(important disclaimer: this work represents me only & not the company I work for.)
Other than making games and networking, creating a quality portfolio to display your work is one of the most important steps of applying for jobs in the game industry. Luckily, it’s also pretty simple compared to the first two steps! XD
This guide should be helpful for a variety of asset creation jobs- mainly, coding, art, and sound design– as that’s my biggest area of experience and therefore what I can give the most accurate advice on.
Remember that your resume and portfolio are living documents; update them with new work you’ve done and remove old work as you advance in your career.
The point of a resume is to concisely describe your experience so that a recruiter can decide if your skills match the requirements of a job description with a short glance.
Resume Creation Steps
- Use a template to avoid fighting formatting. I used a Google docs resume template.
- Add your experience in chronological order, with most recent first.
- Title each entry with: Job Title, Company
- Use strong action words to describe your responsibilities.
- Use numbers where possible, e.g., X animations made; X% game performance increase, X artists supported.
- Specify tools used, e.g., game engine, programming languages.
- Keep descriptions to 1-2 succinct sentences.
- Include the dates you worked the job.
- Add your education. Put this below your experience, as it’s less important.
- Don’t include your GPA unless it’s really impressive.
- Include your area of study/ major and graduation date.
- Add contact information. Link your portfolio and add a phone number and/or email address. Don’t include your physical address (see DON’T).
- List skills & tools known. For whatever your discipline is, list tools/programs that you’re familiar with, programming languages you know, version control you’ve used, or other specific skills you have.
Keep your resume to one page unless you’ve had more than 10 years of experience.
I intentionally left out the finer details of these steps (do I list the exact dates I joined and left?) and a few debatable and trendy features (do I rate my expertise in each skill? do I include a personal mission statement?), as I’ve gotten conflicting advice about all of these options. Honestly, I think the basic steps I listed above are the most important, and if you follow them, you’re probably doing fine.
- Don’t put skills or experience on your resume that you don’t want to do again. If you don’t want a job in web development, don’t list the web languages you’re proficient in. Recruiters might get distracted by skills unrelated to the jobs you want to apply for, and your resume will be more succinct if you only list relevant skills.
- DO NOT put your physical address on your resume. This is a security concern if you put your resume online, and sometimes recruiters will make candidates who would have to relocate a lower priority.
- Scrub ANY personal contact info from your online resumes. I don’t even have my resume on my online portfolio, but if I did, I would NOT put my cell phone number on it, as this is a security concern. Professional emails are a much better public contact option.
The Portfolio Website
The purpose of a portfolio website is to give hiring managers a deeper look into your work. My best advice for portfolio websites is to make it easy to view the most impressive work you’ve done. This means compiling all of your work into one location and including screenshots, video, and/or audio so that the viewer doesn’t have to download your projects to view them.
I strongly recommend that you use a website like Squarespace to create a portfolio where you can compile all of your experience into one place, but it’s not a requirement. For example, if you’re an artist, it’s also suitable to put all of your work on Behance or similar site; if you’re an audio designer, you could put your work on Soundcloud; for programmers, you could put your projects on GitHub. In fact, even if you have a portfolio website, websites like these are useful for hosting your work. The below guide is written with the single portfolio website in mind, but the general principles apply to other websites, too.
Do not rely on social media as a portfolio. While it’s good to use your pinned tweet or Tumblr description or Instagram bio to link to your portfolio or a tag for your work, this does not substitute for an actual portfolio. It looks unprofessional, and it’s hard to control the way your content is portrayed because you have a word limit, you don’t have control over formatting, and strangers can comment on your work.
- Demo Reel: a video which displays all of your best work. This makes it super easy for people to see your work in one place.
- A few examples of relevant footage: animations you made, 360s of models you created, gameplay footage, footage of you using a tool you created.
- Keep it short, and only use your best and most recent work.
- Demo reels are almost a requirement for certain disciplines, like animation.
- Projects: a section which lists and describes projects that you’ve worked on, with the most recent (or relevant) projects at the top.
- Include a brief description of the project.
- Clearly state your role in the project.
- Give credit to others who worked on the project.
- Like your resume, use strong action words and numbers where possible (like number of assets made).
- Include visuals, like screenshots or gifs or videos, or audio if it’s sound work.
- Link to a download, if applicable. Most people won’t actually download and play your game, so make sure the visuals describe it well.
- Link to your repository, if applicable. This is most important for programmers.
- If you have a broad area of work you’ve done- for example, you write poetry, film advertisements, or animate TV shows in addition to game development- put whatever you’re more interested in doing professionally first.
- About Me: a section that concisely describes your area of expertise (environment art, tools programming, game programming, 2D animation, etc), summarizes your resume, and maybe adds some fun personal details like favorite games, non-game-dev hobbies, or a pet you own.
- Contact: a list of ways to contact you.
- An email address is usually sufficient for a public online portfolio- I almost never put my phone number online.
- Social media links are okay as long as they’re professional and SFW.
- Other sections: Anything else that’s directly or tangentially related to game development.
- E.g.: volunteer work, public speaking, tutorials or blogs, organizations you helped run, exhibitions or publications or galleries you’ve been featured in (or ran!), hobbies.
- Even if the work isn’t directly related to game dev, I encourage you to include it in your portfolio anyway (after all of your relevant projects).
- Any leadership or teamwork experience, game dev related or not, displays strong soft skills.
- You never know when opportunities related to these skills might come up.
Here’s my portfolio website, which I think is a decent portfolio for an engineer/ tech artist. My work is plainly featured on the first page, each project is concisely described, it links to game downloads & code repositories where applicable, and highlights my community work and best posts from my blog. For future improvements, I would probably make a demo reel of footage from all of the released games I’ve worked on.
This is my friend Kytana’s portfolio website, which is a beautiful portfolio for an artist. Her main page puts her best work first and displays a strong, consistent personal style. Kytana has done a variety of artistic work, so her portfolio separates her work into sections for background art, illustration, animation, and games so that viewers can easily look for the most relevant work for the job they’re hiring for. Her ‘About’ page also features art shows and publications she’s been featured in and freelance work she’s done.
My friend Lucien Ye also has a great portfolio website. His first page makes his expertise clear: he composes music for games, animation, and film. His works section puts his music first in an easily accessible way, and he has a selection of (what I assume are his best quality or favorite) films embedded and watchable without going to another website.
If you take anything away from this guide, keep these tips in mind: keep your resumes and portfolios concise. Make sure your content is your best and most recent work. And finally, continue to update them throughout your career.