The UK video game industry is a resounding success story, responsible for global hits such as Grand Theft Auto V, Batman: Arkham Knight and the Football Manager series
As many as 32.4 million people in the UK play video games and sales exceeded £3billion in 2016, according to Ukie, a trade body that represents the industry. Nearly £1billion of that came from sales of mobile games.
It's also an increasingly popular career choice, with lots of different technical and creative roles available for those with a passion for gaming.
Creative Skillset provides some key facts about the video game industry:
- It employs nearly 5,500 people in the UK, earning an average salary of £30,755.
- Almost half of employees are recruited directly from education.
- The key skills shortages are in technical development, art and design, and animation.
- Most people working on video games have an undergraduate (42%) or postgraduate (21%) qualification.
- Employment is focused in the West Midlands (39%), Scotland (19%), the East Midlands (14%) and London (14%).
To get started you'll need to decide what type of game industry job you're interested in.
Collaborating with teams of artists, designers and programmers, you'll be responsible for animating the characters and other elements of the in-game environment in a way that matches the overall visual style of the product.
To be a video game animator you need to have a combination of artistic ability and knowledge of technical computer packages such as Maya and 3DS Max. You'll also need to bear in mind the technical strengths and limitations of the game's graphics engine and the platform it is being developed for. Find out more about becoming an animator.
Music, sound effects and character voices all play a key role in immersing players in the game world. As an audio engineer you'll work with producers and designers to create and mix the soundtrack.
You'll need a technical understanding of audio recording equipment and software. But you should also be creative and imaginative as your responsibilities may extend to composing music, coming up with innovative ways to produce sound effects, and auditioning actors for voice roles. This is similar in many ways to being a sound technician in the broadcasting and film industries.
The role of the programmer is to take the ideas of the designers and write the code required to build a playable game. It's vital that you're able to understand and follow instructions to bring the creative vision of the designers to life. Typically you'll work in a team headed by a lead programmer.
You'll need knowledge of programming languages and may work on a particular platform, such as PC, mobile or consoles. You could specialise in specific areas of programming such as artificial intelligence (AI), audio, controls and interface, game physics or 3D engine development. Learn more about how to be a software or applications developer.
IT technical support officer
Technical support officers link video game publishers to their audience. You'll be the point of contact for gamers who have issues with the product. Communication skills are essential as you'll need to listen to customers' complaints and questions, understand them and resolve them in a professional manner - whether by phone, email or replying to forum posts. Get more information about working as an IT technical support officer.
Software testers, or quality assurance (QA) testers, ensure that the product is ready for release. This involves playing the game in various scenarios and on different hardware configurations to check for bugs, inconsistencies and any other faults. You'll need to be able to work methodically, concentrate for long periods and have a great attention to detail.
Patience is vital as you'll be required to replay sections of the game repeatedly in your search for anything that needs fixing or improving. You'll also have to be able to communicate your findings and suggest solutions. Explore the role of a software tester in more depth.
If you want to work in the video game industry but aren't interested in IT jobs, there are still lots of options. For example:
- Artist - to create concept art, storyboards, and designs for packaging and marketing materials.
- Game designer - a senior role that involves coming up with original ideas for games and overseeing the creative process.
- Game producer - responsible for project management from a business and financial perspective.
- Translator - to localise scripts, in-game text and documentation for sale in international markets. Find out more about becoming a translator.
- Writer - to write scripts, in-game text and instruction manuals. Discover how to become a writer.
Find out more about the skills, qualifications and work experience you need to break into the video game industry by reading the games developer job profile.
Another alternative - if you're an incredibly skilled player - is to explore the possibility of becoming a professional gamer. The eSports scene continues to grow in popularity and in terms of the money that can be earned.
How to find game industry jobs
Job vacancies in the UK game industry are regularly listed on the websites of studios such as:
- Creative Assembly
- Electronic Arts
- Rockstar Games
- Sports Interactive
- Team 17
The majority of employers are small and micro businesses. Ukie maintains a map of game developers and publishers that you can use to explore further.