Build your games portfolio

If you’re going into any creative role in the games industry, you’ll be expected to have a portfolio.  A portfolio is a way to show off your best work to admissions tutors and employers. A strong portfolio will make you stand out from the many applicants they will have for each role, so it’s important to put the time into getting it right.

What should a games portfolio have in it?

Games portfolios are often in the form of video or showreel.  Even if you’re creating an audio, programming or gameplay portfolio, video is the best media for showing off your work.

  1. Only include your best work. Put the very best first. An employer or admissions tutor is likely to have already seen many portfolios on the day they see yours. You need to grab their attention within the first 30 seconds. Don’t leave the best to last as the employer may give up before they get to it.
  2. Research the art, audio style and genres of the games company you’re applying for. Match this to the work you show. It’s better to have a shorter portfolio of relevant work than a larger one that doesn’t reflect what they’re looking for.
  3. Match the work on your portfolio to the role. If the role is for an environment artist or character artist, put that work upfront.
  4. If you’re showing group work, be clear about your contribution. This can be as simple as a line of text on the graphic, video or screenshot.
  5. The person looking at your portfolio may be looking at it without you, so use text to explain what tools or software you used.
  6. Ensure your portfolio works on a variety of screen sizes, devices and browsers. If you’ve made it on a desktop, check it still looks good on mobile. If you use Safari, don’t forget to test it in Chrome.
  7. Don’t be tempted to put in work that isn’t yours.
  8. Keep it up to date. Refresh with new work.
  9. Link to your portfolio from your CV and covering letter – and make sure the web link works.
  10. Include your contact details.

Tips for creating a games design portfolio

If you want to work in UX, your portfolio should demonstrate a user flow and journey through a game or website. This could be through screenshots, a short walk-through video or a link to a website you’ve designed. If you’re demonstrating UI, your portfolio should include examples of in-game navigation icons and design, and how information is displayed to guide the player.

Level designers should include examples of modding or mock-ups of levels. Put in short text or design documents to illustrate your key decisions.

Start off with these free tools and software:

  • Twine: Easy to create interactive story-based game developer, add slides, and embed media. Coding knowledge is not required. Operating system: All
  • GameMaker: Simple-to-use trial to create a prototype of 2D games, coding knowledge is not required. Operating system: Windows and Mac
  • Unreal Engine: (Advanced game engine to create 2D, 3D, mobile and VR games. Knowledge of programming is not required. Operating system: All
  • PlayCanvas: Simple-to-use web-based 3D game engine using HTML5 can collaborate with others. Operating system: web-based
  • Unity: Game engine for importing 3D models, creating textures, and building environments. Operating system: Windows and Mac

Tips for a games art portfolio

Show off work that’s relevant to the role and company you’re applying for.

An environment artist would ideally include one full environment and examples of textures, and original art assets.  If you’re an aspiring texture artist include a fully texture baked model and examples of repeating and non-repeating patterns.

3D modelling artists should pay close attention to the job description as employers often want to see specialisms in character or vehicles. Focus your portfolio on demonstrating this with examples of models with both high and baked down low poly mesh.

Start off with these free tools and software:

  • Pixlr: Photo and graphics editor. Operating system: Web-based
  • TinkerCad: Easy-to-use browser-based software for 3D design. Operating system: Web-based
  • GIMP: An alternative to Adobe Photoshop. Operating system: All

Tips for an animation portfolio

A good tip for entry level animators is to include a walk, run, jump and cycle. You can use a simple skeleton to do this, but you should be able to determine the human characteristics such as weight and height. 

Start off with these free tools and software:

  • Blender: Easy to use software to create 3D models, environments and animated films. Can be used for VFX and games. Operating system: All
  • Synfig: Vector based 2D animation suite, use the tools to move to different drawings. Operating system: All
  • Three.Js: Create animated 3D computer graphics on a web browser using HTML. Operating System: Web-based

Tips for an audio portfolio

Make sure the sound is clear. If possible show off your work in a video file rather than an audio one, so that the employer or admissions tutor can see the context in which the sound is being used. Use original sounds that you’ve recorded - experienced interviewers will have heard all the library sounds many times before. Showcase a range of dynamics.

Start off with these free tools and software:

  • Audacity: Easy-to-use audio editor, includes some professional features. Operating system: All
  • Ocenaudio: Easier to use than Audacity, good for effects and filters. Operating system: All
  • Frinika: Music editing and audio recording. Operating system: All

Tips for a programming portfolio

Portfolios are not as common for programmers as they are for artists and designers. However, it’s good if you can link to a web page from your CV to show short videos of games you’ve created. Highlight the language and tools you have used. Many employers set tests for programmers as a way of assessing their skills.  

Start off with these free tools and software:

  • Scratch: Learn the principles of programming, interactive stories and games. Operating system: web-based
  • Python: Great software to learn how to code. Operating system: All

How should I share my portfolio?

When you’ve made your video, put it online, so that it’s easy to share. When you write your covering letter, you just need to put the link in.  Here are some popular, free tools with which you can publish your work.

Once you have started

Try it out on your friends, teachers and colleagues. Ask for feedback and advice.