Get into Games

Grads in Games offers excellent portfolio and demo tips for programmers and CV advice for the games field.

Whether you’re a programmer or an artist, video gaming is a booming industry showing no signs of slowing down. In 2016 the gaming industry made over $91 billion globally – to put that into context, that’s almost three times as much as the film industry!

Aardvark Swift has been placing candidates with big names in industry for the past 25 years. We’ve worked closely with companies like Nintendo and Activision, so we know exactly what studios, big and small, are looking for when hiring graduates and we’re here to pass on that knowledge!

What are studios looking for?

When applying for any job it’s important to source what the employer is looking for and tailor your CV accordingly. To help with this, we sent round a survey to a number of developers to find out what makes a standout graduate in their eyes.

Junior Programmers

The top three points that came back, without fail, were strong C++ and maths skills, and a solid, clear portfolio.

In addition to these three skills, the following also came up quite commonly:

  • C# & unity
  • Demonstrable problem solving ability
  • Unreal 4 experience
  • Cross Platform Demo’s (released)
  • Physics (implementation and tech demos)
  • UX / UI design
  • Optimised code
  • Hardware knowledge
  • Python and Maxxscript
  • Front end knowledge – HTML 5 / Javascript
  • Object orientated programming
  • Communication skills

Junior Artists

When asked, studios said above all else that they look for graduates with demonstrable experience in Maya, Max, Illustrator and / or Photoshop.

After these main points, things started to split up depending on the type of studio. Smaller studios looked for graduates with the versatility to cover a number of different roles and skills, whereas bigger AAA studios preferred that their graduates be specialised in areas such as a 2D art, 3D art or technical art.

For 2D artists, studios looked for evidence of UI, Concept and Illustrator.

For 3D artists, studios wanted to see a strong Environment portfolio (including assets / props, organic modelling and vehicles), or Character portfolio.

When looking for technical artists, they wanted their graduates to have good material or shading authoring experience in Unreal Material editor or HLSL, an understanding of graphics content optimization, and knowledge of Python, Mel or Maxxscirpt scripting.


A good portfolio is as essential as a good CV – it can make or break a job offer. There’s no excuse for not having a portfolio in the internet age; websites such as Weebly, WordPress and Wix are all more than capable of hosting the work of a programming or art student.

When it comes to portfolios, quality is definitely more important than quantity – make sure to cherry pick your best work, an employer isn’t going to spend time flicking through your whole work archive.

Work Layout

  • You’ll want to show off at least one completed game or a couple of examples of your art.
  • Overview – Introduce the work and let the reader know what technical skills you used. If you’re a programmer, let the reader know what role you had in the creation of the game.
  • Images – Show off key features of your game, or the design process of your finished piece. If you’re showing off 3D art, show the piece from multiple angles.
  • Video – run the viewer through a demo of your game. Keep it short and sweet, videos which run longer than three minutes experience a dramatic drop in viewing. If you’re an artist, consider adding a slideshow of your work.
  • Consider what order your work is shown in during a slideshow or show reel. Open with a strong example to get the viewer interested and end on a high note.
  • Source code or a link to the game store.

Improve your Employability


Employers understand that you’re not likely to have work experience in a studio upon graduation, but there are certain things you can do to improve your employability – competitions are a great way of doing this.

Aardvark Swift hosts two annual competitions which can help you stand out from the crowd. Search For A Star and Rising Star are both three stage competitions for university students of all years designed to mimic a standard recruitment process in the video game industry.

Students pick their speciality from code, character art, environmental art, animation and VFX, and go onto build their portfolio, receive personal work and interview feedback from industry professionals, and even have a shot of an interview with a leading design studio!