Computer Games Technical Support Person

The Job and What's Involved

Computer games are a major part of the UK's media industry. People spend more money on buying them than they do going to the cinema. To make sure customers continue to enjoy buying and playing games, it is essential that games packages are free from bugs and glitches. It is the job of a computer games technical support person to sort out any technical problems that occur during the designing and testing of a game.

A computer games technical support person is usually involved with games at three key stages:

- Building game levels
- Research and design
- Testing

Tasks vary, but are likely to include:

  • Discussing problems with designers, programmers and game testers.
  • Running tests to identify bugs which need to be rectified.
  • Solving problems by rewriting code or adding new code.
  • Making sure that game development kits are set up and working correctly.
  • Using a variety of software packages.

There are a number of different platforms for computer games including PCs, game consoles, handheld games and mobile phones. Each platform has its own programming requirements.

Computer games technical support people typically work around 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, as deadlines approach, they are likely to have to work longer hours, including early mornings, evenings and weekends.

Technical support staff are office based and spend much of their time sitting at a desk using a computer.

Starting salaries may be between £14,000 and £23,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Around 8,800 people work in the UK computer games industry. They are employed by game development studios, which are either independent companies or owned by computer game publishers. Opportunities are concentrated in London and South East England, Manchester, Liverpool, Warwickshire, Dundee, Sheffield and other parts of Yorkshire, and Newcastle. Competition for vacancies is fierce.

Vacancies are advertised through specialist recruitment agencies, company websites and specialist games publications. The Skillset website, www.skillset.org, has links to recruitment agencies. Some vacancies are not advertised, so it is important to build up a list of contacts in the industry.

Education and Training

There are no set entry requirements for this job, but the majority of computer games technical support people are graduates. Most degrees are acceptable, but as employers are looking for candidates with strong IT skills degrees in subjects such as interactive or multimedia technology, computer science or software engineering may be particularly relevant. A number of programmers have degrees in maths and physics.

Skillset accredits four courses offering education and training development for people wanting to pursue a career in computer games:

  • BA (Honours) Computer Arts, University of Abertay Dundee.
  • BSc (Honours) Computer Games Technology, University of Abertay Dundee.
  • BSc (Honours) Computer Games Technology, University of Paisley.
  • BA in Computer Animation, Glamorgan Centre for Art & Design Technology.

The usual entry requirement for a degree is a minimum of two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. Candidates should check with individual institutions for specific grade and/or subject requirements.

Skillset is piloting an Apprenticeship in QA (Quality Assurance) and Games Production. The Skillset website has further details.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most computer games technical support people train on the job. They may receive some mentoring from more experienced colleagues. They may also have the opportunity to attend short courses.

It is important for technical support people to stay up to date with technological developments and new software packages. This may mean learning new programming languages.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A computer games technical support person should:

  • Have strong IT skills.
  • Be fluent in a number of programming languages and software packages.
  • Have good problem-solving skills and be able to think laterally.
  • Have good communication skills.
  • Be able to work to tight deadlines.
  • Be able to work well alone and as part of a team.
  • Be thorough and precise.
  • Be able to use their initiative.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is no formal promotion structure in the computer games industry, but skilled, experienced technical support people may have the opportunity to move into different roles such as other programming jobs, testing or management.

Some technical support people become self-employed, offering their services on a freelance basis.

There may be opportunities to work overseas.

Get Further Information

British Computer Society, 1st Floor, Block D,
North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA
Tel: 01793 417417
Website: www.bcs.org

British Interactive Media Association (BIMA),
Briarlea House, Southend Road, Billericay, Essex CM11 2PR
Tel: 01277 658107
Website: www.bima.co.uk

e-skills UK, 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel: 020 7963 8920
Website: www.e-skills.com

The Independent Games Developers Association (TIGA),
Brighton Business Centre, 95 Ditchling Road, Brighton BN1 4ST
Tel: 0845 094 1095
Website: www.tiga.org

Skillset (The Sector Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industries),
Focus Point, 21 Caledonian Road, London N1 9GB
Tel: 08080 300900 (England and Northern Ireland);
0808 100 8094 (Scotland); 0800 012 1815 (Wales)
Website: www.skillset.org

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