Getting into any industry requires a skill-set applicable to the job you want at the very least. When it comes to creative industries things get complicated though, it’s not just get the skill get the job; sometimes you may not have a skill but land the job for other reasons. This makes giving advice (and getting it) hard to do in the games industry.
One thing that keeps getting mentioned by people I talk to who work in the world of gaming have done so by making games. It sounds obvious but it cannot be overstated how important actually making a game is. Go make a board game, a quick and dirty flash game, make a live-action game.
A finished (or almost finished) game shows that can you can convince of an idea and make it happen, and hopefully make it fun.
Now go make a game!
You probably aren’t making a game right now. Lucky for you since Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber have gotten into the games industry and they have shared their advice in book form, here’s an excerpt:
Question: Lots of stuff I learn in school seems like it has nothing to do with actually making games for a living. What classes did you take that were the most useful on the job?
Ian: In other words, you want to know what you should pay attention to, and which classes you can safely ignore or sleep through. If you are just taking classes to get a piece of paper, or if you are the kind of person who tries to do just the bare minimum to get by, you will probably not enjoy working in the game industry. It’s an industry where you are expected to be passionate and go above and beyond the minimum on a regular basis, so this would be a good time to consider a career change.
But that’s not what you want to hear. You want to know, with so many subjects competing for your attention, where do you put the effort so that your time is used the most effectively?
First, whatever your major is, concentrate on the core classes that form the major requirements (art classes for artists, computer science classes for programmers, and so on). This is your primary competency, so you want to be competent. That much is obvious.
Second, pay attention to the classes that are relevant to other fields of game development. If you’re a programmer, take art and design and audio and production classes if you can find them, for example. This gives you an appreciation for the work that your teammates do, lets you speak and be understood even across departmental lines, and lets you do your own job in a way that makes things easier and more efficient for the rest of your team.
Third, pay attention to your electives that seem like they have nothing to do with game development. Sometimes they are shockingly relevant if you just look at it the right way; a class in World History might seem useless until you find yourself working on a historically-based game, for example, at which point that history class suddenly becomes the thing that gets you hired. The more random little tidbits there are about you, the better your chances of accidentally falling into the perfect position.