How to Nab a Great Gaming Internship

Thu, Apr 19, 2012

Internship Information

What could possibly offer more fun and excitement than a career that revolves around creating the video games of the future? If you enjoy playing them, you have definite ideas about how the gaming experience could be improved, and you’re willing to take the necessary steps to become educated in any of several arenas required in the gaming industry (from engineering to art to marketing and even licensing), there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a challenging and successful career with a game developer or publisher.

However, there’s no denying that the industry is rather small and competition high, with only a handful of large companies making a dent in the consumer market (EA, Activision, and more recently, Zynga, for example). While you might have an easier time getting hired at a startup, the honest truth is that the goal of most of these companies is to hit it big with one game so that they can get on the radar of a larger company and execute a buyout. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you get in at the ground level you might see some money in the long run. And even though these transactions generally end in layoffs for redundant personnel you’ll still get some experience under your belt. But you may want to try securing an internship anyway as a means of getting your foot in the door at a viable gaming corporation.

The best way to do this is to contact hiring or HR departments to ask if and when internships are offered and what requirements you must fulfill in order to become eligible for application. In some cases a company has agreements in place with local colleges or specific programs to provide internships for students that major in game development or industry-related fields. So the school you go to could play a major role in where you can apply for internships. But you need to seriously consider location. Sure, there are a lot of game developers around Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. And if you want to work on EA sports titles (Madden, FIFA, etc.) or Activision racing games (NASCAR, Street Legal Racing Redline, and so on), it’s hard to beat southern California. But it’s also extremely expensive to live there and gaming hopefuls travel from all over to take advantage of the video game majors offered at nearby universities, which means stiff competition.

Instead, consider seeking out companies in less populated areas. Redmond, WA, for example, plays host to a number of technology companies, including several game developers (not only do big names like Microsoft and Nintendo have operations up there, but many smaller development studios also call Redmond home, including Volt, Glu, and Gas Powered Games, just to name a few). The area even has a school geared towards game creation (DigiPen Institute of Technology), offering bachelor’s degrees in game design, digital art and animation, and more (you’ll be pumping out free racing games and smartphone apps before you know it). The point is, you need to do some research before you choose a school so that you can ensure you have the best chance of nabbing an internship, hopefully with a company that you would actually like to work for. Just keep in mind that starting small can lead to greater opportunities down the line.

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