“Gone are the incubation periods, graduate programmers are now learning by doing” – Future-proofing the industry with graduate recruitment

This year’s game development graduates face never before seen uncertainty, but there’s actually never been a better time to make use of this fresh-faced talent pool. This article was created in collaboration with Aardvark Swift.

It is an uncertain time for everyone, none more so than the next generation of game developers. These graduates find themselves leaving university and looking to start their careers during a truly unprecedented time. Graduating into uncertainty wasn’t something any of them had planned for, but innovative studios are driving the talent pool from the grassroots, and it’s the power of graduates that are giving them strength.

Andy Driver, operations manager at Grads in Games
Andy Driver, operations manager at Grads in Games

Why is graduate hiring important to studios? Because it allows them “to support the next generation of talent!” says Katherine Birney, recruitment coordinator for Liverpool-based studio, Firesprite.

“Nurturing younger talent and providing a gateway into a competitive industry that is difficult to break into,” is central to the ethos that Firesprite holds dear. “We’re always on the lookout for new talent, to bring new ideas and innovative ways of working to the studio.”

With programming now being taught to children as young as six, it’s more important than ever to be mindful of those coming into the industry over the next few years.

“Our Grads in Games initiative has historically worked exclusively with universities, but we’ve expanded that this year to include FE colleges. 16 to 18-year-olds can now get practical CV and portfolio advice at an earlier age, from ourselves and our studio partners,” adds Ian Goodall, managing director of Aardvark Swift and founder of Grads in Games. “A lot has changed since we first started out with our grassroots work 15 years ago. There was a time where the industry wasn’t as receptive to students.”

More and more often now, recent graduates are put straight onto live projects under the guidance of more experienced developers. Gone are the incubation periods, graduate programmers are now learning by doing.

Ian Goodall, managing director of Aardvark Swift
Ian Goodall, managing director of Aardvark Swift

Birney concurs: “Our graduates join us and work on a graduate team, designed for new talent that will work across the multiple disciplines of Design, Art, Engineering, QA, and Production. This team has a high output and releases multiple titles per year. The graduates also gain experience of releasing final quality projects across different platforms. They will remain within this team for around 6-12 months before ‘graduating’ on to some of our bigger titles.”

With the industry warming to the promise of graduate talent, Firesprite actually started looking into student developers back in 2016. “Historically, Firesprite was not able to accommodate graduates within our development teams due to the nature of our projects and size of the studio at the time. We had an opportunity to develop our own IP and that enabled us to begin working with juniors and graduates, which we hadn’t previously done. This was a real success, we found that graduates brought new ideas to the table.”

Katherine Birney, recruitment coordinator for Firesprite
Katherine Birney, recruitment coordinator for Firesprite

There is a talent shortage for skilled developers within the industry. Studios growing their own talent is becoming more and more common, with Firesprite a perfect case study of this. “We have seen graduates join us on the team with one discipline focus, only to see them specialise in another area and successfully shape the start of their career. An example of this recently was a graduate QA who was given the opportunity to develop and learn skills in UI/UX, this graduate has now joined a full development team as our UI Artist. Some of the graduates that started with us three years ago are now working in positions of influence on some of the biggest games in the world!”

“Getting a graduate job in the games industry is hugely competitive and challenging in regular times,” suggests Andy Driver, operations manager at Grads in Games. “The video game industry is thriving at the moment, observing impressive jumps in revenue compared to other industries. With the demand for video game software and hardware never higher, and with the next generation on the horizon, studios will still need talented, ambitious, and young developers to join them!”

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