Breaking Into the Gaming Industry: Guide for 3D Animators

Gaming is a multi-billion-dollar industry that relies on talented 3D animators to bring characters and worlds to life. But getting started in this field is not always easy. You need a strategic approach.

In this post, we provide valuable insights and actionable advice for 3D animators looking to launch a career in gaming. We offer expert tips on understanding the industry landscape, building a compelling portfolio, networking effectively, and standing out in job applications.

Ready to learn how to get into the video game industry? Let’s get started.




Before we get into specific job application tips for animators, let’s have a look at the current state of 3D animation in video games.

What Role Do 3D Animators Play in Video Games?

3D animators are the magicians behind the movement in video games. They make characters, objects, and even entire environments come alive.

A good animator can take a character design and infuse it with personality through movement. They consider factors like weight, agility, and emotional state to create animations that resonate with players. When characters pick up a weapon or interact with a machine, animators create smooth transitions and realistic physics simulations for these interactions.

And it’s not just characters. Games often feature dynamic elements in the environment, like swaying trees or windblown flags. 3D animators create these subtle movements to add depth and realism to the game world.

Of course, creating visually stunning animations is important, but it also needs to be optimized for smooth gameplay. That’s why part of the video game 3D animator job description includes understanding technical constraints and working within them to achieve the best results.

Are 3D Animators in Demand in the Gaming World?

The video game industry has had a very tumultuous past 12 months. On one hand, there have been huge sales of blockbuster games like Super Mario Bros. Wonder and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. On the other hand, the industry has shed thousands of jobs as gaming companies that ramped up spending and hiring during the pandemic lockdowns adjust to cooling demand.

That said, many companies are still hiring. A quick search on Indeed or LinkedIn shows dozens of open video game 3D animation jobs in Canadian game studios.

“There are still opportunities. If you have the skills, they will take you,” says Herzing 3D animation instructor Bassem El Chami. “If they see something in your work, they will at least put you on the list.”

Jayson Hilchie, president and CEO of the Entertainment Association of Canada, recently told MobileSyrup that he’s optimistic about what lies ahead.

The industry will get strong. People will gravitate back to our video games. Innovations in our industry will drive new products and experiences and entertainment that people have come back to.”



If you’re interested in a career in gaming animation, your portfolio needs to be a captivating blend of technical prowess and artistic flair.

Tailoring your demo reel to each position and company is key, says Bassem. “If I’m applying to work in the gaming industry as an animator, I should focus on my 3D animation skills only,” he told us.

“The employer doesn’t care if I can do modelling or texturing because they’re hiring me for animation. The big companies don’t need someone who knows everything—they need you to focus on one area.”

Keep your demo reel under two minutes and only include your best work. Choose pieces that demonstrate your grasp of body mechanics, timing, rhythm, weight, energy, etc. Lip synch animation isn’t as common in gaming as it is in film, so keep that in mind.

Have a look at this demo reel from Herzing graduate Prashanth Meesam:

Find creative takes on standard scenes—perhaps a different angle or an unexpected twist. You need to create something that will catch an employer’s attention.

If possible, show that you understand the limitations and optimizations needed for real-time rendering in game engines. Include animations that would run smoothly within a game environment.

Avoid common mistakes like overcrowding your portfolio with too much work, forgetting to include contact details, or using subpar rigs that can negatively affect the quality of your animations.

Above all, remember that quality trumps quantity. A few outstanding pieces are more impactful than a large number of mediocre ones.



Many gaming industry jobs get filled through referrals rather than applications. In other words, it’s often about who you know. That means it’s crucial to get your name out there and start making connections.

Leveraging Social Media and Online Communities

Social media can be a powerful tool for 3D animators in the gaming industry to network and build their careers. Here are some effective networking tips for animators:

  • Post Regularly: Share snippets of your animation work, breakdowns of your process, or even short test animations. This keeps your profile active and shows potential employers you're constantly creating. Develop a consistent posting schedule to stay visible and build an audience.
  • Share Engaging Content: Don't just post finished work. Share behind-the-scenes glimpses, tips and tricks, or even tutorials to establish yourself as an expert and engage with the community.
  • Follow Game Studios & Developers: Keep up with the latest projects and news by following relevant studios and developers on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, or ArtStation. Follow and interact with industry influencers like animation directors or lead artists. Leave thoughtful comments on their work and participate in discussions.
  • Participate in Online Challenges: Many social media platforms host art challenges related to 3D animation. Participating can be a fun way to expand your skills and gain exposure.

Attending Industry Conferences and Events

Attending animation networking events is a great way to meet like-minded professionals and learn about the latest trends.

Before each event, craft your elevator pitch—a concise but impactful statement that introduces you, your skills, and your career goals. Have your portfolio readily available on a tablet or laptop or hand out business cards with a QR code linking to your portfolio.

A lot of events host dedicated networking sessions. Take advantage of these! While it can be nerve-wracking, you need to step up and introduce yourself to people whose work you find interesting. Mention your background and express your interest in what they do.

Professionals talking at conferenceTake advantage of meet-and-greets at animation industry events

After the event, send personalized follow-up emails to the people you met. Briefly thank them for their time and reiterate your interest in their studio or project. Mention something specific you discussed to personalize the email.

And remember: building relationships takes time. Don’t expect immediate job offers; just focus on making a positive impression and building connections for the future.



The video game industry continues to evolve rapidly. Here are some of the latest gaming industry trends relevant to 3D animators:

  • Cross-platform: The demand for cross-platform gaming experiences is growing, with mobile studios expanding into consoles and PCs and vice versa. The focus is on delivering a seamless user experience across various devices.
  • Stylized art: While photorealism is still desired in some games, there's a growing trend towards unique and stylized art. Animators who can create visually appealing characters and environments that fit a specific artistic vision will have a better chance of getting hired.
  • AR and VR: The integration of augmented and virtual reality technologies is set to elevate the gaming experience, making it more immersive and interconnected. Animators with an understanding of these technologies and how they can be applied to animation will be in demand.

Woman wearing virtual reality headsetDevices like the new Apple Vision offer a mix of augmented and virtual reality. Image source: Apple

Identifying Your Niche in the Gaming Industry

Some smaller companies will hire generalists. But in most cases, employers look for people who specialize in a particular task, such as:

  • Animation: Creating movement for 3D models
  • Rigging: Creating digital skeletons that allow animators to pose and control 3D models
  • Texturing: Applying visual details like colour, surface texture, and lighting to the surface of a 3D model
  • Modelling: Creating 3D models of characters, objects, and environments
  • Compositing: Combining various visual elements like 2D and 3D animation, lighting effects, and backgrounds to create the final scene
  • Visual effects: Creating realistic or stylized visual effects like explosions, smoke, fire, and magical powers using 3D animation software



The 3D animation program from Herzing College teaches the skills and software you need to get hired in the video game industry. You’ll graduate with a professional demo reel, and our career specialists can help you craft your resume and prepare for interviews.

Our 3D animation training is delivered online and can be completed in just 17 months, including an eight-week internship.

Click below to get complete program details and chat live with an admissions advisor. We’re here to help!

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