Writing a Resume for a Game Company

by Darius Kazemi on April 20, 2009

in breakingin,resumes

Whenever I get a resume from a student looking for an internship, I end up giving them an impromptu resume critique. I give the same advice over and over, so I decided to just write it up here. Next time I get a resume from someone I will just send them a link to this article.

Forget What You’ve Been Told

I know you’ve probably read your college career center guidelines on writing resumes. Understand this: college career centers are designed to get you a job at a giant faceless company doing something like, I dunno, paper distribution or enterprise databases. These career centers generally know nothing about getting you a job in the game industry. Most game companies are small. Almost all game companies have fewer than 1,000 employees. In fact, most game companies employ fewer than 200 people, and many game companies are in the 30 to 100 person range.

Your college career center tells you to include a clear objective at the top. All of your contact information. Your complete employment history. Your education with relevant coursework. Honors and awards. Activities and special interests.

Your college career center is giving you mostly bad advice.

So throw that out the window. Pretend you never learned any of that stuff.

What a Resume is For

Remember this: the purpose of a resume is to get you an interview. That’s it. That’s all it’s for. I don’t care what is on your resume, if it intrigues me enough for me to want to set up a phone call or an on-site interview, your resume did its job.

Length, and Use of Space

Your resume should not be longer than one page, for a couple of reasons:

  • Many game companies get scores of applications for internships and jobs. Imagine being the person screening all those applications. Brevity will be appreciated.
  • If you are a college student, you have not done enough interesting stuff to merit a resume that is more than one page long. Once you’ve been in the industry for twenty years — yeah, you’ve earned it. Go wild and make it two pages!

Because you’re keeping it to one page, you have to view the resume as a game of limited resources, where the resource in question is space. When I’m reviewing a resume, I often look at it in terms of number of lines of text taken up by something.

I see resumes all the time with entries like this:

Work Experience

Yoyodyne Corporation, Boston, MA Summer 2008. Intern under John Smith and Jane Doe. Fixed computers, diagnosed network problems, maintained IT ticketing sytem.


Baseball, Winter 2002 – Present. Awesome University: varsity team member. Hometown High School: team captain, led team to fifth place in regional championships.

This resume dedicates the same number of lines to baseball as job experience. What you are telling me is that your experience playing baseball is every bit as relevant as your experience working in IT. This is not a very good way to position yourself on a resume.

Here’s a much improved example:

Work Experience

Yoyodyne Corporation, Boston, MA Summer 2008. Diagnosed computer problems in both hardware and software, assisted in data recovery, placed purchase orders for office computers, adminstered a network of 200 computers including routers/switches/hubs, maintained our RT ticketing sytem, trained new IT interns on proper use of RT.


College and High School Baseball, Winter 2002 – Present.

It’s the same number of lines as our previous example, but now you’ve managed to tell me more about your relevant work experience and reduced the baseball stuff to the only part that could be possibly relevant: you play baseball. I get it. (Also note that I got rid of the names of people you worked with. If I want to know who you worked with, I’ll ask.)


I had a conversation with Jeff Ward about formatting. He thinks you should put your work experience in bullet point format, because it’s more readable that way. I happen to like a comma-separated list, because I like the information density. I think formatting on that level just comes down to the particular person reading the resume, so I wouldn’t sweat it.

I will say this: keep your resume clean, make good use of negative space, put your name in pretty big font, and cram all your contact information into the top inch of your resume. The reason for the last one is I often see resumes where the contact information takes up literally half the vertical space on the page. Again, it comes down to what’s important enough to use that space.

Here’s a quick example I just threw together of how the header might be laid out in my resume. Note that my name is big, and right below it is a short summary of why you might care about me. To the right of that information is my fake contact info, and to the right of that is my personal avatar to give you something to remember me by. Note that I built this in five minutes with Scribus, I did not pay any attention to alignment or font or sizes or whatever — this is merely to show you a general layout of elements on a page:

If you don’t want to use a package like Scribus to lay out your resume, you can use tables in Microsoft Word to the same effect — setting the tables to “invisible” will get you the same effect of stacking text in columns.

Stay Relevant

For the love of all things holy, recall that you are applying for a job in game development. I do not care that you were a sandwich artist at Subway. I do not care that you were a waiter.

The stuff you include doesn’t have to be game development per se, it just has to be relevant. I might care that you worked part time for your dad’s accounting firm, but only if you include specifically that you know a lot about Microsoft Excel from that experience. If you worked as an artist on an animated film, okay, now you’re in the realm of complete relevancy, even though that isn’t a game job per se.

And if you don’t have enough experience and can’t really fill all the space in your resume… maybe you should be spending your time doing things relevant to game development. Work on a game in your spare time, for example. That’s way more helpful than anything you’ll do for a random summer job.

Also, if you are in college, I don’t care about what you did in high school, unless it is very very specifically game related. So if you made some games in high school, let me know about those. If you ran a game review website in high school, by all means tell me. But I don’t care about other stuff. Your SAT scores? Useless to me. Student activities? Useless. Even your AP courses are useless — if you’re applying for a programming job, AP Computer Science is irrelevant because I would hope you’ve taken higher level computer science courses in college.

Include a Projects Section

Game developers don’t care about your credentials. Where you graduated from, what classes you took, that only matters a tiny bit. What we care about is what you have done. So please include a section for projects you’ve done. This includes games or mods you’ve made on the side, as well as non-trivial school projects (final projects for classes and the like).

I looked at a resume today that said the following:


(Name of Game 1): A side-scroller game built using XNA 2.0

(Name of Game 2): A platform game built using XNA 3.0

That nice, and I’m really glad you’re letting me know you’ve built games in XNA. But could you be more descriptive? Maybe tell me some of the stuff you implemented for those games? Better yet, just include a URL to a web site where I can download the game, or see its source code, or even just view a video of some of the gameplay. That would all be excellent.

Speaking of which…

Link Me to Your Website

You should have a website with lots of interesting, relevant stuff on it. And then include the link in your resume. You can read more about this in my article about what your website should contain.

I am Not a Moron

It’s true. I’m not an idiot. So I can tell when you’re padding. Stop doing it, it makes you look like a desparate liar.

I Have Friends

Also true. If you claim to have worked at a game company, you’d better damn well have worked at that game company. Because I know people who work there, and I will call them and ask them about you. And if they say they never worked with you… woe betide, my friend. Woe betide. (And yes, this has happened before.)

Do Your Research

Look up information about the company you’re applying to. In the case of a small company like mine, look up information about me. About once a month I get a resume from a 3D artist looking for a position at a game company. I write them back to let them know that if they’d read our company’s website, they’d know that we essentially make database software for game developers and as such have no possible need for 3D artists.

This is a two-way street: if you research my company and send me a resume that’s chock full of all the database development work you did in college, I am almost guaranteed to get in touch with you.

There Are Always Exceptions

Be clever and think for yourself — my advice may not be right for you. For example, I said that I don’t care about stuff you did in high school. But if you look me up you’ll find out that I am really interested in hardware hacking. So if you did some robotics stuff in high school, you should throw it on the resume you send me, because I’ll probably find that interesting. That’s just smart. (But don’t include it on resumes you send to other people.)

Also, if you have made like a dozen games, and worked four different game development internships, and have done a ton of other relevant stuff, your resume doesn’t have to be one page long. It can be two pages long. But that’s only once you’ve cut everything that is not specifically game-related.


Michel April 21, 2009 at 1:34 am

I include a list of software that I’m proficient in – Flash, Photoshop, Office/Visio, Dreamweaver, etc. Also skills, like ActionScript, and anything else that’s applicable to the position.

I recently had an interview at EA Mobile where these items were directly referred to. Instead of being asked something like “So what software do you know?” I was asked specifically about Flash and didn’t have to ramble on about my knowledge of stuff they didn’t care about (Dreamweaver, Premiere, etc).

jcaskey April 21, 2009 at 3:31 am

Hey Darius, those are some excellent points. You brought up a couple ideas that hadn’t occurred to me, but for the most part, a lot of it seems common sense. It’s still nice to have an affirmation of what makes up a good resume.

PS, good to see you again at GDX.

Tachevert April 21, 2009 at 4:05 am

Ha! I DID do a robotics project in high school — a stepper-motor based laser show. (The result of that project is, I would never recommend using a stepper motor for a laser show.) And I still include it on resumes to this day, because as you clearly state, robotics are pretty neat.

Max Nichols April 21, 2009 at 4:47 am

For the last few years, I always made sure to include the fact that I took martial arts courses for ten years, and taught for five, on my resume, even when it didn’t seem particularly relevant… simply because it’s fairly cool and could conceivably communicate something about my leadership, perseverance, communications skills, yadda yadda yadda. At this point I have more valuable things to put in that resume space, but I’m still curious: what are your thoughts on the importance/relevance of something like that?

It’s not directly related to games, but it does convey non-technical, non-specific skills that could conceivably be be useful in any number of areas, including game dev. Is that just a load of hot air, or does it actually convey something that you, as the person looking at the resume, find interesting?

Darius Kazemi April 21, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Max: keep it to one line.

“Ten years of martial arts, five years of teaching.”

Not too intrusive, and if I care, I’ll ask about it.

JW April 21, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Excellent post, thanks for the tips! I’ll definitely be tweaking my resume soon :)

Ian Schreiber April 22, 2009 at 10:27 pm

It might be worth adding, because I heard this echoed in about five different talks at GDX:

Spellcheck your resume. Now spellcheck it again. And again. Seriously, do it again.

Apparently, hiring managers get a lot of misspelled resumes. And in such a competitive industry, this is an easy and convenient way to get yourself first-pass eliminated.

Think of it this way: your resume can get you a five-figure salary fresh out of college. If you don’t have enough care and attention to detail to get something as simple as SPELLING right on a $50K piece of paper, what are you going to do to my $20M-budget game?

Okay, so that’s one thing your college career center will tell you that’s still relevant :)

Silvers May 5, 2009 at 10:52 am

That’s a really great post for young people especially the students who are just graduations.

Rob May 7, 2009 at 10:12 pm

Hi all,

Great blog post! That information was very useful as I’m a graduating college student looking for a full-time job right now. I know this is a little while after the initial posting, but I have three questions maybe you can answer:

1. I had sent my resume, cover letter and sample code to apply for a specific position (basically a junior programmer) at a game company. The company originally wasn’t hiring for that position at the time, but I had sent my resume in hopes that they would contact me in the future. I haven’t been contacted since; but I now see on their website they are actually hiring for that exact same position. My question is: Is it worth it to re-send my resume, cover letter and sample code? I don’t want to harass them by sending it multiple times. I might have already been rejected. But at the same time, perhaps they want to make the position open to everyone (via their website) before looking through the candidates that already emailed them.

2. Is it worth it to include a list of games I made as a student even I don’t think any one of these games really stands out? I mean they are good, but I wouldn’t want them to hurt my resume if there are no really “great” games there. I have a relatively high GPA, experience in the industry and have been active in a fair amount of game development related extracurricular activities – those were usually enough to get me jobs in the past.

3. If the company I am applying to is in another country, do I have less of a chance of getting hired? (The company is in Canada, whereas I’m in the U.S.) I mention this because of last month’s “Games Game” column: http://tinyurl.com/cjest3 Because he works at a small company, Tom Sloper says he looks only at applicants that are local and not from out of the state or out of the country. Even if the company doesn’t pay for relocation, I am still genuinely willing to move out of country for this position. Do I need to mention that in my cover letter or is that kind of implied?


CJ May 9, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Hi there, I was referred to this blog post by a game designer friend when I decided to apply for a (non-game dev) position at Blizzard, and I immediately got a follow-up call requesting an interview! Excellent advice, and thanks!

Darius Kazemi May 9, 2009 at 9:51 pm


1. If they never contacted you at all, it’s probably because they quickly rejected your resume. If they did get back to you once, you can write a followup email once you’ve waited a week.

2. List all your games, until it starts taking up too much space. Then start pruning them, starting with the weakest games first.

3. Tom’s advice generally holds. Put a note in the cover letter that you’re totally willing to move to Canada.

Rob May 10, 2009 at 1:37 am

Cool. Thanks for your help Darius!

shinn June 29, 2009 at 10:32 pm

Thanks for sharing your ideas on how to write a good resume…

Seth January 31, 2010 at 3:03 pm

I have a question about putting unreleased games on a resume. I worked on two games on my internship, but neither has been released yet. Should I write them down as “Unannounced game for X console” or something? Or ask somebody at the company I worked at what I can put?

Darius Kazemi April 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Gosh, I see I never got back to Seth. I think it’s because I was traveling at the end of January.

Anyway, sorry about that, and the answer to the question is: “Unannounced game for X console.” It’s very common. You need to check with the company, though: often even the console is secret. I’ve everything from “Unannounced next-gen game” to “FPS-RTS hybrid based on external IP for Xbox 360.”

Lucas February 23, 2010 at 10:37 am

Thanks for the advice, Darius. I’m sure much of it is worth following when applying outside of game development as well.

I wonder about the one-page limit, however. Most resumes are submitted electronically, so there’s no reason to concern yourself with paper and ink (right?), and, as you’ve pointed out, it’s good to leave enough space so that your resume is easy to read.

I can understand that limiting yourself to a single page is a good way to avoid writing too much, but if you’ve the ability to keep things brief and relevant, does it matter that you “cram all your contact information into the top inch of your resume?” Is a two-page PDF really that much worse than a single-page one?

Darius Kazemi February 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

In retrospect I think one page is a little harsh — but if you’re someone just coming out of college one page is probably a good limit unless you’ve been EXTREMELY exceptional.

For industry folks with a few years’ experience, two pages should be fine.

Livingston Datkowitz June 23, 2010 at 1:45 am

Great Advice! I’m currently restructuring my resume and have a question. There’s 6 or 7 games that I tested and was wondering if I should include them under my Projects section or treat them differently? The reason I’m asking is because I’m going back to school to study art and I feel listing the games I’ve tested under the Project section might seem out of place down the road. So, the question I guess is: should I mix tested projects along with projects I will do art for?


Darius Kazemi June 23, 2010 at 8:27 am

I’d put games you’ve tested under work experience.

Vitor Teixeira November 11, 2012 at 7:58 am

Dear Mr. Darius Kazemi,
Thank you for this tutorial and tips on CVs.

This tutorial you’ve provided is very well suited for people with some experience in game developing, mostly in programming/designing. However, this is not my case. My interest in the gaming industry lies in story development and game world creation (lore, people, races, factions, etc…). Whereas on the one hand my experience lies solely in the development of p&p RPG gameworlds as storyteller, on the other hand, my experience lies solely in the development of p&p RPG gameworlds as storyteller…
Now, how could I tailor my CV to spark some interest? My goal, at the moment, is in supporting new companies (from indie developers and companies seeking crowd-sourcing), with a few industry veterans on their ranks.
(I can provide more details for discussion email, if you won’t mind).
Thank you for your attention.

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