person) in addition to doing/posting regular personal work (when I'm not snowed under with recording videos for a game workshop or doing game contract work) -- and I've already got a reputation and years of experience to my name. Like, if you're an artist/tech artist, I'm your competition, and I'm doing all that. How the heck are you supposed to compete with that if all you're doing is making posts with no portfolio (or difficult-to-access portfolio), no CV, or years-old work? Jobs are scarce enough for the youth in the whole country (the unemployment is like 63% or so for folks under 25!). How competitive must you have to make yourself to be a youth and also be paid to do something fun like make video games? You have to show your potential employers that your application is super competitive.

    (Having said that, I know that while I was at Luma Arcade/Americana we hired people who hadn't sent through CVs, cover letters and whatever, just because the work in their portfolio was looking solid, and we contacted them to ask if they'd be interested in an interview. Having a strong portfolio itself is in itself one way (and arguably the most powerful way) to compete. It's just relatively unlikely that you have one of those when you're a student.)
  • Great post!

    (Very small thing: I think "loath" should be "loathe".)
    Thanks, I didn't actually know the difference until just now googling it :D

    I meant to say this in one of the other threads, but I didn't want it to be targeting them specifically because it'd come out pretty harsh: I'm doing all this stuff, like putting together a decent reel, maintaining a project thread with plenty of pictures here on the forum, having a portfolio website, having a resumé/CV and also writing a personalised cover letter to almost every studio I've applied to (the only time I didn't, I already knew the director and had chatted with him about it in person) in addition to doing/posting regular personal work (when I'm not snowed under with recording videos for a game workshop or doing game contract work) -- and I've already got a reputation and years of experience to my name. Like, if you're an artist/tech artist, I'm your competition, and I'm doing all that. How the heck are you supposed to compete with that if all you're doing is making posts with no portfolio (or difficult-to-access portfolio), no CV, or years-old work? Jobs are scarce enough for the youth in the whole country (the unemployment is like 63% or so for folks under 25!). How competitive must you have to make yourself to be a youth and also be paid to do something fun like make video games? You have to show your potential employers that your application is super competitive.

    (Having said that, I know that while I was at Luma Arcade/Americana we hired people who hadn't sent through CVs, cover letters and whatever, just because the work in their portfolio was looking solid, and we contacted them to ask if they'd be interested in an interview. Having a strong portfolio itself is in itself one way (and arguably the most powerful way) to compete. It's just relatively unlikely that you have one of those when you're a student.)
    +1 to this.

    There's so much more I wanted to add to that post (like, having realistic expectations of what a 3 man indie team is going to be able to pay you) and the fact that the art and animation competition is fierce. There are just too many graduates and not enough positions. And companies really are going to hire only the best they can afford - while turning down anyone who may be fantastic but just not the right cultural fit.
  • Great article, and sobering discussion for those starting out in the industry.

    More people in the SA game industry are entrepreneurs than employees. So you might have 2 or 3 people (the coder, the artist, the business man) combining their skills in order to create games (all funded out of their own pockets), and then maybe hiring someone to help fill in the gaps with additional art, sound and errands.

    So if you're looking to be an employee, you might not get to do the fun stuff right away, but you'll get a salary. However, if you have the privilege of being supported by someone like a spouse or a parent you can start developing your own games right now. Post them on the forums, go to the MGSA meetups and meet the people in your area making games. Does your area not have a MGSA meetup? Then start one, put up fliers in computer and book shops, at the local supermarket and your school.

    The thing is not only does the SA game industry desperately need more people willing to take the initiative, but our whole country needs people like this as well.

    I vote that this topic be pinned to the top of the forum for the benefit of newcomers.
  • I would actually like to see a breakdown in the next survey results of how many people make up each company. For instance, how many companies are one man teams, two man teams etc.
    Thanked by 1hermantulleken
  • 1 day later and I have had two CVs today that make me want to headdesk. And a reply to my request for a game portfolio of "No, I don't have one. Is that a deal breaker?"

    I'm not even sure how to reply to that.
  • @dammit With constraint, compassion and understanding, after which you go crush walnuts with your bare hands :)
  • pieter said:
    I vote that this topic be pinned to the top of the forum for the benefit of newcomers.
    Anyone else think this would be useful?

    Thanked by 2francoisvn kidult
  • Please can we pin this (I believe there's adequate support) because I know I'm not alone in being inundated with CVs now.
  • Write a personalised email and hit send
    This seems like a small point but is super important. Somehow my company has ended up on a list that graduates get to send their CV's to, and the vast majority of them have absolutely no text, just an empty email with an attachment. The remainder of them have a super generic message that almost always has no punctuation or capital letters.

    At that point I'm loathed to even open the attachment.
    If you want someone to give you a job at least go to the effort of writing "Hi, Matt", not "Dear Sir/Mam". In my case my email is matt@xxx, it really isn't hard to work out who/what I am.
    Thanked by 2dammit mattbenic
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