An overview of the gaming sector
UKIE reports that the UK games industry was worth £7billion in 2020, an increase of almost 30% from 2019. The Game Culture sector (merchandise, toys, magazines) alone is worth almost £200 million in the UK. The UK is the biggest gaming market in Europe with over 37 million players. The Asia Pacific region has the largest share of the gaming market worldwide, Gamesindustry.biz estimates that the global market in 2020 will be worth $159 billion, up 10% on the previous year.
The video games industry consists of studios creating console and PC games, creators of tablet and mobile device gaming apps, and virtual/augmented reality.
The video games sector works quite separately from educational games, and it is definitely useful to consider where you can see yourself working before applying.
The Prospects page on videogaming offers a useful overview of the sector as well as ideas and websites to help find work experience and relevant opportunities. Not all roles are technical - there are also opportunities within animation, writing, research and business functions
Trends in the sector
Factors and trends currently affecting this industry and its growth include: virtual reality and the ability this brings to collaborate and play with others; augmented reality; cloud gaming and smartphone gaming. There is a continued rise in the number of small, independent studios.
The pandemic has made many people worldwide turn to gaming for entertainment and this has a clear impact on the market according to this article from Gamesindustry.biz
Esports is another rapidly growing area, in which multiplayer video games are played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers. Find out more about esports roles on the British Esports Association website.
Use these resources to keep your finger on the pulse.
Computer WeeklyGamesIndustry.bizGames RadarTiga
Which employers operate in gaming? Watch video with one local employer
Well-known large, global employers include Tencent, Sony, Microsoft, Google, Apple and Nintendo.
some of the most recognisable global game developers that specifically focus on Electronic Arts (EA) (FIFA), Activision Blizzard (World of Warcraft and Call of Duty) and Rockstar Games (GTA and Red Dead Redemption).
There are almost 2,000 UK video gaming companies, and 95% of these are small or micro-businesses. Over 18,000 people are employed in games development and publishing work in the UK.
Much of the industry is concentrated in London and the south-east, but the Midlands and the North are becoming important centres.
GamesMap - interactive map of companies in the UK
There is a history in the East Midlands region of games development. Tomb Raider was originally developed by Core Design – based in Derby – and the city now has a road named Lara Croft Way.
There are a number of studios in Nottingham such as:
The Multiplayer Guys
There are also smaller studios – often specialising in gaming apps for tablet or mobile – that are based in Nottingham's Creative Quarter.
Spotlight On: Gaming
Watch this recording of our Spotlight On: Gaming event with Sumo Digital.
Their talk covers what it’s like and how to get into jobs in narrative design, technical art and programming.
This video is a recording of one of the Creative Pathways Academy events.
Login to Moodle to navigate to the Creative Sector section
How can I use my degree? How do I explore the job roles on offer?
Using your degree and skills
There are a wide variety of roles and opportunities for graduate from STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and non-STEM degrees within the sector.
Arts students might find opportunities around the design or creative aspects of the industry such as animation. Experience with design packages is often useful and you will need a portfolio, often online, which demonstrates your work.
You may also see writing and digital roles advertised within the industry. Some examples of relevant job titles could include narrative coordinator, guides writer and community manager. For all of these roles, being able to demonstrate an interest in the gaming industry would be paramount.
For programming and development roles, a degree in computer science or related subject, or substantial programming experience is useful.
You are likely to need a portfolio or demo for all of these roles so that you can showcase your work, and knowledge of languages such as C++ is useful. A demo consists of a small number of work examples to demonstrate some project work or coding that you have completed. These examples should include some games if possible, and employers are keen to see some practical experience, even if this has not been within a formal work environment.
There is advice on producing a portfolio here
For descriptions of roles, the skills required and real-life case studies for jobs including animator, assistant producer, audio engineer and games designer, visit:
Creative Skillset - job roles and case studies
Other opportunities exist in producing or project managing productions, as well as more general head office functions for larger companies, such as marketing, HR or finance.
Further study options
Although not essential, having a relevant masters qualification may be helpful and can demonstrate specific development knowledge for the gaming sector.
Make sure you investigate that the course meets your requirements and also consider whether there is opportunity to develop business and industry links through the course, or to complete industry-related projects.
How do I get into the sector?
The gaming industry is a competitive sector to get into, particular with the larger studios.
You must certainly have an enthusiasm for the industry, shown through work experience, shadowing or your own projects, as well as strong technical ability.
You will need to be self-motivated while also able to work with other professionals in a team setting. Creativity and problem-solving abilities are key, as well as communication skills and the ability to meet deadlines. Ahead of project launch dates, the hours are often very long so flexibility is also important.
Making contacts is key to breaking into the gaming sector. Use linked in or twitter to follow studios and get involved with any events or competitions that might be happening. Many games professionals work on a freelance basis rather than for one employer so networking can be really important.
Graduate entry level roles
There are number of recruitment agencies working in the gaming sector, for example Aardvark Swift. They will work on behalf of a number of studios, recruiting graduates and experienced candidates to a wide range of opportunities.
The Grads in games website offers advice and entry level opportunities for students. They also often run gaming challenges and projects which can add to your experience and build your portfolio.
It may also be worth checking studio websites for any roles they are advertising.
For many applicants, a good entry-level role is as a games tester. This involves playing games over and over again to identify problems or bugs. It will also be useful for you to gain work experience within the sector before applying, and developing a network of useful contacts through these opportunities along with events or projects is recommended.
Other job boards
Games Jobs DirectGamesIndustry.biz
Internships and work experience
More games developers are offering internships, work experience or year-long placement opportunities to students. These may be advertised, but often only on their own websites, so it might be worth taking a proactive approach to locating opportunities by networking checking studio websites. Use Linked in and Twitter to follow studios - you may need a portfolio to apply for work experience.
You might also be able to find opportunities using a speculative CV and covering letter, even if companies are not recruiting at the moment they may keep your CV on file.
- East Midlands Indies offers a local networking opportunity for independent games developers.
- Tech Nottingham also organise events and information evenings which students and recent graduates are welcome to attend.
Other ways to gain experience
Some organisations offer project work, competitions and Games Jams which can help students to build experience. Grads in Games regularly host competitions and careers activities – these are great opportunities to get involved and start to build and develop games.
There are also resources online to help you build your coding skills and many of these are free. Unity and unreal engines are both widely used in the industry.
Unity Learn game development courses
Unreal Engine Online Learning