How to get into indie games

Indie games are a culture and a way of thinking as much as an industry or business. It’s an exciting area of games development and there are many ways in which you can get into indie games. 

There’s no set path and one right answer, it’s all about the individual and their personal journey. For some they may find getting in with an existing project or studio suits them, for others the feeling of being truly independent will be the major draw and they will go it alone from the beginning. 

For others they may work full time or part time, indie dev on the side. One great thing about indies is they are so individual and projects come from all over the world and from every background. There are no age limits, gender bias or discrimination, when it comes to making indie games.

One thing’s for sure, the indie games industry is void of some of the barriers of entry in other industries, all you need is an idea and means to make it a reality. If you choose to be an indie game developer, you’ll have the autonomy to deliver a vision and hopefully make a decent living along the way. 

How to Get Into Indie Games

Work Experience

Like any industry, it’s good to get an idea of what you are getting yourself into right from the beginning and start to understand how an indie developer operates as a business. 

Start by searching for indie developers in your local area and reach out to them to see if work experience is a possibility. If you can’t find a local indie developer, there’s always the option to work remotely. 

Make sure to be clear about what you are hoping to get out of the project, which area of indie games development you are interested in. It’s also good to share any existing experience, education and your availability, so indie developers can take a call on where you fit in. 

Work experience can be a huge benefit when you are learning about working in indie games and give an insight into the reality of working in indie games, which will help you decide if it’s the career for you. 

Study at College/University

There are a host of universities and colleges that offer courses in games development that cater to indie games developers. Games development is now a viable career for many – with the industry worth billions – and qualified individuals are highly sought after. 

The first thing you have to establish is what you want to do – is it art, is it production, is it code, what is it that you are passionate about and that you have an appetite for. You may have already got a taste of gaming, but it’s worth doing some research or even taking part in a game jam to find out more. 

We’ve produced a guide to some of the best universities in the UK to study games development and we’re looking into the US next. Our advice is to take a look in your local area or spread the net to find the course that offers the balance of modules you are looking for. 

One of the real benefits of studying games development is learning with training professionals and other students. You’ll also learn all aspects of games development, so you’re not closing the door on AAA development or any other area. Also, once you have the qualification, no one can take that away from you. 

Indie Dev Interview: The Kraken Wakes
The Kraken Wakes

There are multiple routes to get into indie games but if you’re particularly interested in working in smaller teams I recommend participating in game jams. They really give a good sense of what a smaller team can do in a limited space of time and you very quickly learn what your immediate skill set is.

Mentorship is also a really helpful thing to partake in as a mentee. It gives you a feel for what the industry is like, how studios operate, and allows you to ask questions before getting a job that you otherwise might not get the answer to without experience. Many places offer mentorship such as Intogames, Limit Break, Code Coven and more.

Megan Matthews, Game Designer. ustwo Games

Get an internship

Very similar to work experience but really a step-up. Internships can be paid positions and working towards full time paid employment. They can also be short term contracts that offer a taste of the industry in a professional capacity. 

One thing we advise is to be absolutely clear upfront with the employer as to the nature, duration and terms of an internship. Many games developers are keen to support the next generation of devs but there are some cases of interns being taken advantage of. 

In internships, as you are being paid, you are now part of the business and will be treated as such. This could mean that you are making the tea, taking the lunch order or taking packages to be delivered. It could also mean you’re working on data entry or QA, or other jobs that are perhaps not what you are looking for long term. 

One thing an internship will give you is a real taste of what games making is all about. You could have your first piece of code in the back end of a project, a piece of art in the background, or an idea from a brainstorm could make it into a game.   

An internship can be a huge part of your game making journey and although grabbing coffees may not feel that productive at the time, trust us, the experience can be invaluable. One day you will be the one appreciating the support and sharing your expertise with an up-and-coming indie dev. 

Get an entry level job at a studio

Another step-up from work experience and an internship is an entry level position. This is a major stepping stone on your game making journey and it’s likely you’ll need a qualification or plenty of experience to go in at this level.

An entry level position is usually a junior role, this could be in QA, Design, Art or Development. Entry level positions are hard to come by and competitively sought after. It’s important to realise that an entry level role is not just bestowed without relevant experience, qualifications and a portfolio. 

You’ll be a key part of the team, be rewarded financially and have the kudos of a professional contract. You’ll still be learning while ‘on the job’ but you’ll have to deliver to deadlines and have a great deal of responsibility.

If you have the skills and experience to take on an entry level position, you are well on your way in your professional indie games developer journey. Embrace the opportunity, absorb all the advice and experience of your peers, and get ready for a few long days to start delivering indie games.

Desta: The Memories Between
Desta: The Memories Between

I had been interested in video games since I was a kid so I really focused my studies on learning programming, art, graphic design, as well as partaking in activities like making flash games and building Minecraft maps.

Eventually I went to study Games Design and Art at university where I discovered that my love for multiple areas of game development fitted really well into indie teams. I participated in multiple game jam’s, developed my own little indie game. That was when I sat back and realised that I enjoy having so much input and direction on a project because it felt like I was making art, and I wanted to have that feeling no matter where I worked.

Just before graduating I started freelancing as Junior Level designer in an indie team of 9 people, I did a scholarship program alongside that with Code Coven and Facebook gaming working in a team of 4 to create an indie game, I then went on to freelance as an Environment Designer, and now I’m working with ustwo games as a Game Designer on Desta the Memories Between.

Megan Matthews, Game Designer. ustwo Games

Build your own games, work on your own projects

Last but not least, work on your own projects and work as an independent games developer right from the start. Leaping into indie games development, taking on the role of solo dev or with friends to make the projects that matter to you. 

You’ll have complete autonomy, you’ll be able to shape your own destiny. You’ll be able to take ownership of every success but also be responsible for every failure. Daunting but incredibly rewarding. 

Learning while doing can be a challenge. But you’ll understand every facet and aspect of making and launching an indie project. From QA to marketing, art to code, you’ll have to know it all. You’ll also have to rope in family and friends wherever you can. 

Alot of indie devs balance another job or other commitments to make their games, and indie games can be a huge passion for many alongside their ‘main’ career. Like anything, if you have that burning passion to make games, you’ll find a way.  

There are still ways to benefit from the experience of others through events, game jams and even employing freelancers for certain jobs, we’d recommend taking advantage of every one of these opportunities. 

Best Indie Games of 2023

How to get into indie games

For many, the above are the typical routes into indie games but every journey is entirely different. There are also many other avenues that have got people into indie games. 

There are also careers that traverse indie gaming and other industries, such as marketing and events, retail, journalism and content creation. There are also specialisms like metaverse, AI, VR and mobile development, that are the future of the indie games industry. 

Interestingly, what we also see is many experienced AAA game developers take the leap into indie games later in their career, taking all their expertise from big studios and putting it into indies. This can be a huge benefit with networks already made and bags full of experience to bring to a project. 

Also, indie games is a great industry to get into but it does not have to be your be all and end all, there’s always a balance between a career and a profession, the indie games industry needs players as much as it needs professionals. 

Our advice is to chase your dreams and follow you passions, get as much first hand experience as possible and take every opportunity you can. Who knows you could one day end up at ustwo Games.

Thanks for reading our how to get into indie games article, for more interesting articles on the indie games industry, check out the links below. 





This Article was written by: Harry Cole