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I'm a UK student, I'm currently studying a foundation in art. I'm pretty lost regarding what kind of career I'd want to head into but the whole concept art/entertainment design/pre-production design work areas did pique my interest, and I've got a few questions relating to that which I'd really appreciate some help with.
One of the university courses I looked at was a game art course covering all the 2D design work and 3D modelling/texturing work, and it was a really helpful eye-opener to me, and it also has a pretty good employment rate for graduates. The thing is I've heard a lot of horror stories about working in video games and how they work people to the bone and burn them out with really long crunch working hours and compulsory overtime, bad management, etc etc. Since a lot of you work in this industry, I'd be really interested to know what it is actually like to work in? Is it really that bad or is it just a case of a minority of really bad companies getting a lot of publicity?
Another thing is that whilst I've seen games courses, I was wondering how you even get into the film/television industry as a designer. So I guess I'd like to know what kind of work there actually is and what you'd be doing, how much of that work is out there, and how would you go about working in films? Do I need to study in America?
Games are as bad as you have heard or worse. Especially with the younger workforce willing to trade anything to keep their job, it is more like indentured servitude than a normal job. They pay you for forty hours and expect you to work up to 70 or 80 a week for no extra pay. Crunch time is now perpetual instead of limited to the last couple of months of production.
Film work is a little better but not as stable with projects being spread out more than games. Movies tend to have a higher level of professionalism. Look up studios in your area or country. Most film production companies also do TV and Corporate video production even some game production. The bar to get in is set higher than games with people in film crossing into games when they need work but most game artists lacking the skills to work in film and TV. You will have to have a better portfolio for film that is why the game industry is so flooded, the bar is set so much lower..
It really depends on you, all of those stuff. At the moment the 3D modelling and texturing work is the most required. I think that pretty much every professional have their horror stories but this kind of thing depends on the ability to pick up clients and to be extremely clear about your ratings. Anyway if you're looking for an easy work or a non time consuming one well... you have to manage your time extremely well in order to live a normal life doing this job.
To work on films, well... i won't try to be a marine biologist that live on a mountain of course, you'd better to take in consideration to move where the big film industries are. Of course there's always the possibility to do freelance but it's a tough life and not everyone can do it. The biggest problem is to become part of that industry anyway and the best way to do it is to study where you have the possibility to do it directly from the inside.
In my experience, I had both the killer soul-taking job and the cool right-on-time thing... I think its base is in your negotiation power and wether you're willing to work on something. How pleasant it should be to you. Some companies think you gotta work as a slave and take you to the limit, until you get sick and start crying with your limbs turning into mashed meat from too much drawing and your girlfriend doesn't distinguish you from a caveman for lack of shaving...
Personally I think they're gonna take you till where you let them. They need you if you're not as replaceable. There's indeed a ton of people doing the same thing, but that's the trick. Expertise gives you power to negotiate. Also, as Hitsu said, I think it's related to your time managing...
My father is a neurosurgeon. He had times when he had to work all week through, had surgeries that lasted 10 - 16 hours - brain surgery isn't something you can just make a mistake or keep doing it later when you're fine - and when I started what he said to me is that he tries to enjoy what he's doing... By doing that, I think I don't care how much time I'm taking to do something, considering I keep my body/mind healthy, I'm being rightfully paid for my time and I enjoy doing it. That's why it's important to take a job you really want and you know your limits. Nobody is putting a gun against your head and saying "work, b$tch!!!"
and if someone does that to you, there are laws and you can always quit. But smart companies do have a program related to your competence. they'll not let you stay past hours even for legal reasons... Long story short, it's all based on what you're looking for, how you're enjoying it, your powers of negotiation and your behaviour in responsibility and time-managing.
but most of all, YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE. have your own opinion, mate. It's good to have bad times, sometimes, when they teach you
Hope this helps.
Lots of great info guys thanks for sharing!
Lots of great info, but I just wanted to add to be a little careful of games courses. They tend to give you a jack-of-all-trades training (concept art, modeling, texturing, animation, effects) when actually, in the industry, all of those are specialist areas - that is, you'll be hired for only one of them. If you know what you want to do, you are far better off taking a degree where you study just that - for example, if you want to be a concept artist, study illustration or fine art, and if you want to be an animator, study animation. Otherwise you might find yourself in the position a lot of graduates find themselves in (myself included) - not enough specialist knowledge and a portfolio that is all over the place instead of tailored to a particular job role.
I haven't worked in the games industry, but have spoken to people who do, and they all affirmed that you really need to LOVE games to work in the games industry. It really has to be your life's obsession such that you are willing to give up a lot for it, which is why I personally changed my mind about it after doing a games-oriented course. There are so many people wanting to work in games that companies can take their pick of staff - they literally have hundreds of applicants for every position. That's why you hear about those in the industry being worked so hard and taken advantage of, unfortunately. Unless you are really extraordinary, there are a hundred other guys they can replace you with if you don't like it! If you can cope with the uncertainty of freelancing, that does seem the better option.