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The Changing Landscape for Game Industry Recruiting

As the recruitment processes in GameDev have been changing along with the whole industry, game studios and artists seeking for job opportunities started to face a number of pressing problems. New 80 Level RFP service has been designed to rectify those issues and make the recruitment more efficient. 


Video games have become one of the fastest-growing segments of the entertainment industry over the last decade, and the numbers are staggering. GlobalData believes that the video game industry will be worth $300 billion by 2025. And according to Newzoo, the total number of players has grown rapidly, reaching more than 2.5 billion globally in 2019.

Demand for a Rare Breed of Talent

With the money flowing in, there’s more pressure on game production than ever before. Game development studios are tasked with pushing out high-quality games at an astonishing pace. To meet this level of demand, studio heads are rapidly incorporating new technologies like photogrammetry, AI-powered design, and procedural generation solutions, as they can save time and limit labor costs. This surge has also increased the pressure on recruiters, who are now being tasked with sourcing even higher-caliber employees — individuals who not only possess all the soft skills necessary for office work, keen awareness of fundamental artistic concepts, and incredible artistic production skills but who can also demonstrate expertise with these new production technologies.

Outdated Tools for Modern Challenges

Finding such specific talent is incredibly tough, especially considering that the tools available to recruiters don’t reflect the current needs of the industry. In fact, the most popular tactic for sourcing talent today is still posting open jobs online and hoping that the right candidate replies. And while this does deliver some results, recruiters often waste valuable time by continuing to use a simplistic process to locate high-quality candidates with complex skill sets. The majority of replies to these job postings are usually unhelpful, as between 80 and 90 percent of responses are either unrelated to its needs or don’t reflect the necessary level of expertise. Detailed descriptions of requirements don’t help much either, as many candidates often brush past them in an effort to secure any job they can. This volume of irrelevant and unqualified responses hampers the hiring process and saps vital resources — and even when larger companies organize entire recruiting departments around this process, it remains inefficient.

The Fierce Hunt for Technical Talent

There’s another trend rising in the recruiting business, and it couldn’t be more relevant for the game industry. According to Harvard Business Review, most people who started a new job in 2018 weren’t actually looking for one. This means that the fight for qualified candidates isn’t necessarily restricted to applicants, and may involve viewing a competitor’s workforce as a viable resource pool — even when corporations are seeking their own in-house recruiters. Some companies have even advertised nonexistent positions in order to attract talent that they hope will one day become more useful to them. Unfortunately, this level of competition for talent has made the tech hiring environment quite contentious, and it has only gotten worse with time.

As job postings have become less effective and candidates are actively searching less for new positions, game companies have increasingly sought outside help through the use of recruiting agencies. In fact, 40% of US companies have outsourced much if not all of the hiring process to “recruitment process outsourcers.” These agencies employ direct, brute-force tactics, scouring for potential candidates on LinkedIn and other social media platforms, sending many direct messages, and making many cold calls. Unfortunately, most recipients regard this outreach as spam and block or ignore it, proving that hiring cannot always be accomplished by sheer force of will alone.

Another way in which tech hiring has changed is through the increased use of anonymous (or blind) recruitment, which has become especially popular in Silicon Valley in the search for engineering talent. In anonymous recruitment, candidates upload their resumes or portfolios to a web platform by creating an account and choosing a handle. They don’t share their personal information unless they are invited to the final round(s) of the process for a personal interview, at which point they are no longer anonymous — and if all goes well and they are hired, the web platform receives a commission. 

It’s true that anonymous recruiting has some advantages, such as restricting potential bias and placing a greater focus on candidates’ technical qualifications. But there is no foolproof way to remove all bias from a hiring process, as things like a candidate’s handle or gaps in their employment history may inadvertently reveal their gender, ethnicity, or language skills. Plus, a personal interview is almost always eventually included, so bias may simply be delayed instead of eliminated. Additionally, companies that place a high value on their workplace culture may discover very late in the process that a candidate they’re evaluating has suboptimal soft or social skills. In all of these cases, the company will have wasted time and cost.

Finding Respect for Candidates

While recruitment processes have changed to meet video game developers’ evolving talent needs, one thing hasn’t been appropriately taken into account — respect for candidates. And it’s been this way for a long time.

Studios with AAA projects or big-name franchises tend to hire hundreds of people at once. Artistic talent will jump at the chance, as it’s a great opportunity to be associated with a well-known or respected company or property. However, the lucky ones who get hired are often only given short-term contracts and are left stranded as soon as the title ships. This has happened so often in the game industry that it has unfortunately become a generally accepted practice. And after repeatedly experiencing these circumstances, game artists as a whole have begun to expect that this situation will eventually occur regardless of where they’re hired. Consequently, they don’t feel connected to their jobs or employers and find it very easy to leave when a new offer arrives, ultimately hurting studios in the process.

The nature of relationships between game studios and their employees has, in effect, become damaged. But it’s precisely this issue that the 80 Level RFP service seeks to rectify.

Based on the popular 80 Level website, the 80 Level RFP service puts respect for game artists and their needs at the forefront, recognizing that the people who perform the day-to-day work of building amazing games are the key to every studio’s success. Even as its roster grows, 80 Level RFP knows that working artists deserve great opportunities that also let them maintain their dignity, and this important principle has guided the service’s development.

Every artist’s profile on 80 Level RFP lets companies submit requests directly to them using either a template or their own custom form. These questionnaires help recruiters get up-front answers to their most important questions, including those pertaining to skill sets, technical proficiencies, compensation, benefits, culture, relocation, and more. The service also works perfectly for freelancers, as it cuts down the time spent searching and quickly puts artists in direct contact with the right people. Most importantly, artists’ profiles clearly display if they are actively looking for work, helping to resolve many of the inefficiencies and qualification gaps that job postings, cold calls/messages, and similar hiring processes still regularly contend with.

Because 80 Level RFP is a talent-first platform, artists who seek to build and maintain a profile with the service can do so for free. However, for companies interested in reviewing profiles and submitting requests to the service’s wide range of talented artists, there is a cost. But when one compares the service’s price to the cost equivalent of placing several antiquated, inefficient, unpredictably successful job postings online per month — all without the chance to customize a direct-response RFP for up-front answers to their most basic questions — it’s easy to see how much more value per dollar 80 Level RFP offers to companies and/or tech hiring teams. 

Final Words

As with technology itself, hiring needs in the game industry will continue to become more advanced as time goes on. But for each significantly more complex hiring need, the pool of available and qualified candidates shrinks. And with the industry’s immense growth projected to continue far into this decade, production is showing no signs of slowing down. It’s become clear that to meet rising demand, the inefficient tools used by game industry recruiters must become more evolved themselves. Most importantly, companies must begin to show artists the respect that they deserve for their creative abilities and dedication — and by doing this, establish deeper bonds with their employees, earn greater loyalty in an increasingly competitive environment, and take the first steps toward repairing a deeply broken system.

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Comments 1

  • joshua.batson

    There are many conflicting statements in this article, but I think the problem can be summarised from two quotes found in the 'Final Words' section.

    "But for each significantly more complex hiring need, the pool of available and qualified candidates shrinks."

    "Most importantly, companies must .. take the first steps toward repairing a deeply broken system."

    I've been trying to get into the game development industry for quite a while now, and despite funding and building my own project, as well as teaching myself all of the necessary tools to make it, I have been turned down by over 60 game companies in the UK alone.

    The line that I always hear - and that's assuming they respond - is a variant of "You don't have enough experience."

    While employing someone on the basis of their competence is a fair and reasonable approach, the decision is generally based solely on the applicants portfolio. Anything else they submit, such as their résumé and cover letter, are immediately dismissed (though, this can vary between studios).

    This is a problem, because When an applicant doesn't meet the artistic or technical criteria but is otherwise reasonably close, it doesn't mean that they incapable of achieving the expectations listed in the vacancy. So, it's up to the studio, or recruitment agency, to identify other potentially beneficial qualities that can make up for it.

    Perhaps the applicant has a keen interest in weaponry, can write, bake, knows a bit of coding, and on top of that, they may actually be a reasonable, pleasant, healthy, and inspiring individual.

    However, none of that is taken into consideration because studios want someone that matches the criteria 100% - no questions.

    So, if companies aren't willing to invest, or at least negotiate with applicants, how can the pool of talent continue to grow? And if companies aren't willing to discuss expectations, or provide feedback, how do the potential candidates know which areas to improve?

    In the time these studios spend on seeking "available and qualified" candidates, they could be training someone else at a fraction of the cost, but that means taking a risk, and taking a risk means stepping out of their rigid framework, or 'comfort zone', i.e. the place which they are afraid to leave.

    Let's compare the situation to a typical housing rental contract.

    Some landlords like to spend as little as possible on maintaining the property, and the same can be said for some tenants.

    As a result, contracts become longer, more rigid, and more boring, which means that the landlords who do invest in the property suffer, and tenants who look after the property suffer - until one day, they discover each other.

    "Oh, wow, a tenant who looks after the property!" - "Oh, wow, a landlord who invests in the property!"

    Let's apply the same thought process to a game studio.

    Some studios crack the whip and treat their employees like worker bees, while some employees are downright lazy and uninspired.

    As a result, contracts become longer, more rigid, and more boring, which means that the studios who do encourage a work/life balance suffer, and employees who strive to do good work and help out when the going gets tough suffer - until one day, they discover each other.

    "Oh, wow, an employee who wants to do good work and appreciates the company ethos!" - "Oh, wow, a studio who invests in the health of it's employees!"

    Now, should we apply the thought process to game recruitment?

    It should really then come as no surprise that the pool of talent is seemingly non-existent which, by the way, isn't true, or, at least it's not as bad as you think it is.

    However, this depends on many, many factors, as you may be recruiting for an extremely niche set of skills, or the population count may be small, or the educational facilities in your country of origin simply don't teach the kind of skills that you require, or, maybe, just maybe, the pool of potentially awesome talent are fed up of hearing the same damn thing.

    "You don't have enough experience."

    So, if their work isn't good enough and they receive absolutely no guidance, AND on top of that nothing else they have to offer is even taken into consideration (not even a heartfelt cover letter, or brilliant résumé), you will find yourself with no talent.

    In fact, while I'm at it, I think it's worth briefly mentioning over-population and mortality and illness - and what better time to talk about it when there is a global pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of people.

    Studios receive a lot of applications and from a purely logistical perspective, simply don't have the time or manpower to sift through everything, at least not in great detail (not accounting for rigidity). So, they may rely on specific talent, such as freelancers. However, if that person(s) suddenly passes away, becomes gravely ill, or has to take time out - what then?

    And when there are so many people to choose from, are you really going to let your rigid recruitment process stop you from finding the person who could change the world of gaming?

    I'm scratching the surface here, but I think it's at least a good starting point for understanding how to fix the problem, or at least make it better.

    Like everything in life, it will never be perfect, and though it may trip every now and then, if reasonable people make reasonable decisions, it will at least continue being good, instead of progressively worse.



    ·4 years ago·

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