Let’s talk about the next generation of talent
At Liquid Swords, we’re equally as focused on creating our first game, as proving that its development can be simplified and free from unnecessary external distractions. Yet to realize our dream in full, we need to help build the next generation of developers, ensuring our industry shake-up lives on. This autumn, our intern headcount jumped from one to three – not bad for a studio of less than 50. This presents a perfect opportunity to deep-dive into the importance of internships for the industry. How do they work? Why are they great? What are the best outcomes?
A little background
Interns at Liquid Swords usually join the studio through their education. Most are undertaking a lärande i arbete (LIA) course, which simply means learning-in-work, and the internship forms part of their studies. Our two newest interns join us from The Game Assembly (TGA), which places around 60 to 70 students each year in video game studios. It has schools in both Stockholm and Malmö and has educated approximately 10% of the Swedish game development industry. TGA explains, “Students develop deep, practical knowledge of the profession. They will learn to perform specialized assignments independently, using appropriate working methods.”
Getting out of the classroom
The core of any internship is taking educational knowledge and applying it in a practical working setting. Teo Silfverhjelm, one of our programming interns, who focuses on gameplay with a specific interest in AI, tells us that he’s already learned a lot in his short time at Liquid Swords. “It’s been really interesting to see how industry veterans use systems and lay the groundwork for future development. It’s different when you see these things in practice from colleagues with many years of experience.”
Fredrik Lönn, Liquid Swords’ Tech Director, industry veteran, and intern mentor explains how internships aren’t about grunt work, “We treat our interns, the same as any other team member, our goal is to evaluate how they perform undertaking regular tasks.” Even for Robin Krokfors, with a background in app development before his education at TGA, the practical experience of an internship is really important. “It’s not just that the processes and workflows are so much better than when you simulate them, but actually working with Unreal Engine 5, seeing the code, and doing my own research has been so educational and useful.”
Microcosms of game knowledge
This simulation of processes and workflows helps prepare interns for the realities of video game development, yet it can’t fully capture the intricacy of working in an actual studio. Liquid Swords production intern, Vendela Werme, recalls, “One of the most interesting things was learning that games are way more complicated than I had thought. This makes it more impressive and very eye-opening – in a good way.” TGA understand this best from their deep insight into so many different studios. They explain, “Many studios work in their own engines and can be a small microcosm of game knowledge. Through their internships, students experience a piece of this knowledge beyond just the formal and practical.”
Teaching old dogs new tricks
This process isn’t only beneficial to the intern’s education, long-serving professionals and studios can learn a thing or two as well. Senior Producer, Per Juhlen, believes that working with interns has made him think more about how the studio integrates new people, who might not be used to a working environment that feels second nature to seasoned developers. With 25 years of experience, Fredrik adds that mentoring interns can also be a useful training requirement for those seeking senior positions, as a way to demonstrate their managerial and mentorship skills.
A foot in the door
Aside from the learning for both intern and studio, there’s the question of what happens at the end of the process. “Internships are the perfect way to get to know a person and their skills. Our aim is to hire them at the conclusion of the process,” says Fredrik. This is really important for new talent working in an industry where it’s notoriously hard to get a foot in the door. “Without internships,” Fredrik continues, “it’s more difficult to hire individuals without experience.” Internships are one of the two main ways into the industry, the second being through a university education.
Teo adds, “Entry-level and junior jobs are hard to find.” He describes internships as a “trial period” for the intern and the studio. For Teo, the value of his internship is not only the practical learning and new knowledge, but also to see “what Liquid Swords has to offer” and whether it’s the right fit for him in the long term. In the best instances, these trial periods become new careers. Vendela is Liquid Swords’ shining example of this. Following the conclusion of her studies later this year, she’ll be starting a permanent role as an associate producer at the studio.
What makes success?
A successful internship, like Vendela’s, is the cumulative effort of all parties involved – especially the intern. TGA believes a successful internship rests on a strong mentor who can guide the intern as they develop their knowledge, skills, and confidence. For the intern, there needs to be the drive and commitment to learn and grow. And for the studio the sincere willingness to commit to the intern’s education and engage with them and their educational institution. As Per muses, those that are successful get to join an industry that is, “not for everyone, but when it is for you, it is the best job in the world.”