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Old 08-27-2011, 11:56 AM   #21
tsloper
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if I were personally looking to hire a designer; I wouldn't filter applicants by if they have a degree or not. If their portfolio can demonstrate their understanding of game design and I can see they can think like a designer, I'd have no issue hiring them.
If one is looking to hire designers, then it's because there aren't any people internally who are promising enough in design, or all the existing personnel are too valuable in their current positions.
For a designer, most people want experienced people only (people who have worked in the industry on multiple projects, as designers).
Personally, I would never hire a designer who does not have industry experience, who is not credited on several games.
So the first thing I'm filtering is experience. Certainly not degrees.

But if I'm open to hiring people without experience, like for instance, junior programmers, then the second filter is a degree. So the degree is essential, for a candidate who does not have industry experience*.

My third filter is location. Actually, that's often the first thing I look at, if I'm interviewing entry-level people.

I won't even look at portfolios until a resume has passed through my filters, as I wrote in my IGDA columns for March and April 2010: http://www.igda.org/games-game-archives

*(I defined the word "experience" in my October 2006 column.)
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Old 08-27-2011, 01:42 PM   #22
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You wouldn't hire graduate level designers? Ok. That's a bit bizarre. I'd agree location is important, but as I'm in the UK - I would still take juniors on who come from across Europe.

Hypothetical question; you're looking to hire a junior designer. Two CVs come through; both have kick ass portfolios, both live the same distance away from the studio, but one has a degree. What what would you do? You wouldn't interview the one with no degree?

Last edited by KRowley : 08-27-2011 at 02:12 PM.
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Old 08-27-2011, 03:41 PM   #23
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1. You wouldn't hire graduate level designers?
2. I would still take juniors on who come from across Europe.
3. Hypothetical question; you're looking to hire a junior designer.
1. No, I said. You don't care if your designers understand what it's like to work in a team? Are we using the same definition of "designer"?
2. You must be both: a) desperate for designers, and b) excessively trusting.
3. No. I'm not. Not unless I'm a) desperate for a designer, and b) suffering from amnesia and don't remember that design is a vital position requiring a great deal of trust in the skill and experience and instincts of the candidate. Programmers I can see for entry positions; but designers? No.
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Old 08-27-2011, 03:58 PM   #24
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1. No, I said. You don't care if your designers understand what it's like to work in a team? Are we using the same definition of "designer"?
2. You must be both: a) desperate for designers, and b) excessively trusting.
3. No. I'm not. Not unless I'm a) desperate for a designer, and b) suffering from amnesia and don't remember that design is a vital position requiring a great deal of trust in the skill and experience and instincts of the candidate. Programmers I can see for entry positions; but designers? No.
Junior design positions are exactly that; junior. They are not vision holders, or people who have responsibilty over a major system. They are often hired to implement content, or you know... design and build levels.

Budgets often dictate the level of designer hired, not experience. I'd also argue that just because someone has experience it doesn't automatically make them
good. I've worked with junior designers with no experience who have provided more to a project than someone with shipped titles.

Have you ever worked on a project with more than 5 designers?

Last edited by KRowley : 08-27-2011 at 04:02 PM.
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Old 08-27-2011, 05:00 PM   #25
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Level designers, okay. Junior game designers I promote from within. I do not hire game designers without experience, period.

Edit: Upon reflection, I get your point. If I was working on a huge title like Civilization or something and needed a dozen junior designers, and couldn't fill those roles from QA, that would constitute sufficient desperation that I would consider hiring raw untested college grads. But they would be hired on a probationary basis (not given full employee status from day one, making them difficult to let go if they don't work out). Like I always say, there's an exception to every rule.
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Last edited by tsloper : 08-27-2011 at 05:11 PM. Reason: Added afterthought
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Old 08-27-2011, 05:44 PM   #26
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It's not really an exception to a rule anymore though. With the way games are made today -- with bloated teams and huge budgets -- the need for more junior design positions has increased. Even linear, level based games often have at least a couple of more junior design members who may be responsible for gameplay object / prop placement. This is just how games are made now.

But yes, going back to my original point. Filtering potential candidate for junior design members by whether or not they have a degree is -- in my opinion -- a silly thing to do. You're probably missing out on some right gems! Pretty much all games development jobs should be judged on how well said person can do the job they have applies to do. I don't see the games industry like law, medicine, accounting etc. You can't demonstrate your ability to do those jobs through anything you can SHOW employers. In games you can.

Yes, a lot of people will become good at their preferred disciple through going to study. But it's the fact they are good at their disciple which persuades me to hire them; bit the fact they have a piece of paper saying they know what they are doing. SHOW me your skills, don't tell me about them.

So as I said before; if a designer can SHOW me their design ability, then I'd have no issue bringing them in for an interview. Piece of paper or not. I'll be able to judge their potential team, communication and other disciple related skills in the interview process anyways.

Apologies if this post is filled with mistakes. Writing on my iPhone.
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Old 08-27-2011, 05:47 PM   #27
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One more point; in the UK we have probationary periods for exactly the reason you mentioned. This applies to ALL new staff. Junior or not. I'd only ever hand out a temporary contract if I knew we would be downsizing the team once the game was shipped.

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Old 08-28-2011, 09:29 AM   #28
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There is an exception to every rule (even this one). Frontier Developments' hiring practices are an exception, not the rule. The rule stands: those who aspire to game designer jobs are still best advised to get a degree. In most of the industry, game design is not an entry-level position. Level design and associated technical design roles have junior entry-level positions more than game design does.
If your goal is to break in through game design, a degree is advised, and you need a breaking-in pathway.
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Old 08-28-2011, 10:13 AM   #29
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There is an exception to every rule (even this one). Frontier Developments' hiring practices are an exception, not the rule. The rule stands: those who aspire to game designer jobs are still best advised to get a degree. In most of the industry, game design is not an entry-level position. Level design and associated technical design roles have junior entry-level positions more than game design does.
If your goal is to break in through game design, a degree is advised, and you need a breaking-in pathway.
You need to stop separating game design and level design. To be a good designer, you need to be good at both. I'd expect any level designer to be able to contribute to the "game" design; just like I'd expect any "game" designer to be able to contribute to the level design team if need be. Yes; some people are better at designing systems than they are levels, but a good designer needs to understand and be able to contribute to both aspects.

Getting a degree is not the only way into design and as I said before; in a lot of cases I bet it doesn't even factor into a decision.

Out of interest, what was the last project you actually worked on Tom?
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Old 08-28-2011, 11:23 AM   #30
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I had two projects this summer, both design consultations. First I analyzed a design doc, and for the second client I competitively analyzed two Facebook games. I can't name names, of course.

And I will absolutely not stop differentiating between game design and level design. Both jobs do still exist in the industry, requiring very different skill sets, and appealing to different types of career aspirants.
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