The game design industry is one of the fastest growing job markets in North America and in countries like France, Germany, and Japan. Demand for skilled and well-trained candidates, from video game designers and art directors to 3D animators, is expected to grow by 10% in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But setting a path as a game designer or animator, with so many career choices and training opportunities available as the market grows, is easier said than done.
Anyone looking for a job is, obviously, looking to make a living. With a median animation industry salary of around $65,000, this is something that trained animators don’t have to worry about. And, with this particular career choice, job satisfaction tends to be high, which is always a plus.
Like with any career, getting a start is tough and, as with all things art-related, figuring out where to get the right training could prove even tougher. Animation and game design are both still young, developing industries. Despite its age, the animation industry alone took in some $244 billion worldwide in 2015. This means there’s plenty of advice available from older, more experienced colleagues, some of whom might be pioneers in many aspects.
But the truth is that most of these pioneers made their way into and up the career ladder without much premeditation and planning. Most began their careers out of sheer love of either art, design, video games or filmmaking and took an exceptional interest in honing their skills.
Today, that path looks a little different and requires plenty of planning and deliberate training. Still, a deep adoration of any aspect of the industry and natural talent should still be at the heart of the plan. Needless to say, bootcamps are a great way of helping students discover exactly which type of game design or animation job piques their interest the most - and not a shabby way of building mad skills in all of the areas needed to move ahead later.
Looking for what you really love to do is bound to render a plethora of educational options (such as bootcamp and higher education programs) around the country or perhaps even around the world. The U.S. alone has too many programs to count and some of the best animation universities in the world, each specializing in one or several types, styles or aspects of animation.
Following your heart is paramount, but in the end, it all boils down to picking the best educational program that will get you a solid start in the industry. A choice that many students most often make is first combining studies in a related field with extracurricular programs, courses, bootcamps, and collaborations with others already in the industry. This tends to help students explore all of the options available and really find the best custom fit.
These days, it seems like every employer is looking for employees under 25, with at least a decade of experience and a full portfolio under their belt. This may be impossible, but finding a sweet spot that gets the attention of top ranking game design and animation companies is possible and easier than one might assume.
Animation, ultimately, really is all about the experience. Regardless of the training received and work experience listed, potential employers can’t really tell much about a candidate from a resume. The animation world is a complex melting pot of technology, filmmaking and, above all, art - all of which can perhaps only really be taught through hands-on experience. With the right school, the right variety of bootcamp choices, and a little volunteer or freelance work on the side now and then, young animators can put together years’ worth of portfolio material to showcase their skills, talent and style.
The right formula, if there is one, would be to attend a couple of coding and web design bootcamps, connect with like-minded peers, pick the right school, and take some additional courses or freelance work in the industry. Maybe add a couple of more bootcamps in between. Afterall, they certainly can’t hurt.