As a school that teaches how to make video game art and design, our instructors often get asked if having a one-year game design diploma or a longer degree program really makes a difference in getting hired.
If you ask for opinions on popular game forums like Reddit you will find conflicting answers. Some people say going to a school that teaches video game design and development was the best decision that they could have made in finding work in the video game industry. Others will say they were self-taught and still found employment.
Obviously we are a video game design school so our opinion is a little biased. Still, it’s because of our relationships to existing game studios and their hiring personnel that we know what the video game industry wants in their employees. We know from experience and these conversations with HR that game studios do look more favorably on people that have some formal education in game design and gameplay mechanics. VanArts offers an intensive one-year diploma program to fast-track people into the video game industry. We think that this is the ideal way for a graduate to receive proper training and get a faster return on their investment in education.
There are several reasons why we feel going to a game art school is a smart way to enter the industry. Let’s outline our reasons below.
1. Team Experience in Making Video Games
This may be the biggest factor towards going to school for video game art diploma or degree. Working as a part of a large team is undeniably a huge component when you work at a game studio. You need to align your art skills with the other members of your team. Better yet, your skills should complement the other members of your team, and vice versa.
In their third term of our Game Art & Design program our students work on a team project. Students break off into small development teams and then develop, design and build a playable video game demo in just eight weeks.
Pitching a game concept is also a critical piece of being a professional game designer. At a school you should learn how to pitch game concepts to others and build your teammates’ conviction on your vision. That’s something you can’t experience working on your own.
Having seasoned video game mentorship can help those starting off their careers. These mentors provide encouragement, morale support, offer a sounding board for your ideas, and can help you quickly overcome the stumbling blocks you will face.
Additionally, a good mentor will be able to give you honest feedback about your strengths and weaknesses. They can offer guidance to you about where to direct your energies. Say you show a strength in designing levels; a good mentor can encourage you to direct your focus towards that area of game design. They can help you build a strong portfolio that shows off your superior qualities. They can provide insight into what a hiring manager will be looking for when you get that call to come in for an interview.
With the growing size of the video game industry and new studios being launched all the time, having a good mentor can dramatically change the upwards trajectory of your career.
3. Networking in the Games Industry
Some game designers might say that this is the biggest advantage towards choosing a video game design school. On your own networking can be a very hard challenge to master; overcoming social anxiety, knowing what to say to break the ice with strangers; how to use someone’s time effectively; and all the other important but subtle ways to make friends and acquaintances.
Any video game school you consider should have periodic networking events for their students. At VanArts, we bring in industry speakers to talk about what it’s like working at game studios. We also host industry nights where our game art students can show off their work to creative directors and HR personnel. It gives our students an invaluable opportunity to gain face-to-face experience with the people that they will be interviewing with.
Sometimes we see our senior students get job offers before finishing the program as a direct result of meeting new contacts at industry nights.
Even if a job offer doesn’t materialize right away, your instructors will be able to give you valuable feedback on your presentation and how well you showcase your work. By listening to this feedback you get to sharpen your interview skills for the next time.
4. Exposure to Different Ideas
After taking our game art program for a few months, sometimes a student will start to see new roads that their budding game career could take them. For example, having a competent project manager at the head of a team could make or break the project. Having the most brilliant art team, or an incredible coding team might not be enough to make your video game a hit with an audience if it doesn’t come out on time, or launches with serious bugs.
You may also realize that you love making concept art for games so much that you decide to pursue a full-time career in that direction. Great concept artists can find work in movies and television along with their video game employers.
Opening yourself up to a new experience can become a process of self-discovery. You may be pleasantly surprised at how many directions your career path could take by exposing yourself to new ideas and concepts. This is something that will most certainly happen when you enroll in a video game design school.
5. Pushing Yourself
Have you ever gone to the gym? Getting yourself on a treadmill or hitting the weights should be in your average routine, but for the majority of people, finding motivation can be difficult.
When you enroll in school you are committing yourself on a path. You are relying on your teachers to help motivate you to develop your skills. Attendance, completing assignments, your attitude and professionalism, and your creativity will all be judged and given a mark. If you get bad marks, you should be upset with yourself. Get good marks and your brain will tell you that you’re doing a good job.
This sounds like a simple concept to master but really, it’s not. According to studies the average gym membership has somewhere around 1,000 to 10,000 paying members. Incredibly, around 80% of those paying members don’t return to their gym after the first few visits.
If you think that you have the mental will to push yourself, stick to deadlines, find solutions to obstacles in your way with a minimum of help from others, then you can likely teach yourself a lot of video game skills. If you’re like most of us, having backup and support is something that’s non-negotiable.
The instructors at a good video game school will find a way to motivate all of their students. Each person will have slightly different challenges and strengths. Your school should help develop your best qualities and also educate you on the basics that any video game studio wants to have in their workers. Make sure that you do your research, ask questions, read reviews and then make your decision.
Final Thoughts on that Game Art Degree You’re Thinking About
As we mentioned at the start of this article, we’re biased about getting a diploma in video game art and design. VanArts trains students to know the fundamentals of traditional and digital art, as well as building your knowledge in how to make great video game art (and gameplay).
Your video game education should be a balance of art fundamentals and learning the latest trends. Being a well-rounded artist will get the attention of future employers, but the soft skills that we mentioned in this article will benefit you in your job interviews, working well with your co-workers, and your ambitions for career growth and potential.
Let us know if you have any questions about pursuing a career making video games. We’d love to help you become one of the world’s best video game creators!