Wesley Arthur, lead level designer at Sumo Sheffield, talks about the role of a level designer, the importance of word of mouth and the opportunities in the games industry
What is your job role and how would you describe your typical day at work?
I’m a lead level designer at Sumo Sheffield, and I manage a team of designers to produce the game’s levels. A level designer’s job is to build the layout and script behaviours to create a compelling space for the player to progress through, or a series of challenging puzzles to overcome. It’s all about understanding how to take components built by other teams and assemble them into a cohesive world that’s fun to play.
On paper, my typical day doesn’t sound that glamorous. It usually consists of various meetings and reviewing my team’s work, while trying to figure out their next steps. As a lead I don’t get my hands in the editor that regularly; but shaping the project’s creative vision, while steering the career progression of my team, is one of the most rewarding things a job could possibly offer.
What qualifications and/or experience do you need to land this job?
There are lots of ways to get into level design, but the most important things are your personality and portfolio, which can be developed on your own or as part of a formal qualification.
It can be difficult to demonstrate design-specific skills in a portfolio without having shipped titles on your résumé, but people often overlook level editors in existing games that can serve as a valid tool for aspiring designers. Several of my colleagues at Sumo learned a lot of their skills through user-created content, and some of them were hired based on their contributions to LittleBigPlanet’s online communities.
Never underestimate word of mouth. Go to industry events, engage with forums, make your work as viral on social media as possible. Anything you can do to network and showcase your work will increase the chances of it landing in front of someone who can offer you a job.
If you were interviewing someone for your team, what would you look for?
A good portfolio will often get you an interview but being able to explain the processes and theories behind a piece of work is just as important. Although technical skills are an integral part of the job, game development relies heavily on collaboration and communication, and the interview provides an insight into whether you would fit within my team. One of the most important things to demonstrate in an interview is an ability to build a rapport.
Be confident in yourself and your work so you can showcase your potential in the best possible light. Make sure you are well prepared; but just remember, it’s okay to be nervous.
What opportunities are there for career progression?
Working in the game industry has many different facets to it, whether that’s development or non-development departments. Our rapidly growing industry has an increasing number of roles to specialise in, and you can move towards management as a lead or become a master of your technical skills as a principal. At Sumo, the number of projects and studios provide tons of opportunities to find what suits you and your career best.