Games, animation & VFX

Games, animation & VFX have a lot of overlap in roles, some creative and artistic others are project management or more IT related. You will find some roles occur in more than one field.

  • Trainee placements If you have some experience in the field you can still apply even if you have not done an approved course.


Roles include artists, animators, designers, programmers, directors and audio engineers.

  • A popular route in is becoming a QA tester, they test and debug the game. You must be a keen gamer, some programming, spreadsheet and database skills would be useful.
  • Programmers will usually have a degree in maths, physics or computer science and may need a postgraduate qualification. You will need to be able to programme in C++ and be up to date with new platforms and techniques.
  • Game designers plan the game and how it plays. Most are graduates and there are courses in game design. It's not an entry level position, you are likely to need several years experience in the industry before moving into this role.
  • Many companies use their own in-house packages based on C++ and Java. More generic technologies include Microsoft’s Direct3D/DirectX and Alias MAYA for animation. If you are interested in the art side, you will need a conventional portfolio of your work, as well as an electronic one (in the early stages, first person views etc may be sketched out on paper).
  • Consider making speculative applications to get your foot in the door but think: why should they take you seriously? Focus on the added value you can bring and try to arrange an opportunity to have a look round. Employers look for people who have played games extensively and who have ideas on how existing games can be improved, not just ideas for new ones.

Careers information and getting in

Magazines, Journals and Directories

Vacancy sources

Local employers include: Playdemic (Manchester), Connect2Media (Manchester) Evolution Studios (Cheshire), Spiral House (Liverpool), Havok (Dublin). This interactive map lists all the games developers by region a good place to start !


  • Technical and programming roles normally require knowledge of C and C++.
  • Creative roles usually require an art background. Software used includes 3DStudio Max, Maya, Lightwave (3D animation), Photoshop (image manipulation), Cubase (music software).
  • Testers - MS Access to create reports

Further study

Several universities offer postgraduate courses in games technology e.g. Salford, Bradford, Sheffield Hallam and UCLAN who offer one by distance learning. Sound and music for interactive games at Leeds Met sounds novel. Search the postgraduate course directory on the Prospects website for a complete listing. Most require a relevant first degree or experience.


Animation has come a long way from the days of Ray Harryhausen. Advances in technology have led to “visual effects” using digital images becoming more prominent. Specific software used includes Alias MAYA (used by Weta Digital for the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Flash (used to create mini animation sequences on websites). As well as film, these effects are also used in advertising campaigns.

Roles include model makers, animators - stop motion, drawn, computer and 3D, editors and directors. Animators will find degrees in art, animation, film, computer animation / computer science useful depending on their medium. A good entry route for graduates without these degrees is Digital Painter, you will need good IT skills and a good working knowledge of Photoshop and Illustrator.


There are no fixed routes into this field, or specific qualifications, but there are courses you can take that can help. Ultimately, entrants are judged on the quality of their work and their experience. You must have a “show-reel” to demonstrate your skills and ability.

The National Centre for Computer Animation offer well respected courses - both MA's and undergraduate courses specialising in computer games and digital arts. The postgraduate course is not cheap but graduates go on to work in the games and film/TV industries. The website at Bournemouth also has links to visual effects and animation companies and organisations, along with course details, news and links to relevant magazines.

Many courses like this require applicants to have a good portfolio of work before they start. Search the postgraduate course directory on the Prospects website for a complete listing. As with any course, find out exactly what the course teaches, the software they use and what industry contacts they have. N.B. you may still find that to land your first job, you need to supplement this learning with extra training from professionals within the industry.

Escape Studios in London offer open days and free webinars, on-line mentored courses, through to intensive 12 week courses. Some of their courses can be expensive as they use industry experienced professionals to tutor the courses.


VFX is the combining of live action with computer generated imagery, common in Film and TV. Job roles include compositors, 3D animators, match move and roto artists and lighting directors.

  • VFX is very much a team role, large companies will have specialist roles and smaller companies will need generalists. When working on team projects be clear about your contribution.
  • Deadlines are crucial in the industry, be clear about how you prioritise work and get things done.
  • This is a service industry and although there is some room for artistic interpretation you will be working to a brief and will receive criticism on your work, be resilient.
  • VFX is largely freelance so its important to have a portfolio that demonstrates your specialisms. It is also important to keep up with new technology, find training courses or teach yourself.