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  • Layoff Survival: Three Tips Toward a Quick Rehire

    [02.24.09]
    - Nels Anderson

  • Title boxDo, Speak, Listen
    In my humble opinion, to succeed in the game development business and survive being laid off requires three things:

    1. doing great work,
    2. letting others know about the great work that you do, and
    3. taking an interest in the great work that other people do.

    It sounds trivial to the point of naiveté, but I honestly believe these three things to be true.

    Doing great work. Doing great work doesn't just include what you do between 9 and 5. It also means seeking ways to improve the things you do outside the office.

    When playing video games, for example, instead of zoning out, think about what works in the game and more importantly, why it's compelling. When playing board games or tabletop RPGs, pay attention to what makes them tick and what others enjoy about the experience of playing them. What makes the game fun? As a game developer, you often have to let go of your role as someone who plays games just for enjoyment to take on the act of thinking critically about them.

    Another way you can do great work is to have a few side projects in development at all times. For programmers, this might mean working with a new language or framework.
    Before I started at Hothead, I had never done any 3D game programming, and this felt like a pretty glaring deficiency. I checked out a book on the subject from the Vancouver public library and created a simple 3D game using DirectX.

    When that was finished, I experimented with a more complicated game using Panda3D [http://panda3d.org], a free game engine developed by Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center. I created all the "art" (and I use that term in the loosest sense of the word) using Blender [http://www.blender.org], an open source 3D modeling application. There is a wealth of resources available for anyone interested, and many of them are free, so there's really no reason not to try and expand your skill set.

    And no matter how busy your day job is, you can always squeeze in an hour or even a half hour every day to pursue these things. I get up at 5 a.m. most days to play games, or write and read about games, programming, or other things of interest.

    Telling others about your work. Doing great work means little if other people don't know about it. Most game developers know how important networking is, and it's not terribly difficult to meet people in the game industry.

    When you hear the advice that you must be "passionate" about games or game development to work in the industry, this is what people mean. Be passionate by carrying out a side project or writing about the things you're interested, and then prove that passion by sharing with other people the things that you do.

    To connect with other developers, get involved with the local game dev scene in your area. Go to IGDA events and pub nights with other industry folks. But while you're doing this, remember to talk about the things that truly interest you. Talk about how you're pursuing those interests. Tell them about the great work you do. This doesn't mean you have free reign to be a braggart. You're having a conversation about something all the parties involved should care about. This means you also need to care about what they have to say.

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