Game design requires creativity and a plethora of technical skills to create an immersive environment and balanced gameplay. The growing popularity of video games has prompted an increase in demand for game designers and game developers. However, this is a competitive industry and the positions for game designers are limited.
One of the ways to break into the games industry is through game design internships and apprenticeships. These programs combine classroom education with on-the-job training to ensure candidates become highly-skilled professionals. In this article, we show you the best game design apprenticeships and walk you through the training options at your disposal to gain access to these programs.
What Is a Game Design Apprenticeship?
A game design apprenticeship combines classroom education with on-the-job training to help aspiring game designers develop in-demand skills and qualifications and get their first job in the industry. Importantly, apprenticeships are generally paid. Apprenticeship programs generally last from six months to two years.
You can find an apprenticeship for a wide range of job roles in the video game industry, including video game designer, animator, game tester, effects artist, graphic designer, and concepts artist, to mention a few.
What Does a Game Design Apprentice Do?
A game design apprentice works on exciting projects under the supervision of senior professionals. As a game design apprentice, you’ll learn from a mentor who will coach you on the skills and techniques required to bring a game to life. You’ll also work as part of a team to design and deliver real projects, likely playing a key role in the development of a game.
Apprentices also learn the interpersonal skills needed to successfully interact with colleagues and clients. As an apprentice, you are also likely to acquire communication, planning, and even entrepreneurship abilities.
Game Design Apprenticeship Salary
ZipRecruiter estimates that game design interns earn $37 per hour or $76,506 a year. However, this figure can vary widely based on factors like skill level, location, and years of experience. Apprentices in this industry probably earn a comparable salary.
Game Design Apprenticeship Requirements
Most game design apprenticeship programs require some knowledge of coding and a passion for creating games. To application process for most of these programs usually involves sending a CV and motivation letter.
Apprenticeships that target university students, graduates, and working professionals may have stricter requirements, such as being proficient at a specific programming language like C++ or Java. There are also apprenticeship programs geared toward high school students which normally come with laxer entry requirements.
Types of Game Design Apprenticeships
In the video game industry, you can become an apprentice to train for many different job roles. Below, we consider some of the main job titles in the industry that are accessible through apprenticeship opportunities.
Game animators are multimedia artists who specialize in video games. They combine art and technology to bring environments and characters in video games to life. They also create interactive animated images.
As a game animator apprentice or trainee, you’ll be working under talented animators, programmers, and designers on actual game projects. You’ll also learn about large visual databases, 2D and 3D animation, and the general principles governing a character’s body movement.
Game audio engineers work in gaming departments or as freelancers to create high-quality audio sets for games and other interactive media projects. These professionals are primarily concerned with background noises, sound effects, and voiceovers.
As an apprentice game sound designer, part of your job will be to go through commercial audio libraries to find the right sounds and effects for a given project. You’ll also learn to use a digital audio workstation (DAW) to create the desired audio effects.
Game designers are responsible for planning and executing game mechanics and overall user experience. These professionals may also be involved in developing the storyline, dialogue, and characters. At the junior or apprentice level, you’ll learn how to map out a game’s layout and other elements through flow charts and mockups.
A video game artist is responsible for creating the different visual elements of the world that the game is recreating. They sketch out their designs and infuse them with life using 3D modeling and other animation techniques.
As a game artist apprentice, you’ll sketch concept designs, learn how to apply textures to various visual elements, and help with designing promotional materials such as posters and game packages.
Video game testers help assess the overall feel of a game and its user experience before launch. They play the game during different stages of the development process to find any errors or glitches and make recommendations that enhance the player experience. As a game tester apprentice, you’ll familiarize yourself with game development basics and expand your knowledge of the industry.
Game Design Apprenticeship Jobs
The Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education offers game programmers an opportunity to solidify their skills. As part of the job, you will develop exhilarating games for mobile devices, websites, and consoles, including contributing to gameplay mechanics and asset pipelines.
As a game programmer, you will also be tasked with providing technical insight to the creative process and diagnosing problems in complex systems. The ideal candidate for this position is up-to-date with the latest technologies in gaming platforms and applications.
Sony Interactive Entertainment PlayStation offers a summer internship for 2022. The program is open to professionals with at least one year of postgraduate experience. You will be part and parcel of the content and scripting teams so it is important to be a team player.
You will often work in conjunction with designers, artists, product developers, and engineers designing systems to advance the user experience (UX). The company will also expect you to create wireframes, prototypes, and user flows for communicating gameplay and designs as well as work with Excel spreadsheets.
This paid internship, offered by Riot Games in Santa Monica or Redwood City, includes free relocation services, housing support, and 401(k) plan benefits. The successful candidate will design and develop various systems and features. To apply, you must be currently enrolled in a college or university program and be able to commit 10 to 12 hours a week to the internship.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a game design training program full-time or part-time for trainees wanting to expand their skills. The only requirement is a willingness to learn as well as creative skills. You should also be passionate about game design and programming.
Game design trainees collaborate with the game arts and programming teams to create popular games. You’ll do a deep dive into HCI design, content creation, and systems design. This program is a great opportunity to launch a career as a video game designer.
As part of this Sledgehammer Games paid internship, you will work in a dynamic team to build gameplay systems and fictional worlds. In doing so, you will become proficient in 3D design tools such as UnrealEd, Kismet, Maya, and Max.
Before joining this program, you should be familiar with programming languages such as C and C++. In this program, you will also explore artificial intelligence (AI) design, system design, core gameplay design, level design, and audio design.
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This paid internship gives you the opportunity to join the innovative and dynamic team of experts at Epic Games. The ideal candidate for this position has experience in C++ and 3D-package software.
As part of the program, you will work on several projects concurrently assisting the user interface (UI) team. You will collaborate with senior designers, engineers, and artists to build prototypes and implement UI systems in the Unreal engine as well as create a responsive UI player input.
Activision Publishing Inc offers this 12-week internship in Santa Monica. This opportunity is only available to students pursuing a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD. To qualify, you must be proficient in Sketch or XD, as well as be familiar with best practices in web, mobile, and game development. You will work on both the UI and UX of mobile applications and websites, creating wireframes and prototypes.
How to Get a Game Design Apprenticeship
The best way to find a game design apprenticeship is by visiting online job boards. However, competition may be fierce, so you need to make sure you stand out as a candidate. Here are a few options to consider to increase your chances of landing that coveted apprenticeship.
Many game companies offering apprenticeship opportunities tend to look for individuals with some game design experience. One way to quickly pick up such skills is by enrolling in a bootcamp program. Bootcamps are short but intensive educational programs designed to equip students with the technical skills needed to join the workforce.
Most bootcamps programs can be completed in three to eight months. This means that in a matter of months you’ll be ready to apply for an apprenticeship job. In addition, the best game design bootcamps offer robust career support, including access to a network of hiring companies and one-on-one mentorship.
The difference between an internship and an apprenticeship is subtle but important. The most significant difference is that apprenticeships have a stronger focus on on-the-job training, with the goal being to master the skills needed for a particular role. Internships, by contrast, tend to focus on entry-level general taks. Internships tend to be shorter too.
Completing an internship will put you in a stronger position to apply for an apprenticeship in the game industry. Above, we’ve also covered a few internships. Consider completing one of these programs before applying for a longer and more comprehensive apprenticeship.
Vocational training refers to postsecondary education designed to prepare individuals for employment in specific occupations. The term can encompass many types of programs, from courses found in online learning platforms like edX or Coursera to programs offered by vocational and technical schools.
Although you can join courses online that will teach you game design basics, you may have a harder time finding more exhaustive programs that equip you with the skills needed to join the industry. Vocational schools may have computer science or IT programs but they are unlikely to offer courses that focus solely on game development or game design.
Is a Game Design Apprenticeship Worth It?
Yes, a game design apprenticeship is worth it. While many aspiring game designers still opt for a traditional university education, gaming apprenticeships can help you become a game developer faster. In six months to two years, you will acquire the skills and experience needed to enter the video game industry. Oh, and you’ll be paid for it.
Game Design Apprenticeship FAQ
Most game design apprenticeships for people with no experience in the industry last between 15 to 24 months. Programs designed for more advanced designers take between three to six months to complete.
Apprentices develop skills in HCI design, system design, content creation, and programming, to name a few. They also acquire important soft skills that will help them navigate the industry.
Apprenticeship programs for high school students don’t have many requirements other than having a passion for making games. However, apprenticeships that target university students or working professionals may require proficiency in a programming language like C++ or Java and even previous experience in game development.
The main aim of a game design apprenticeship is to give apprentices a chance to develop a wide array of technical skills through on-the-job training. Apprentices develop skills in game production, storytelling, level design, game interface design, 3D modeling, and shading.
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