David Wescott, a recent graduate with first class honours from Staffordshire University London, has carved a unique path to success in the gaming industry as a Gameplay Systems Programmer at South Westerly Games. His journey is not only a testament to his resilience and determination but also highlights the importance of adaptability and continuous learning in the ever-evolving landscape of game development.
David discovered his current job role through unconventional means – Discord forums with job postings. His ability to navigate online platforms showcases the diverse avenues available for job seekers especially within the gaming field. This serves as a reminder that networking can happen in unexpected places, and being active in relevant online communities can open doors to exciting opportunities.
Despite not directly applying his university coursework in his current role, David acknowledges the valuable skills acquired during his time at Staffordshire University London. The workflow of working with C++ and Blueprints, the visual scripting language in Unreal Engine, exhibits parallels, enabling him to streamline the process of system creation. The ability to prototype rapidly in Blueprints before transitioning to C++ reflects the practical skills gained during his academic journey.
David emphasises the significance of a strong portfolio and advises students to curate a portfolio that highlights projects they are genuinely proud of, along with concise explanations and short videos demonstrating the functionality. He recalled, “Make your portfolio look good. Don't litter it with everything you've done at university, only put things on there that you're actually proud of and are happy to talk about in detail if asked about. If you wanted to follow in my footsteps, I would suggest showcasing projects/games that you have made, along with some of the Blueprint logic. It doesn't need to be the entire thing, even if the majority of it is collapsed into functions, macros or just collapsed graphs. Also show exactly what that piece of logic does in a short video next to it. A lot of the time it's not actually technical-oriented people looking at your portfolio in the first place”.
In an effort to land his dream job, David actively sought out networking opportunities. David went to speak to Indie Devs at Expos and took opportunities to work events that would be focused in those areas. He mentions, “Have a conversation with them, ask about their game, ask how they made a specific thing that you like about their game! You don't need to do prior research for this, just play their game, or observe someone else playing it. Also don't be afraid to connect with people randomly on LinkedIn! If you have a studio in mind that you'd like to work for, try and connect with some of their recruiters, or specific people and ask how to get into the company and expectations, or how said individual got into the position they're in now! People in the industry are usually very nice, just be nice in return”. He encourages students not only to seek advice but also to approach networking with genuine curiosity and politeness.
Soft skills, such as communication, confidence, and a keen desire to learn, played a pivotal role in David’s success. His 'I want to learn' attitude, coupled with a friendly demeanour, showcases the importance of interpersonal skills in a collaborative industry like game development.
David’s decision to apply to South Westerly Games, despite them initially seeking mid-level systems gameplay programmer, paid off. The indie studio's small team and work-from-home option aligned with his preferences. In receiving the role, David said, “So that goes to show, apply for roles that are above your experience, anything could happen!”. This success story encourages aspiring developers to take initiative, apply for positions that may seem out of reach, and showcase their passion for the industry.
The skill of rapid prototyping, honed during David’s university projects, has proven invaluable at South Westerly Games. This ability to swiftly implement core mechanics and fine-tune them aligns seamlessly with the demands of his current projects. It underlines the practical applicability of academic learnings in real-world scenarios.
David expressed gratitude to both academic and support staff at the university during his time studying on his degree. Their guidance and support were instrumental in shaping his academic journey and preparing him for the challenges of the industry.
David’s success story serves as an inspiration to Staffordshire University London students and aspiring game developers everywhere. It reinforces the idea that success often stems from a combination of technical skills, soft skills, networking, and a proactive attitude. The journey from student to industry professional may not follow a straight line, but with perseverance and a passion for learning, aspiring developers can navigate the twists and turns towards a fulfilling career.