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  • Op-ed: From the Outside Looking In

    [05.15.08]
    - Brian Nathanson
  •  My name is Brian Nathanson and I have no video game industry experience. Two years ago, I moved from Ohio to Arizona to pursue my dream of becoming a part of the industry. I attended a school that offered the promise that with hard work, the school would provide the education and support I needed to learn skills I had never learned before. I was told that over the course of my studies, a powerful portfolio would be created and my degree would confer confidence to game developers because the school was known and accredited.

    Needless to say, nothing of the sort has come to pass. Such is the story of many of my acquaintances and friends as well who dream of nothing more than to work hard and make that next stellar video game.

    This article is not a lamentation, nor is it meant to place blame on anyone for my personal shortcomings. There are probably many reasons why I failed to get even so much as a phone interview. My problems are my own, and I am pursuing other ways to pay the bills. This article is merely meant to channel the dissatisfaction my colleagues and I have felt as we attempted to break into the video game industry. It is my intention to take my experiences and find the silver lining in them. To live one's life always angry and regretting one's decisions never allows for success.

    I am completely aware of how many people want to be a part of the video game industry. I will admit, openly and publicly, that I probably don't have a very competitive portfolio.  The game industry is probably the most difficult industry to break into. However, I really believe it doesn't need to be. I believe the industry needs to allow for outside and inexperienced people to reinvigorate the game development process. I believe that those who have a shipped title on their resumes, while talented and dedicated, perhaps are closer to burning out than an individual out to make his or her mark.

    The reason I bring up the issue of burn out is because the game industry seems to be in a perpetual state of start-ups that spring off from established development studios. New studios understandably don't want some inexperienced person with a mixed portfolio and no projects or titles. It's very risky. However, I believe that a new studio should take some risk to recruit hungry and fresh outsiders instead of just looking for people who may already be disaffected by their own careers.

    The act of uprooting people from studio to studio serves to keep the industry volatile instead of stable. Uprooting people also has an increased chance of causing burn out in them.

    Individuals with base skill sets and true passion are ready and waiting to be given a chance to shine. These talented and passionate people bring fresh new energy and commitment into an industry that seems to always be juggling profitability with volatility. New ideas, new game mechanics, and new appeal could be created by those who just want to make a game they would like to play. Smaller, more tightly focused, and perhaps less expensive games could be the result if the industry allowed more inexperienced developers to work while growing their skill sets.

    Game education is still new and somewhat untested. It's no wonder that just having an education or degree in game development will not automatically translate into a job in the industry. The industry needs to do something to bring in new talent and prevent scores of people from wasting money on schools that won't help them when they're done.

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