Many students pursuing a career in video games envision their first professional experience within the grandiose realms of international gaming studios, aiming to fast-track their professional journey. After all, who wouldn’t dream of adding a globally recognized AAA title to their resume? These roles often attract those seeking growth in a structured and esteemed environment, associated with the industry’s major franchises.

However, the opportunities and advantages offered by smaller teams, commonly known as independent or “indie” studios, remain less explored. This option can be equally, if not more, advantageous for those looking for well-rounded, practical experience on projects where they can truly leave their mark.

With the rapid growth of independent studios in Quebec (148 out of 249), we anticipate a rise in internship opportunities within smaller studios. Perhaps it’s an effective way to impart local entrepreneurial expertise to the next generation of video game developers!

Since the creation of Yellow Brick Games four years ago, the inclusion of interns and the creation of a culture of expertise and knowledge-sharing have been integral to our DNA. With a team of 65 experienced professionals, we recently welcomed our fourth intern and aim to continue nurturing future talents, even as we work on our debut project slated for announcement in 2024.

Acknowledging the dilemmas students may face when selecting internships and careers, we approached our current and former interns, some of whom are now full-time employees, to share their perspective and experience. We hope their testimonials will prove valuable to those trying to get their foot in the door in the dynamic world of video game development!

  • Marc-Antoine (left): arrived in January 2024 as a Level Design intern, recently completed his AEC in video game and interactive media design at Cégep Limoilou.
  • Olivier (center): 28th employee at Yellow Brick Games, joined the team in May 2022 after completing an 8-month programming internship with us. He holds a bachelor’s degree in software engineering from Université Laval.
  • Rebecca (right): returning for her second programming internship, is on the verge of completing her Diploma of Collegial Studies (DEC) in programming at Collège BART and holds an additional diploma in Arts & Cinema from Cégep de Lévis

Q: Why a Career in Video Games?

For Marc-Antoine, Olivier, and Rebecca, the answer is straightforward: passion. Video games have been an integral part of their lives since childhood, and working in the gaming industry is their way of expressing and sharing that passion. Each of them recalls a game that left a lasting impact on them, emphasizing the influence of the medium on their journey and careers. For Olivier, it was Dragon Age Origins; Rebecca reminisces about Spyro’s original trilogy, while Marc-Antoine unequivocally points to Jak & Daxter on the PS2.

Marc-Antoine:  “I started my studies in accounting… I didn’t want to admit that I was meant to work in the video game industry. It seemed too easy, as they were my hobby, and I was afraid of losing my enthusiasm for video games by working on them… Until my friends made me realize that I was truly made for this profession.”

Rebecca: “Combining my studies in cinema with video game programming was the key to creating immersive worlds. I loved the storytelling and the world-building aspect that cinema brought, but I needed a more technical challenge to construct a more complex world. That’s why I decided to add programming to my profile.”

Q: Why an Internship at an Indie Studio?

Curiosity about the process of creating a first title, the opportunity to have an impact on the development of a brand-new universe, and the smaller size of the studio influenced the choices of our interns.

Rebecca: “Initially, I was interested in large AAA studios. I realized that it’s highly specialized in such studios. I would probably have to decide what type of programming I wanted to practice from the start. To learn and discover what we like, I believe we need to start by trying different things. Here, I’m involved in gameplay programming, tools, engine – I have to understand multiple systems. It broadens my skill set.”

Olivier: “On a more personal note… Being a huge fan of the Dragon Age franchise, when I heard that a veteran like Mike Laidlaw (Creative Director on Dragon Age) was starting an independent studio in Quebec, I immediately jumped on the opportunity. It was my way of learning from the best in the industry.”

"First, you need to ask yourself if an independent studio is the right fit for you. Being autonomous, having good adaptability, and being open are the basics."

Q: What is Day in the Life of an Intern Like ?

Things move swiftly; they are involved in all discussions and touch on various aspects of the projects. For each of them, their first day at Yellow Brick Games was as relaxed and welcoming as they had imagined. They seamlessly became part of the team.

Marc-Antoine: ” You feel that your work is just as important as everyone else’s. The door is wide open to ask tons of questions… and you gotta do it! If you prove you’re here to learn, you’ll get more tasks to help you learn and grow. Give your 200%, show you’re motivated. From the first days, I went from small tasks in a map to being entrusted with a whole map. I was pleasantly surprised!”

Rebecca: “I would describe a day at the studio as “evolving”. You’re supported, and it’s gratifying because it allows you to accomplish a lot. Mistakes are inevitable, but we have support to correct and understand them, no pressure. That’s what makes you learn faster!”

Q: What Are the Good Challenges an Intern Will Face?

They unanimously agree on one point: interns need to learn to be independent and observant. In independent studios, where teams are smaller, and versatility is essential, there isn’t always someone supervising. The trust given to interns sometimes comes with the space to learn problem-solving independently. Ultimately, the fast-paced rhythm is motivating but requires constant adaptability.

Rebecca: “I’d say you have to learn to be a chameleon as quickly as possible. We observe our team, sometimes take a slightly longer path to understand, but that’s what brings us that overall understanding in the end. There will always be someone to help us out if we’re stuck, but the pace is pretty fast.”

Marc-Antoine: “You have to be alert to understand what are the expectations. Each studio has its own working methods, and it’s always very different from what we learn in school. So, you sometimes have to be able to identify subtleties, observe how the team works, and adapt to their methods. There’s nothing wrong with bringing your ideas, and it’s appreciated, but you always have to keep in mind what the expectations are for the project.”

Q:  Any Advice for Those Seeking an Internship Experience in an Indie Studio?

Adopting the right mindset, demonstrating a strong willingness to learn, and being resilient to setbacks are essential qualities.

Olivier: “It really depends on your mindset. First, you need to ask yourself if an independent studio is the right fit for you. Being autonomous, having good adaptability, and being open are the basics. The motivation to learn is the most important. You also need to be able to handle rejections because they will happen, for sure. Your work can’t be perfect form the start. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.”

Marc-Antoine: “Two words: motivation and networking. Having had an employee of the studio as a teacher, it was undoubtedly easier for me to get noticed. Don’t hesitate to go our there and tell people about your career aspirations. Showing that you can do a lot of things in your portfolio is cool, but it mostly comes down to the motivation to learn. You can’t be perfect when you start the internship because everything you’ll learn is very different from the school context.”

Rebecca: “Don’t hesitate to approach people if you’re looking for an internship! Programmers often tend to be introverted. You need to step out of your comfort zone and approach people by participating in industry networking events. Seize opportunities to connect with professionals. Showing that you communicate well will have as much, if not more, impact than the content of your portfolio. You can also present your portfolio by explaining what you were trying to learn with this project, rather than just showing the result.”

The internship experience at an independent studio proves to be enriching both in terms of technical skills and interpersonal abilities. Beyond the professional benefits, the connections and friendships developed in an independent gaming studio play a strong role in every intern’s personal journey. This rapid learning curve can launch a career to new heights – all while still prioritizing fun!

About Yellow Brick Games

Yellow Brick Games, founded in 2020 by four industry veterans, is an independent studio dedicated to creating original, high-quality titles. Leveraging the founders’ extensive experience in producing world-renowned franchises, the studio embraces an agile and human approach, bringing the joy of crafting original and exciting experiences for the most demanding players back into game production.