How I became a video game editor
Brandt Snyder has loved video games since he was 8 years old. Now he gets paid to work on them.
“Video games are essentially every other form of media spun into one and made interactive,” he says. “There are just so many amazing storytelling opportunities and experiences to be had with something that you can interact with and play a part in.”
Snyder, 22, first became enamored with computers and making graphics and videos in high school. He’d often try to make his own small games on computers which sparked his decision to attend Emerson College’s animation and motion graphics program in Boston.
“The thought hadn't even crossed my mind that I could work with video games for a living. I always just thought of them as a hobby,” he says.
Snyder is one of roughly 146,000 people directly or indirectly employed by the computer and video game industry, according to a 2014 study released by the Entertainment Software Association. California, Texas and Washington are the top three states in terms of numbers of employees in this industry.
The ESA study also reports the average salary for direct employees is $95,000.
We spoke with Snyder to get an inside look at what being a video editor and motion graphics artist is really like.
How he got into the field
Snyder graduated from Emerson College in May of 2015 with a degree in animation and motion media and says he had a bit of luck getting his current gig, his first job post-graduation.
He didn’t think there were many opportunities to mesh video editing and motion graphics in the video game industry because he says most studios tend to use a production house for their video needs. However, he says Activision does most of their video editing in-house and he was lucky enough to meet someone who could pass along his resume.
“I was asked in for an interview and a skills assessment. Everything went really well, and the rest fell into place,” says Snyder. "I'm still in awe of the fact that I can do what I love in an industry that I love immediately out of college.”
What his typical day is like
Snyder works in Activision Blizzard’s art services department. His day-to-day consists of assisting with edits and creating graphics for a variety of different projects. Snyder’s assignments range from internal videos or game trailers to social media campaigns.
“Some people work on a select franchise like Call of Duty or Skylanders, but I’ve been helping across all of our games,” he says.
While he enjoys how his office space includes decorated cubicles lined with video game merchandise, characters, artwork and posters from different franchises, he says his favorite part about the work culture is “how passionate everyone is about games.”
“You can just see how much everyone really cares about the industry we're all in, and it's really energizing to be a part of,” he adds.
What skills he says you need
Snyder says it’s important to know exactly the type of work you want to do with video games.
“After taking a few game design classes at Emerson, I quickly realized I should have gone to school for something game design-related,” says Snyder. “I didn’t want to switch majors because I was afraid my credits wouldn’t transfer.”
Instead of switching majors, Snyder decided to take every game class offered and got involved with an eSports club, a form of competitive, multiplayer gaming. This helped him learn more about game creation.
According to PayScale, graphic artists and animators report a need for skills in computer software programs such as Autodesk 3ds and Cinema 4D, which pay 11% above average.
What he says is the biggest challenge
Snyder says the biggest challenge is working with so many different styles of video game designs all at once.
“Call of Duty, Skylanders, Guitar Hero and Destiny all have very different aesthetics and it’s not uncommon to be working in multiple projects in different franchises at the same time,” he says.
His career advice
“The games industry probably isn’t the easiest one to break into, but it’s definitely do-able,” he says.
Snyder advises determining what it is you want to do in the games industry and then finding a school with a good reputation for teaching that speciality.
“Networking is super important too. It’s not a bad idea to make business cards and go to gaming events like Professional Associated Developers (PAD) or Gaming Developers Conference (GDC) and converse with developers,” he says.
“It constantly amazes me how the gaming industry is far smaller than it seems, and getting your foot in the door will be way easier if you know people on the inside.”
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