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Fancy a career in gaming? Check out the in-demand roles, skills and more

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Video games are no longer just for fun and leisure, they have now become a source of revenue and a thriving career option for many.

The consumer base of video games has multiplied due to significant advancement in technology, affordable internet accessibility and easy access to smartphones. It has also led to a higher demand for skilled individuals such as developers, designers, testers and others who can handle numerous technical and creative aspects of generating engaging games and bringing them to the audience.

So today gaming isn’t just a recreation but a serious career option. However, before diving straight into it, it’s necessary to understand the in-demand roles, skills, courses, pay and other details in this industry.

In-demand roles in the gaming industry

There is significant demand for skilled game designers, says Tomoharu Urabe, Principal Partner, MIXI Global Investment, a VC gaming investment platform. In his opinion, many talented designers are quickly recruited by global studios, which creates a gap in the local industry.

On skill development, he says aspiring game designers have numerous resources available to learn and enhance their skills, including books, online courses and specialised programmes in game design. Having said that, practical experience through game deconstructions as well as actively playing games to understand their systems and gameplay loops is invaluable for skill development, he adds.

Elaborating on the same, Ashwin Jaishanker, CEO and Co-Founder, AutoVRse, a company that creates and deploys VR solutions, says some of the most sought-after roles for early career professionals are game developers, who code and create the game mechanics; game designers, who concentrate on the overall concept, storyline, characters and gameplay; quality assurance testers, who make sure the game is free of bugs and offer playability feedback; graphic artists and animators, who create the visual elements and animations that bring the game to life; and sound designers, who create the audio aspects, such as music, sound effects and voice overs.

Relevant courses to excel in this industry
Pursuing the right course not only equips you with adequate skills and knowledge but also enhances your desirability as a candidate in the eyes of potential employers.

According to Jaishanker, courses like Unreal Engine Developer Course, Unity Certified Developer Course and Coursera Game Design and Creation Specialisation are some of the excellent pathways to learn game creation.

For those who want to pursue a career in game design, he recommends programmes like the MIT OpenCourseWare Certificate in Game Design and the edX course on Game Design and Development. Certifications such as the ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) or specialised game testing courses can give quality assurance professionals a competitive advantage.

Individuals can also consider taking classes from organisations such as Animation Mentor, Gnomon School of Visual Effects, or Coursera's Animation and Illustration programme if a path in graphic design and animation excites them. For those passionate about sound design, online courses offered by LinkedIn Learning or Berklee College of Music are highly beneficial, he adds.

Skills individuals must acquire
In Urabe’s opinion, mastery of game engines such as Unity or Unreal is undoubtedly crucial. These skills can be developed through tutorials and online platforms like YouTube. Plus, strong logic and programming skills are necessary for those entering game development, given the complexity of modern game mechanics and features.

Coming to the equally necessary soft skills, he says excelling in creativity, collaboration, effective communication, leadership, adaptability, critical thinking and empathy is of utmost importance as games are developed by large, diverse teams.

On the technical side, proficiency in programming languages such as C++, Java, Python, and scripting languages is essential, says Jaishanker. Like Urabe, he also says that expertise in popular game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine is crucial, as is familiarity with graphic design tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and 3D modelling tools like Blender or Maya. Knowledge of version control tools like Git is important for collaborative development, and an understanding of ARVR technologies can provide a significant advantage, he adds.

Talking about non-tech competencies, he says while creativity is vital for generating innovative ideas and concepts, strong problem-solving abilities are imperative for troubleshooting issues during development. Effective communication skills, both verbal and written, are also indispensable for working collaboratively within a team.

Plus, project management skills, including managing timelines, resources and teamwork, come in handy for smooth development and execution. Finally, adaptability is key, as professionals must be flexible to adapt to new tools, technologies, and methodologies, says Jaishanker.

Campus hiring trends and pay expectations
There has been an increase in campus hiring, particularly as more institutes offer game development and design programs, says Urabe of MIXI. While this growth is more prominent in smaller, independent and mid-sized studios, he says, larger studios tend to prefer experienced candidates. Plus, many graduates are launching their own indie studios, contributing positively to the industry.

Coming to the pay scales, he says it widely varies depending on the role and the studio's budget. There is no fixed structure, and compensation can differ significantly from one project to another.

Jaishanker, on the other hand, gives us a more comprehensive overview of hiring trends and pay. He says campus hiring for entry-level jobs in the gaming industry has seen a notable increase due to the growing demand for gaming content and the expansion of gaming companies. Many companies, at present, are actively recruiting fresh talent from universities to meet the needs of their expanding project pipelines.

The average pay structure for entry-level roles in the gaming industry varies by region and company size. But generally, he says, entry-level salaries for game developers range from $50,000 to $70,000 per year. Game designers usually have starting salaries of $45,000-65,000 annually; quality assurance testers can expect annual pay of $35,000-50,000; graphic artists and animators often start with $40,000-60,000 per year; and sound designers generally earn salaries of $40,000-55,000 annually, he adds.

Status of flexi jobs in the gaming industry
Freelancers are particularly valuable during peak development phases or when expanding content production, says Urabe while talking about the growth of the freelancing trend in the gaming sector. It frees companies from long-term hiring commitments.

He says that with the global and cross-platform expansion of gaming, there is a notable increase in outsourcing and freelance hiring. Common roles available for freelance projects include artists, animators, programmers, designers and writers.

Jaishanker says that game developers, graphic artists and animators, sound designers and composers, quality assurance testers and narrative designers, are some roles that are highly sought after for freelance opportunities. These roles offer flexibility for both companies and professionals, allowing for diverse project experiences and dynamic work environments, he adds.

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