Sue Stather, Graduate Recruitment Specialist at Jagex Games Studio in Cambridge, discusses the company’s approach to recruiting from universities and highlights some of its successes.
The UK is one of the most important countries in the world for the multi-billion pound computer games industry. With more than 500 staff at its Cambridge headquarters, Jagex is the largest independent developer of computer games in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe.
In 2012, approximately 20 percent of staff recruited by Jagex were graduates, a figure that we are very proud of and hope to increase in the coming years. There are a number of initiatives and strategies in place that help support the commitment to recruiting the best graduates from around the country and beyond, and we don't underestimate the importance of having a physical presence in front of students, which is why we believe attending careers fairs and other university events and initiatives are so vital. Jagex is in the fortunate position whereby the company’s relaxed and friendly approach at fairs, including the branded hoodies, not only provides a more welcoming introduction to interested students, but helps show that it represents a fun, quirky and cool sector. We also attend graduate exhibitions, which provide great insight into the output of students, and helps the company identify talented individuals it would like to offer an internship to.
This is the first year Jagex has offered summer internship positions and the benefits for both the company and intern are already clear to see. Not only are internships a fantastic way of identifying students that may secure employment with the company after graduation, it also shows that this is a great place to work; welcomes their talent; and shows how they can develop their skills in the workplace. The students then go back to university and promote what they've learnt at the company, the studio environment, the atmosphere and how they found it. In addition, in terms of the year-long placement students, there are currently six interns at the company; one in the art department; one in sound design; and four in the quality assurance (QA) department. Some of the interns currently at the company met our representatives at a graduate exhibition, and the company is exploring the possibility of increasing this figure in the future. Jagex also supports Cambridge’s BrainsEden event, which is proving a great initiative to be involved in, as it promotes what the company does through the event’s careers clinic.
Jagex has a number of experienced mentors who attend the event every year, providing many hours’ worth of advice and time to participants of the games jam. It might seem obvious, but submitting a targeted, enthusiastic and robust application is the best way to apply for a role of any kind. Most of the graduate and junior roles here tend to require a Batchelor’s level degree, not necessarily a PhD or a Masters. However, it would depend on the level of expertise. For instance, if someone was looking to do a research role, then maybe a PhD would be more appropriate. If they were looking for something more technical then it might be that a Masters is relevant. Being so close to Cambridge University, we are able to engage with the diverse range of students studying for their MBA. Many of these students are very keen to take part in market analysis projects in conjunction with Judge Business School and Jagex.
Each department here covers every element of games development, from programming to art and sound, with the addition of web development, quality assurance, and community management departments, so the level of degree required is dependent on the different areas of the business.
As expected, Computer Science degrees are a particularly significant source of graduates for our business and the wider games industry. However, a lot of universities are now coming up with fantastically creative courses in areas including game art, game design and audio for games. The educational scope for the sector is starting to open up and become more creative and accessible, especially through initiatives such as Creative Skillset, which helps connect students to trainee positions within the creative industries. Overall we receive more applications from male graduates, however we do receive some fantastic applications from females too, and currently, Jagex has two female interns (out of six) at the moment, and they're both doing really well. This imbalance is slowly changing, and as more creative games-related courses emerge within digital media departments, we expect a greater level of parity between the sexes.
While having a technical skillset is of vital importance, we also place importance on employability skills, and expect the best applicants to display both elements very strongly. We look for people who can work as part of a team and communicate well with their peers. Again, evidence of this in an application, together with other key skills, such as the ability to work independently on a project, and excellent attention-to-detail. Other skills to specific positions include being comfortable working with numbers if applying for a technical role. Of course, a general passion and interest in the games industry is key, as is demonstrating that in the application process.
Interns and placement students at Jagex are supported by, and integrated into, the specific departments of interest, and like employees in junior roles, are provided with a mentor that they shadow on a day-to-day basis. They also mix amongst themselves and are exposed to different areas of the business, while the graduate recruitment team meets with the interns to ensure they are comfortable here. Jagex is a fantastic place for interns and graduates in junior positions to develop their skills and talents in-house through regular reviews. The size of the company also means there are plenty of chances for people to side-step and step-up into different roles as they progress their careers. There are a number of individuals who came as graduates a few years ago that are not only still here, but have moved into other departments within the business. This is testimony to the policies and procedures Jagex has in place to secure and nurture graduates, which is vital in such a competitive recruitment environment.
Emily Parkes, Intern, Art Department, RuneScape 3
Emily Parkes is one of six interns currently at Jagex. A graduate of Staffordshire University, Emily is spending her internship in the RuneScape 3 art department and has been with the company since July. Emily met with Jagex recruitment staff during her graduate exhibition, where she was recommended to apply for internship. “The internship is a good idea, I wanted to be a part of the games industry, so the opportunity to intern at Jagex is fantastic”, says Emily. “There are different pipelines and tools compared to the platforms at university, but while there has been more for me to pick up, the support I’ve received has been more than I’d perhaps expected”.
Ollie Hind, Content Developer, RuneScape 3
Ollie Hind started as a Content Developer on Jagex’s flagship game RuneScape 3 in April 2013. His first role after graduating from Cardiff University, Ollie proactively sought the role at Jagex and experienced what he describes as a “streamlined process” before starting his new role. “I was first given one-on-one training and a mentor, which enabled me to learn the tools and systems in place”, he says. “It was fairly intense, especially after moving from one side of the country to another, but there was plenty of support. I’ve quickly settled in and made a lot of friends here.” Ollie describes the recruitment process as thorough: “Following my initial application I was asked to complete an online test. Once I’d passed that, I was given a date for a further assessment before receiving an offer for the job!”
Jagex believes that graduates have certain crucial attributes that others do not necessarily have. For instance, as new employees they are perhaps not aware of their value: they are very hard working; they are also open to new technology; on a personal level they are also malleable to the company’s ethos and philosophies – and of course, they are very enthusiastic. All of these elements are very much in their favour, and in the company’s experience they really do make the most of the learning experiences Jagex can provide them at the beginning of their careers in the games industry.