Making the most of work experience in the games industry. An Interview with Jamie White.


Meet Jamie, a student on the Level 3 extended diploma in Games Design at the City of Wolverhampton College. Jamie recently completed a work experience placement at Codies in the Birmingham audio department. The placement would last for two weeks and would mainly be focused on audio QA. Students weren’t necessarily required to be primarily interested in audio; rather we were looking for keen students, interested in finding bugs. Work placement would also involve engaging in basic audio department maintenance while getting an inside look into the world of game development.

Jamie’s interest in gaming started from an early age, as he recalls some of his favourite games (which make me feel old) included Crash Bandicoot, Rayman Raving Rabbids and Pokemon. Although gaming had always been a hobby of Jamie’s he never actually intended to pursue a career in the industry – in fact he’d already started working as a chef. The Halo Wars 2 trailer, E3 2016 changed everything for him though and set him on his current path. He recalls:

“It gave me goose bumps as I watched it, I loved how they could compose such a piece of art, it blew my mind how much effort must have gone into making it. I decided right then and there that was what I wanted to work towards. It was a huge risk for me, as I had invested so much of my life into my previous career”.

IMG_0526.jpgSenior audio designer James “Duke Uterus” Kneen showing Jamie the ropes

One of the key points mentioned here is that Jamie had to take a huge risk, he’d already set out to become a chef. Suddenly he’d decided that he could become a developer, providing he worked hard and applied himself. After meeting Jamie it became clear that he is driven and has so far taken all necessary steps to ensure his dream becomes a reality. Jamie stood out amongst his peers at College and secured a work experience placement and it quickly became apparent why. During his two weeks, Jamie was attentive, valued our feedback and advice, networked as much as possible, asked questions and made an effort to seek out any opportunities presented to him.

Although Jamie would be primarily testing audio, I wanted to figure out how work experience could best benefit him as well as us. I wanted to ensure Jamie had ample opportunities to network, improve his own portfolio and figure out his next steps and experience how different disciplines within game development interact to create the final product.

model23.pngJamie’s in progress modeling work

Jamie revealed his main interest is video editing, he remarks “I love watching cinematic trailers; I think there is nothing better than a clean, well done and polished trailer”. Even while Jamie was a chef he spent time picking apart trailers, analysing how they had been composed and what effects had been used. He would then take what he’d learnt and try and create his own trailers for fun. Based on this I encouraged Jamie to talk to the video editing department and any other disciplines that were of interest to him. I’d already explained to Jamie that the key here is to make yourself known without being a pest. Keep in touch and network, let developers know you are keen and work on your show reel and a portfolio but don’t hassle. Jamie took the initiative and quickly sent his show reel to one of the video editors and asked for feedback.

Jamie also took the time to introduce himself to our animation department, who were willing to sit with him and offer advice and feedback. It can’t be overstated how important a step like this could be to Jamie’s career. Not only did he have the opportunity to talk directly to developers and get feedback on his show reel but he was also networking and putting his name forward. As a student on the outside it can often be difficult to know truly how good your work is and what you need to improve upon without feedback from professionals. College and University lecturers are useful resources but even their feedback can’t replace good critiquing from industry veterans who work in development for a living. It can also be challenging to approach and get feedback from developers via email, they have no obligation to reply to you and emails can often get lost in the void – but being right there, face to face next to a developer who specialises in your area of study? Now that is a rarity. Weeks later Jamie would remark:

“The most important thing I took away from my experience is the links I have created with people from the industry; at my age you can’t put a price on networking with industry veterans”.

IMG_0524.jpgJamie working his way through our audio test plan for F1 2017

As his time with us was coming to an end Jamie asked what other opportunities he might be able to get involved with. We got talking about the possibility of doing a bit of extra work experience directly for the QA department, after all he’d been working through our audio test plans for the last two weeks so he’d already had a taste of what to expect. I had previously mentioned to Jamie that the QA department was my foot in the door (read more about that here) and it might be beneficial to him in two respects. Firstly Jamie would get a bit of experience working in an important and often underappreciated game development role. Secondly if any paid work came up in the months and years ahead he’d likely land himself a position (providing he had done a good job during his work experience placement). Several weeks later Jamie did indeed start 2 weeks of work experience with QA at the Southam studio.

With a month of work experience under his belt I’d asked Jamie how he now felt about the industry. He commented that it was “exactly what I hoped it would be like” and interestingly he now felt that pursuing game development as a career was well within his grasp, rather than the pipe dream it had once been. Jamie has also been hard at work on his portfolio since his work experience came to an end and he now feels he has a goal to work towards as he remarks:

“It was great seeing how a professional studio works; how everyone’s individual skills have such a massive effect on the game. What was great about this was that I could see what level of expertise I need to be hitting to make it into the industry”.

GameJam1.pngPokemon style art assets created by Jamie for a gamejam

Before Jamie starts his career in the industry he plans to continue his education by enrolling at Teesside University in Middlesbrough. Aside from his education Jamie intends to build more relationships with fellow developers before pursuing a career in video game cinematography.