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7 myths about the video game industry and game developer jobs

Is a career in the video game industry all fun and games? Learn about what’s really required for a career in the video game industry. Gaming chair not included.


Image: iStockphoto/gorodenkoff

Thanks to the combination of increasing popularity, particularly in the mobile sector, the release of a new generation of consoles, and the incentive of audiences looking to find social connections at safe distances, the video gaming industry is booming for 2021 and beyond. According to Statista, the value of the global video games market in 2021 will reach almost $140 billion. Job seekers in the next few years should expect the video gaming industry to play a major role in their search strategy.

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However, job seekers not familiar with the video gaming industry may have certain misconceptions about how the industry works and just what positions are available. After all, just because an industry is growing fast doesn’t mean there are worthwhile employment opportunities. So, let us dispel some of the myths surrounding job seeking in the video game industry. 

SEE: Video game career snapshot: Industry insights and jobs for IT pros (TechRepublic Premium)

Myth: Video game development is all fun and games

It doesn’t matter whether you are the primary programmer for a game in development or its producer, or the main animator, or the music composer, or a beta tester—video game development is work. The work is often satisfying and fulfilling, and perhaps even lucrative, but it is a job. The mythological idea that game development is all about playing games can be completely and utterly dispelled right here.

Even the people tasked with playing and testing the game during its development process approach their roles as a deliverable that must be completed on time and on budget. In those situations, noting an in-game activity as “fun” is merely part of their job role—something to note in their daily reports.

Reality: Video game development is hard work. 

SEE: Hiring Kit: Game Engine Programmer (TechRepublic Premium)

Myth: Only programmers are successful in the video game industry

As mentioned in the previous section, there are numerous job roles associated with the development of a video game. Artists, musicians, writers, producers, accountants, bookkeepers, designers, testers, marketers, engineers, etc. all play significant roles in the video game development cycle. So, while coding and programming are certainly important, those roles are by far and away not the only career paths available in the video game industry.

Reality: You do not have to be a programmer to be successful in the video game industry.

SEE: Hiring Kit: Video Game Programmer (TechRepublic Premium)

Myth: You have to be a gamer to work in the video game industry

The idea that you must be a video gamer to have a successful career in the video game industry is a pure myth. While experience playing video games may help the artist, the musician, the writer, or the puzzle maker produce better content, it is certainly not an absolute necessity. A cost management accountant working on a departmental budget does not have to be a rated FPS player to work effectively for a video game developer—what is important, is their skill in their job role.

Reality: You do not have to be a gamer to be successful in the video game industry. 

SEE: PS5 supply shortage: Disruptions affect gamers and developers alike (TechRepublic)

Myth: The gaming industry only appeals to juvenile misogynists

Video games in general, and the video game industry specifically, appeal to individuals of all ages, genders, creeds, skill levels, and ethnicities. Gaming is a universal activity for all mammals—gaming is hardwired into our brains. Whether it is in a game environment or a developer’s team collaboration, diversity of ideas and approaches make life in the industry better.

However, like any other industry, there are still some troublemakers floating around the video gaming industry. Unfortunately, these problem people also tend to be loud, bold, and carry a misplaced sense of self-worth. Their antics generate headlines and horrific stories of abuse that have no place in civil society much less in a game environment. On the fortunate side of the equation, that sort of childish behavior is specifically forbidden in a work environment for all industries, including the video game industry.

Reality: The work environment in the video gaming industry meets all applicable standards. 

SEE: Digital gamer guide: 10 tips to help new online players (TechRepublic)

Myth: Story and quality don’t matter in video game development, only formula 

Many so-called experts in the mainstream press and on Wall Street believe that the only way a video game, the developer, and the publisher can be successful is if they strictly follow the successful formula of the games that came before. They believe the risk of innovation is just too great. This is patently wrong.

The video game industry is full of independent startup development studios that push both the artistic and technological envelope at every turn. And, just like every other endeavor in entertainment, while not everything produced will be a blockbuster hit, story and quality will always win in the long run. The expansion of what’s possible in the platforms and in the storytelling is the video gaming industry’s greatest strength.

Reality: Story and quality always matter. 

SEE: Hiring Kit: Game Tester (TechRepublic Premium)

Myth: Game developers are or will be filthy rich

Don’t be fooled by the large billions of dollars in the video gaming industry numbers—not everyone will get rich from producing a hit video game. Just like any other company you may work for, particularly a publically traded one, shareholders will likely see most of the monetary benefits of a highly successful game. It’s how capitalism works.

However, as part of your job-seeking strategy, you should always consider compensatory benefits beyond mere wages. Companies in the video game industry are likely to offer incentive packages that include stock options and other rewards that could translate into a lucrative and mutually beneficial arrangement. Don’t be afraid to shop around.

Reality: Game developers are not likely to get filthy rich, but they should be adequately compensated. 

SEE: Want a job in video gaming? Look to these skills (TechRepublic)

Myth: When it comes to job security, the gaming industry is cutthroat 

Recent headlines about massive layoffs of developers at several large video game industry companies may give the impression that the video game industry can be cutthroat with its employees. Unfortunately, for certain companies, that is real and not a myth. Job security can be directly tied to a development project.

However, for many video game developers, including some coders, artists, and musicians, this mercenary transient style of taking on work based on a project and then moving on to the next project is their preference. The flexibility of being able to move on to something more interesting or lucrative is appealing. If you are this type of person, the cutthroat work environment is where you thrive, so its existence is not a bad thing.

And fortunately for everyone else, the video game industry extends beyond a few extremely large companies to include many small independent developers with fresh ideas and fresh ways of looking at employees and how employment should work. Job seekers looking for some semblance of job security may want to confine their searches to smaller developers.

Reality: The video game industry can be cutthroat with employees, but not at every company.

SEE: Hiring Kit: Video Game Producer (TechRepublic Premium)

Myth: All game industry jobs are in California

The last myth that needs to be dispelled with regard to the video gaming industry is that all the jobs are located in California, and more specifically, Silicon Valley. While many companies in the video game industry are located there, satellite studios for those companies are often located all over the United States and sometimes all over the world. Numerous game development studios are also located around the world—it is an international industry.

More importantly, the video game industry and the nature of how game development works, means that much can be accomplished from a dispersed workforce connected by a communications network and cloud-based assets. Working remotely was a standard operating procedure in the video game industry even before a global pandemic made it standard operating procedure for everyone else.

Reality: Not all jobs in the video gaming industry require a move to California.

SEE: How cyberattacks are targeting video gamers and companies (TechRepublic) 

Check it out

A job seeker would be hard-pressed to find another industry growing as fast as the video gaming industry. Jobs of all kinds are currently advertised and open in that industry and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Regardless of your education, training, expertise, or experience, any successful job searching strategy should include at least a glancing look at the video gaming industry.

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