Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Summer Internships

The question was recently raised on the IGDA Game Educators mailing list: how can students find summer internships in games? If you're a student, this is probably on your mind; if you're a professor, students will probably ask you. I posted a response there, but I thought it's worth saying here.

First, let me say that internships in the game industry are rare. This is not about game companies being mean, or hating students. It's because game projects typically take longer than a summer, and development teams don't particularly like it when a key project member leaves in mid-project. It also takes people time to ramp up, which means just around the time the intern is finally able to contribute something to the team, they leave. Also, interns take a lot of management time that a typically-overworked producer does not have, so many studios decide that it's just not worth it.

This is not to say that internships don't exist, merely that the companies that offer them tend to be low-key about it (lest they be flooded with tens of thousands of resumes from eager college students). That means they aren't advertising, so you have to find them other ways (see below).

My advice to students seeking summer employment:

First, do your homework. Research a lot of game companies, go to their corporate websites and see if they have internship programs. Best bets are local companies, since realistically you aren't going to get housing or relocation expenses (some companies won't even consider you for an internship unless you live in the area). Be willing to look at lesser-known companies (not just the big names that you drool over), and look in related fields like serious games -- fewer students are looking there, so there's less competition.

How do you find local developers? First, check GameDevMap. Second, check if there's a local IGDA chapter. Third, check Google with a search string that implies game developers in your local area. Fourth, check with your school's career services office... but you probably won't find anything there that you couldn't have found on your own, which is why I list it last.

Some "internships" may not be listed as such; rather, they may be called "QA" positions that just happen to span the summer term.

If you can't find anything in games, consider a related industry. Programmers can do a programming internship at any software company and still gain valuable experience. Artists could work in fields like advertising or industrial design.

If you absolutely can't find any paid work, finances permitting, "hire" yourself full-time to work on your own game projects! Force yourself to work 40+ hours per week on your own game, as if you were at a full-time job. (This works even better if you have some friends you can team up with.) Keep your scope small, so that your projects are achievable. The point here isn't to "start a game company" or "make a great game and sell it" -- the point is to get valuable experience making games. If your project sucks, that's fine, as long as you learned something from the process. If your project does end up being awesome, enter it in the IGF student showcase, which is just as juicy a resume bullet-point as an internship (if you win).

1 comment:

GordonG said...

Gearbox has their COGS program.
They only take interns once a year though. Check the forum for details.