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How to Get into Game Industry?

James Brady talked about his experience working in the game business as an environment artist.

James Brady talked about his experience working in the game business as an environment artist.



Hi, my name is James Brady. An experienced AAA artist, who was featured on gaming press along with 3D Artist’s October magazine release with a tutorial in Unreal Engine Lighting. I have written this article to hopefully create awareness of one’s journey into the industry and maybe inspire someone who’s dream is to make video games. In doing this, I will be sharing some personal experiences along with what I can recommend to break into this exciting industry. 

My Journey

My journey started when I was at the very young age of 3. My dad worked at a graphic design company in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the 90’s which had Apple Macintosh computers along with Bungie’s marathon and Bullfrog Productions big hit ‘Syndicate’. He would sneak me in after work hours to bash away at multiplayer sessions for hours on end ‘along with a quick shop run for orange juice and cookies!’ I knew from this moment onwards, I was destined to make video games. 

At the later age of 18, I realized transitioning into this industry would not be as smooth as I initially thought. After graduating with a 1-year diploma which had no game related tutoring at all within its curriculum, I felt quite lost and confused and I guess disappointed that getting a job was not as a simple as having a qualification. Like so many others, I decided to then pursue a HND in Game Design in a small town called Derry in Northern Ireland with the hopes that at least I will get some kind of job after. After a couple of months, I stumbled upon a website called ‘Polycount‘ which is a community ranging from industry grizzilies to budding grunts trying to get their first job! I immediately felt at home. After starting a few threads and sending messages back and forward, I decided to drop out of my college studies and move back home to focus on my portfolio, much to my parent’s dismay.  


After several years of working on several mods along with building an portfolio whilst working not so nice jobs along with frustration, shed tears and so forth, I managed to land my first every industry gig at a game’s studio in the UK called ‘The Creative Assembly on their latest release ‘Total War: Warhammer’. I was delighted!, I could not believe , that I actually got a job and would be working on a video game. I barely slept with anxiety/excitement leading up to my start date. 

Then came the scariest part. Having to embark on an adventure with a suitcase containing my computer/clothes and a monitor!

Starting Advice 

No matter what your background is or which place you come from, you can make your dreams in this industry become a reality. In saying this, everybody has a different story, let it be indie developers, AAA industry pros or even people who want to go into teaching. We all share the same passion, to make video games. 

As a student or budding artist, your biggest challenge will be deciding which aspect of the industry you would like to dive into! Let it be Animation, Character Art, Rigging, Environment Art, Design or even Weapon Art. This will always be the most overwhelming part of your journey! Thankfully most universities offer degree’s in each aspect but it’s very important that you hone and focus your skills on one area. I would always recommend taking a general game design course before taking on a degree, that way you will be able to taste all flavors and find your niche before deciding which road you embark on. 

Remember: The cliché of ‘sitting around playing video games all day’ does not exist. A Portfolio demonstrating your ability in one focused area is also ‘key’.

Make Contacts/Connections

It’s very important that you always try to be visible when developing as a budding artist. This can easily be done by joining websites such as Polycount, ArtStation or even Mapcore. Not only will this allow you to be inspired by other’s work and make friends, it will also allow you to get professional critique when posting your Work In Progress shots of your own game art and also become visible to those who are hiring. People will quickly be able to see how passionate you are and you will also quickly find yourself getting better too.


What software should I be learning?

I’ll start this by saying, time is money and in this industry, studios try to use software they can find to quickly achieve great results in short amount of time. Depending on which course you choose, I would start by learning what they teachIf it’s an animation course, they most likely will use Autodesk Maya for Animation/Rigging/unwrapping and modeling. If it’s a game art related course, they will most likely teach Autodesk 3Ds Max for unwrapping and modeling. All related courses will most likely use Zbrush for any organic art creation such as character art or sculpting rocks and so forth. I would recommend making sure you are joining a university that teaches Autodesk software and does not just teach 3d packages such as Blender.

When it comes to baking your Normal and AO maps, there’s usually isn’t a ‘go to’ piece of software since there are so many options now. Personally I use xNormal for baking but it usually differ’s depending on which studio you join. Some even have in-house tools for this. 

When it comes to texturing, studios usually like to keep a solid texturing pipeline which all employee’s even outsourcing artists abide by. They will either most likely use Substance Designer/Painter or Quixel Suite. They will use Photoshop with either package too so it’s best to try each of these packages and figure out which one fits your workflow and learn them inside out. 

Great I have my degree and a pretty good portfolio. Only one problem. There are no game studios in my country

lot of people face this problem as a lot of countries like Ireland do not have any highly established studios. There are usually two options which you can avail of. You can either become a freelance artist which many do and be quite successful or you can embark on moving to another country and joining a studio as an in-house employee. Each adventure has their own challenges but this will only help you develop as an individual within this industry. 



Starting out in this industry may be overwhelming and you may feel extremely intimidated and small but remember, we all started there. With enough consistency/time/effort and perseverance, you will achieve that dream job. It will be a bumpy road and many tears will be shed but remember, as long as you have that passion and desire, with enough hours of consistent hard work, you will land your first job. It’s an exciting time to join the industry so never feel like you won’t be a good fit, even if you aren’t successful for an animation role, the studio might considering taking you on as a rigger.

Even when you have landed your industry dream job or even just graduated with a degree from a university, your learning should never stop. Always remember to keep up to date with industry standard software or technology. Who knows! You might even find a quick and cheap way to do things!

In not keeping up to date with industry standard, you will find yourself quickly falling behind and becoming harder to hire if you are not current with today’s standard. 

A good portfolio is always key!. A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that a good qualification will grant them their first industry job which is not the case, not with game artists. A portfolio full of personal projects shows commitment/dedication/passion and most importantly initiative. No studio wants to open a portfolio site consisting of college assignment work. ¶

When working on your portfolio. Make sure you specialize! It is very important to understand which area you want to work in and focus your portfolio not only on that but also on the art direction of the studio you are joining!. This shows your passion for that studio and its games. It also shows that you know exactly what you want to do along with your strongest skill set. If you want to be an environment artist, don’t fill your portfolio with weapons and characters.¶

Last but not least, Quality over quantity. A portfolio with many pieces of work that are half assed wont impress any art director. Keep it small and showcase your best work. That one environment you made could be the piece that lands you your first gig!.

James Brady, 3d artist

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Comments 2

  • Banner75

    This is like a good guidance counselor pep talk. Thanks for this!



    ·7 years ago·
  • Vytautas Udalovas

    This is exactly what I needed right now. I'm studying Game Design and I will have to find an internship soon. Thank you!


    Vytautas Udalovas

    ·7 years ago·

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