Before you even think about applying for a creative position in the games industry, your portfolio needs to be buttoned down with all the latest and greatest work you can show. Whether you’re working through a recruiting firm or applying to a studio directly, your portfolios are your resumes, and as such, should receive the lion’s share of your time and attention to polish. With so many other qualified applicants competing for the same jobs, making your portfolio truly stand out is as important as it is challenging. DAM has worked with thousands of hiring managers at hundreds of different game development studios over the last 20 years and here are a few things we’ve gleaned along the way that may serve to provide you with an extra competitive edge to secure the job:
Invest In and Commit to A Good Website
There are plenty of online tools for creatives to use to showcase their work – ArtStation, Carbonmade and Behance are a few of the most popular. These sites allow artists and designers to showcase their portfolios in an organized and familiar way to hiring managers. And of course, you’re welcome to buy and maintain your own domain, just be sure to keep the UI/UX fresh and current. Cultivating, perfecting and frequently updating a robust portfolio chock-full of your best work communicates that you’re serious about your craft which always resonates well with hiring managers.
Latest & Greatest
Now that you’ve established your website, you’ll want to take great care in selecting the pieces that are representative of your best work. These will typically be the most commercially or critically successful titles you’ve shipped, the ones you were most passionate about or those over which you took the most ownership. However, all artists and designers lament that they’re unable to show their latest work due to NDAs and confidentiality concerns. In many instances, creating a password protected section on your portfolio site can be an effective workaround that will allow you to reveal your latest work privately via screen share. Be sure to whet the appetites of your visitors and give them a little verbal taste of what the password is protecting.
Document Your Portfolio Samples
If you think your portfolio is ready for primetime, think again. The best-of-the-best of your life’s work isn’t quite ready to be released into the wild. With each of the pieces you choose to showcase, be clear about your specific contributions and the game for which it was created. Aside from your art or design work, hiring managers are also interested to know the thought processes behind the creative decisions you’ve made. By providing additional context on your approach, you’re providing critical insight to the hiring manager that can’t be gleaned from viewing the imagery alone. Feel free to elaborate on your thought processes and the decisions you may have been wrestling with at the time. Then, give a brief explanation of why you made the ones you did.
Organize Your Content
Frustration is the last sentiment you want visitors to your site to feel when they’re perusing your work. Awkward navigation schemes, hodgepodges of unorganized work and slow page load times will drive people away from your portfolio instead of encouraging them to share it with others. Here are a few suggestions to consider if you’re trying to figure out the best way to get your ducks in a row:
- Organize By Game – walk the hiring manager through your work on a particular title
- Organize By Asset Type – showcase your work by specialty (3D environments, 2D characters, UI/UX, keyframe animation, etc.)
- Organize by Style – Photorealistic / Cartoony / Stylized Post-Apocalyptic / Anime / Sci-Fi etc. etc.
- Use online tools that offer the most versatility in organizing and viewing your content… think of it like this – gamers like to customize their characters in as many ways as they can, similarly, hiring managers like to organize your art and design content in as many ways as they can – Make it easy for them!
- Remove older work or art that is no longer representative of your current level of expertise… it typically hurts candidates, not helps them
- Lead with your best pieces in each category to motivate the hiring manager to click “next”
- Have a separate section for your personal work and don’t intermingle them with your professional work
- Select a trusted industry co-worker and ask them for their unfiltered opinion or suggestions
By implementing some of these strategies and putting yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes, your portfolio will start to distinguish itself from the herd and begin to start working for you instead of against you.
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