So You Want to Write for Video Games? Some Resources.

Video games involve narrative, dialogue, text, instructions. Someone has to write that stuff. Could it be you? Breaking into the video game industry is difficult, particularly for those whose strength is crafting stories, not digital animation or coding. That said, it’s also a growth industry where new opportunities arise all the time.

Here’s a thoughtful overview of trends in video game writing.

Some practical advice on breaking into the industry:

If reading those links hasn’t scared you off, here are some places to start looking for opportunities.

If you’ve read the advice above carefully, you’ll know that your best strategy may involve networking, seeking contract work with a small company, or creating your own game. Internships at the big-name video game companies are highly competitive, but that’s not a reason not to compete. Here are links to a few that have internship programs OR extensive online job boards. As with any big-name internship, it’s a good idea to start your search for a summer 2018 internship in summer 2017.

 

The 25 Companies that Pay Interns the Most (start planning for summer 2018)

Salary is not the only index of worth, value, or skill. Happiness can be found below the poverty line, and time and meaning can be worth more than money.

That said, when this article came out, claiming that Internships at these 25 companies pay more than the average US salaryit seemed useful to ask…

Internships doing what?

A lot of things, it turns out. Some internships are specifically for students with specific engineering, programming, or quantitative business training, but many are not. Some are limited to specific majors. Many are not.

Many of these companies offer internships that English/CW majors can qualify for — if a job at a large company is what you want.

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When Should I Seek an Internship?

“When should I seek an internship?”

This is a question I get a lot.

The answer is “Yes.”

That is–there’s no right or wrong time to look for internships. There’s not even an optimal time to get an internship. This freedom is one of the perks of being an English or Creative Writing major.
An internship that helps you explore a career that interests you is a good thing to do at ANY stage of your college career. You don’t have wait until your junior year, nor do you need to panic if you’re a sophomore who hasn’t lined anything up yet.

Majors in business or engineering or other pre-professional fields are often seeking jobs in a handful of large corporations that like to test-drive future hires in junior year internships. Success in one of these fields is therefore closely tied to getting the “right” internship after sophomore or junior year, one that may lead to a job offer sometime during one’s senior year. Students who aren’t on that schedule have a more challenging job search than students who are.

English and CW majors, on the other hand, have a lot of options.

English/CW majors CAN seek out summer internships (often in HR, marketing, project management, sales, client services, or claims) with companies that hire full-time employees out of their internship programs. If that’s a path that interests you, it’s good to start attending career fairs as early in your college career as possible and start getting to know the companies you’d like to work for after graduation. The fall Business Career Fair often offers a lot of internships for the following summer, and the more research you can do in advance of the fair, the better your experience will be–and I’m happy to help you identify some promising openings, plot your strategy, and make your resume and “pitch” career-fair ready. With effort, focus, and determination, you CAN land an internship after your sophomore or junior year that could lead to a full-time job–just like any STEM or pre-professional major.

But…a lot of people major in English or Creative Writing because they don’t want those kinds of jobs with those kinds of companies. They may not know enough about what they want to do after graduation to be willing to put the effort in to build a relationship with a specific company that will lock them into a job they don’t know that they want.

Many students will find employment with nonprofit organizations, small companies, employers in the entertainment industry, tech, or software industries. Many of these kinds of organizations don’t adhere to a strict internship/hiring cycle, and many don’t come to career fairs. They may or may not offer internships at all. They may look favorably on full-time job applicants who have held meaningful leadership roles in volunteer organizations, who have been involved in student newspapers or journals, who have held relevant part-time jobs, or who have produced independent creative work.

So a better question to start with is not “When should I apply?” but “What do I want?” If you have your eye on a particular company or a particular industry, there are a lot of things you can do to start figuring out what’s available and how you could get started:

  • Keep track of internship openings on I-Link (you can use the “Advanced Search” option to limit yourself to internships in specific industries that interest you. (Any given search may not yield a lot of results–it helps to set up a regular time each week to see if any new openings have appeared)
  • Start researching particular companies in the field that you’d like to work with. Most company websites have a “careers” tab where they list internship opportunities (if they offer any).
  • Join our alumni mentoring network to start talking to professionals in that field. If there’s no one in our network who works in the particular area you want to explore, use LinkedIn to locate other alumni who might be willing to talk to you.
  • Look for paid internships or part-time jobs on campus that will help you build relevant skills. Campus opportunities in, say, movie production are pretty limited, but a part-time job or internship that gives you skills in video-editing, storyboarding, project management, social media, or marketing could give you skills that are transferable to that industry.
  • RSOs are a good way to get involved, make friends, and have fun–and they can also be a valuable resource for job skills. Look for organizations where you can not only be an involved member but also play a role in making things happen. Managing a budget, event-planning, fundraising, membership recruitment, publicity, social media, and outreach are all skills that you can cultivate through your involvement.

Keep in mind, too, that “internship” does not necessarily equal “meaningful post-graduation job.” It can help you understand better what you want from a career, build skills you you want, recognize skills you didn’t know you had, or send you in a different direction of career exploration.

Bottom line? If an internship sounds interesting to you, go ahead and apply.

Where Do English/CW Majors Find Jobs?

job-search-276893_1920Here are links to some of the specialized job boards where English and Creative Writing majors can find openings particularly well suited to their skills. There’s not an industry in the world that doesn’t need people who can communicate effectively and solve problems with words, so English and CW majors are NOT limited to this list of resources, but these are good starting places for a targeted job search.

  • The I-Link widget over there on the right-hand side of this site’s home page: a continuously updated list of recent additions to I-Link of interest to English department majors.
  • I-Link itself: this University of Illinois resource connects students and recent alumni to employers who are looking to hire Illini.  The interface can be frustrating, but the “Advanced Search” option will help you zero in on the openings of interest to you.)
  • Chicago Artists Resource (shows job openings at arts and cultural organizations in the Chicago area)
  • Idealist.org (specializes in openings at nonprofit organizations of all kinds)
  • USAjobs.gov (database of all federal government jobs, including internships in DC, at national parks, in the Smithsonian museum system, etc.)
  • Bookjobs.com (particularly helpful for internships in publishing)
  • The National Association of Independent Schools posts openings in private schools.
  • Higheredjobs.com/admin offers openings (many of them entry-level) in higher education administration.
  • Tech customer support is a well-paid growth industry in which English/CW majors can thrive.

Big all-purpose sites: