Best path for an uncertain career? (Game design/animation)

I've been reading some feedback about different courses to do with games design (mainly QUT's Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment), and the consensus seems to be that they're a balance of tedious essays and relevant tasks, but won't really help you get a job unless you work on making games to show your skills in your spare time, to build up a portfolio. Also, people seem to be saying that it's better to specify, like if you want to be a programmer, do computer science, or if you want to be a designer do animation or something. Employers would rather you have a specialty rather than half/half.

The gaming industry in Australia seems a bit uncertain. Companies have laid off people and apparently it's really difficult to get a job.

So I was thinking, what part of the industry do I want to get into? Well, what I'd really like to do is design games. Come up with concepts, gameplay ideas, character designs. But I'm pretty sure that's a high-lvel job, one you'd get after years of working your way up the job ladder. So for an entry-level job, I thought why not animation?

If I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Animation) at QUT with a second major in games design, would that look appealing to a potential employer? I've specialised, but also chosen a supplementary course to show that I'm versatile and could do things in that area too.

I live on the Gold Coast, and my parents have tried to discourage me from attending QUT because they say I'd have to live their and arranging it would be expensive, difficult, etc. Any advice? My only other option (pretty much) is Griffith University (see here), but I don't think their course is as good. I looked at samples of student work on Youtube, and, quite frankly, they were awful. Am I being too judgmental? Does anyone know anything about the differences between the two?

If I couldn't get a job in the games industry, an animation degree would mean that I could work in other fields like TV animation and other stuff, right?

As a side note, I enjoy creating human characters, especially drawing expressions, etc. I also come up with stories/scripts (in other words, I can write).

souri's picture

Just a reminder that there are some companies that will allow you to move into other areas that way (provided you can prove yourself), whereas others specifically do not. Krome Studios was one company which allowed QA to move into other areas of games production, and I know Halfbrick Studios have game designers who've moved from artist positions in the company. However, I know Irrational Games Canberra / 2K Australia / 2K Marin, the Canberra Australia arm specifically do not. I've seen them express a few times that if you apply for a QA job there, then that's the field you will stay in.

Find out which of the companies you are set on if they allow that sort of progression.

NathanRunge's picture

My initial advice is to avoid QUT's Bachelor of Games and Interactive Entertainment course. It's poorly put together and shortly will be run by an architect with no understanding of the field. That said, QUT's Animation courses are much better established and run by some people who actually know what they're doing. I would basically stay far away from the Games Design courses at QUT.

Whether these qualifications are looked on with much favour by employers is up for debate. Some employers, typically the larger ones, will certainly strongly consider them at the interview stage. Others will completely ignore them except as a tie-breaker. You couldn't say that completing a degree is without merit, but nor could you say it's going to guarantee anything.

I think the more important aspect of taking a course is developing some practical skills and experience. Animation will likely benefit you far more so than design, but meeting your peers and taking the time to learn your stuff and ascertain your interests is always time well spent. Whether it's worth your time and money, I don't know enough of your personal circumstances to offer advice.

Other options for study you might consider are QANTM, whose Brisbane campus has improved markedly the past couple of years, and Griffith. I have heard that this past year has seen changes in their course with a new coordinator, but it's too early to tell how that will ultimately work out.

You're right that the industry is in poor shape at the moment. It will eventually recover, platitude as that is, but we can expect tough job competition probably for the next decade. Personally, I am starting my own company and working independently. Having reviewed the options, I found this the best, if not ideal, option for my circumstance. If you're interested in animation for film/tv, I would suggest you ask whether you're committed to making games, or whether you just wish to work creatively. If you do want to make games, there are ways to make it happen. If you're not really "passionate", as the buzz-word is, it may not be worth your time and sanity.

Anonymous's picture

as someone who worked in the games industry for a few years (and left it about a year ago), all i can say is avoid it. unless of course you like long hours, little recognition, low pay, no job security, and the constant fear of having no work. working in the games industry really is a hand to mouth existence and it is simply not worth it.

its passable when you are living at home with your folks and dont have any incumberances. (mortgage, etc) but once you have a wife/kids/mortgage, forget about it. the two do not go hand-in-hand.

if you do wind up working in the games industry, you will find yourself putting those sorts of things of whilst you 'establish yourself'... which never really ends. you continually spend your entire career 'establishing yourself'.

do yourself a favour. get a regular IT job. the pay is better and they treat you like a human being.

Anonymous's picture

I've had similar experiences to you earlier on and then found decent companies later in my career.

The job security is definitely an issue but there are companies that have decent work ethics, pay etc.

Also I think the reality is at the moment you probably won't find a job if you were searching right at this moment. I'm hoping the industry stabilises in a few years.

Anonymous's picture

I am wanting to do a QUT course of Animation with games design as a minor. is the industry really as bad as what i've just read?? All information would be MUCHLY appreciated!!! But plaese, respond to my email: bhenno2009@hotmail.com

Anonymous's picture

Don't do any course become a plumber or an electrician instead. You'll thank me in 10 years when you have your house paid off and go on regular holidays with your flash new boat and loving family. You can have all this with job security and not having to work overtime and under high pressure. If I knew how it would pan out for me after ten plus years in the industry I would of done something different.

Anonymous's picture

I totally agree with some comments in that the industry is very risky both short and long term. I spent over 7 years in it, and as was said, it didn't turn out to be something you can settle down with, not working for a company. Take that other advise and consider gaining skills in other areas (these other skills may or may not need to be far removed from skills you can use in game dev) that have a much better chance in helping you financially down the track. Spend your spare time learning and using all the game editors, learn how to model and design..there is so much free information out there. Use your early times to look forward to starting your own thing perhaps with others of like mind. The bug has never left me but I became wise to the insecurity in the game industry, but I still do it, only as an independent developer in my spare time while my 'other' work brings me nearly twice as much as I made in games working for several companies, not so long ago.