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Old 05-15-2008, 10:56 AM   #1
yaustar
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Default Re: Op-ed: From the Outside Looking In

Article: http://www.gamecareerguide.com/featu...e_looking_.php

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The game industry is probably the most difficult industry to break into. However, I really believe it doesn't need to be.
It is difficult because entry level positions are in such high demand that companies employ just the best that apply.

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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.
Why? This makes no business sense to hire inexperienced developers. The new studio is already in a risky position as a start-up, why make it worse by hiring fresh graduates when there are plenty of experienced developers out there that can hit the ground running.

Ideally, I would prefer to see more companies help out by offering more internships but even then, it is still in high demand that it makes no sense to take on anyone but the best who apply. Why waste time and money?

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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.
When did this become a standard practise (which it looks like you are implying) for companies? I am working with developers who have been working with the same studio for nearly a decade.

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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.
Any company in any industry is not going to hire anyone that can't prove their skills in a portfolio and/or interview.

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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.
Then they should just make it. Nowadays, there are so many tools and resources out there that if they just want to make a game, they should and many people are. Look at the GBA, PSP, GP2X, Dreamcast, etc homebrew scenes for evidence on this. With Microsoft's XNA and 360 plans, this could go even further. The final 'product' will make a great development piece.

If they want to a game to sell, then it becomes a different issue.

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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.
The Games Industry doesn't need any new trade skills. A game is made by developers that are either Programmers, Artists, Sound Engineers, Produces, QA and Game Designers. All of which Universities have been teaching for decades barring Games Design (at least to my knowledge unless there have been courses about generic games design (cards, board, dice, pen and paper) ).

The industry is getting involved, some companies have been very vocal on games courses/schools especially games design courses. Some developers have setup their own Games Course because they were fed up of games courses not being up to par for what is needed for the industry. Some studios have open days as well that allow students to visit the studio.

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There should be more pressure from the game industry to create Guildhall-style schools at major universities across the country.
How will it help? There are already established schools that teach the material that is needed (i.e Computer Science for people who want to be become programmers). Just because they don't have the word 'game' in the course title doesn't mean it isn't applicable to the industry.

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The industry must also work to develop standardized ways of educating people on the tools to create games. Just because an instructor is proficient at 3ds Max does not make him or her a great teacher of that program.
The majority of tools we use in the industry are same that are used in other industries. For example, 3DS Max is used in the TV and film industry. Why does there need to be a games specific education in using a general tool that is not specific to any industry?

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The game industry needs more women because it needs more games that appeal to women, thus allowing the market to grow further. The industry needs to move women away from casual games and create triple-A titles that feature narrative design that appeals to them. What such a game might entail is obviously something that can't be decided by me, as I am but a humble 24 year-old male.
Why? Because you are male? Please. That is like saying you can't create a game for kids because you are an adult. Also, you may be missing the point, perhaps females in general prefer playing casual games that can be played in short bursts rather then epic triple-A games?

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I just want the industry to be aware that there are people out there with deep passion and love for this medium who simply want a chance. Even a phone interview would be nice. I'm not telling the industry to give every Joe Sunday a career, but at least talk to people who claim they are passionate. Find out if they are talking through their nether regions or not.
This I agree with. This is why I am on forums like these and take time out to visit my old University and attempt to attend events like GamesEdu.

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I believe the game industry would be pleasantly surprised to find that those on the outside really just want to make appealing games, the same as someone with a Grand Theft Auto title on her resume.
Of course we are, that is why we do hire graduates (I am not sure where you are getting the idea that we are not) but only if their skills are up to par and they can prove it in a portfolio and/or an interview.

As a reply, here is a link to my article detailing how I broke in as a graduate:
http://www.gamecareerguide.com/featu...ideo_game_.php

Last thought: A couple of months ago, I took a look at the UK University course listing and searched for any course that had 'game' in the title. I got back ~300 results. Assuming we have just 10 students graduating the course each year, that is ~3000 graduates looking for entry level jobs JUST from games courses alone. Given the number of developers in the UK, that is a lot of graduates competing for the small number of positions available.
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Old 05-15-2008, 01:44 PM   #2
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I'm glad I wasn't the only one that had problems with some of the themes in this article.

These were my two main problems:
Quote:
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.
Why would a company hire a person that has no presentable skills in the area that they are applying for. This is even worse (for the person without the presentable skills), when there are people that can show they know what they're doing.

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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.
If you have ideas, go make them. The post above me covered this, there's many different platforms that are available for you to make your games on. There's even the route of board games/card games/tabletop games, if you don't think you can program.

And guess what, if you make a game, then you have a portfolio piece and are one step closer to (possibly) being hired.
At the very least, you're closer to being hired then a person who hasn't put the effort into showing off that they know what they're doing.
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Old 05-15-2008, 04:43 PM   #3
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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.

Any company in any industry is not going to hire anyone that can't prove their skills in a portfolio and/or interview.
I think what's he's trying to say here is that not enough people get the chance to even get their portfolio looked at/get a first interview. It's kind of hard for someone to prove themselves through a stellar portfolio if no one is willing to take a quick first glance at it.

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The game industry needs more women because it needs more games that appeal to women, thus allowing the market to grow further. The industry needs to move women away from casual games and create triple-A titles that feature narrative design that appeals to them. What such a game might entail is obviously something that can't be decided by me, as I am but a humble 24 year-old male.

Why? Because you are male? Please. That is like saying you can't create a game for kids because you are an adult. Also, you may be missing the point, perhaps females in general prefer playing casual games that can be played in short bursts rather then epic triple-A games?
Lol, I'm a girl I don't even know what games that appeal to women would be like for sure. I know a lot of girls (including myself) who love Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Guitar Hero, Rockband, Super Smash Bros, Super Mario, Zelda, etc. I'm not sure if it's the games themselves that are the reason for the low percentage of girl gamers or some other reason entirely.
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Old 05-15-2008, 05:05 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by EvilLlama View Post
I think what's he's trying to say here is that not enough people get the chance to even get their portfolio looked at/get a first interview. It's kind of hard for someone to prove themselves through a stellar portfolio if no one is willing to take a quick first glance at it.
I would bet that most, if not all portfolios that are sent in for a particular job are looked at and they are one of the main reasons why you get a call/interview or not.

Work on your portfolio, get experience from making games and/or mods.
This seems to be how alot of people I am currently working with got their jobs.
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Old 05-15-2008, 10:19 PM   #5
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Lol, I'm a girl I don't even know what games that appeal to women would be like for sure. I know a lot of girls (including myself) who love Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Guitar Hero, Rockband, Super Smash Bros, Super Mario, Zelda, etc. I'm not sure if it's the games themselves that are the reason for the low percentage of girl gamers or some other reason entirely.
Glad to see I'm not alone
I personally don't think I'd play "girl specific" games, I think there's a big chance I'll find them boring...

regarding how hard it is to find a job, the catch 22 of needing a job to get experience and needing experience to get a job is not unique to the games industry, every employer would prefer someone with experience over someone fresh out of college. over here (IE Israel), there's an option to learn programming in the army, which gives you both the necessary education and the experience (I left the army with 9 years experience in the IT field, but without an academic degree) and there's a big debate here as to what is the better route - university or army for software developers, and a lot of companies here will actually prefer the army experience over the degree. most people without experience find themselves in QA positions as their first jobs. I know some people that don't want to do that (afraid they will stay in QA forever) and have a very hard time finding a programming position.
I don't know if this is 100% true for game companies, but sounds like it is from the article.
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:17 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by yaustar View Post
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The game industry needs more women because it needs more games that appeal to women, thus allowing the market to grow further. The industry needs to move women away from casual games and create triple-A titles that feature narrative design that appeals to them. What such a game might entail is obviously something that can't be decided by me, as I am but a humble 24 year-old male.
Why? Because you are male? Please. That is like saying you can't create a game for kids because you are an adult.
Ahh someone who understands! This is something I've been trying to tell people when they ask the inevitable "What do you think about the lack of women in the industry?" (usually by students). Getting more women into the industry is fine, but that doesn't mean we're going to get "girls games". They join the industry because they enjoy games, that is... the current games that are on the market, the one's many people stereotype as 'guy only' games. Therefore the games they create (if they have a choice in the design) are probably going to be what they like (which we've already established, is the stuff already on the market). I've known & worked with several women who never once suggested we should do a make-over game, but will be the first in line at the office Tekkan tournament.

What it takes is a designer... any designer, with the vision to make an appealing game, and further changes in public opinion that games are for guys.

Last edited by Claxon : 05-16-2008 at 01:21 AM.
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:40 AM   #7
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Also glad I'm not the only one who was slightly put off by this article.

One thing I am glad of, however, is that the author did not specifically note his school. Though considering he says it was Arizona-based and mentions it was specifically called a Game Design degree, there's not much more he can do aside from pointing it out and linking their main site. Still. Something can be said for not being found in the search query "Does [school] suck".

There is a frighteningly large amount of negative press circulating about trade schools that people are absorbing and using in their vehement need to discredit x school. Yes, there are a lot of bogus programs out there. No, you certainly don't need to attend a games-specific program to get in the industry. And signing that admissions form and getting your diploma are not marketable job skills in this industry - they cannot and will not just be traded in equally for an entry-level job! People who get into the industry get there not because of their college - they get there because of that passion the author so fervently defends. If you've educated yourself about the chances of getting into this industry and you're still pursuing it, you'd better be bringing all of your cards to the table.

Personally, I attend a school with a games-specific degree. I work hard at it. I have a 3.9 GPA. I also do writing and production work for a mod team and have just entered into writing for an indie team. In my spare time I actively network by keeping an updated blog on my portfolio site and commenting on other developer - particularly narrative designer - blogs. I recently took on a second part-time job for the sole purpose of paying for Austin GDC this year and GDC next year; my graduating year.

If anything out of the above gets me a job, the school and my performance therein are going to be last on the list of what drove the employer to hire me. But I will say this: Enrolling in that school was the best thing I did for my career. It was my wakeup call to realize what I wanted, and what I needed to do to get it.

Also, on a completely separate wavelength - I'm probably not the best girl to ask what we want out of a video game since I very happily play anything and everything, including the games we women are supposed to find 'offensive'. I'd probably play a pretty happy pony game, too, if it had excellent gameplay or compelling characters! I fail to see a reason to take a slice of the pie away from the casual games market. There's a reason why those games appeal so highly to women.

In terms of AAA titles securing a woman's interest - do you really think we don't like to take out our aggression / work through our stress, too? That we don't enjoy the satisfaction of an accomplishment? Design and write your game true to itself and its core mechanics. Respect that our demographic exists, ask for our creative input during the development process, and let that be that.

Oh and really... romance subplots in games? Please get a woman to take a look at your female PC/NPC's dialogue before you send it off!
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Old 05-16-2008, 05:19 AM   #8
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Hi all,
I'm really glad to see this discussion happening. When Brian Nathanson first submitted this piece of writing for publication, I also disagreed with some of his points -- BUT reading it reminded me that we do have to have this discussion. We do have to remember that there ARE other game students who feel the same way Brian did upon graduation: ill prepared for the industry and without a competitive portfolio.

So I'm glad to see both your critiques of Brian's points as well as your words of encouragement to him and others like him.

I also think it's important for university and school officials to constantly take stock of their students and their needs, and then reassess whether and how those needs are being met, especially because game education is still quite young.

This discussion, right here on this forum, is one of the major ways we can affect the game industry and the educational pathways into it. I know school officials read this stuff (I know because sometimes they email me or talk to me at conferences), so you're talking to them as much as you're talking to each other.

Lastly, although no one has speculated this, I want to be clear that in his original submission, Brian did not name his school (i.e., it was not edited out by me, the editor).

Please continue to share your personal experiences and opinions. It helps everyone better understand the gap that exists between the industry and schools, between students and educators, between hiring managers and job candidates.
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Old 05-16-2008, 12:17 PM   #9
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I breezed through this, so I may have missed it.

I think the main problem he's trying to get across is there is no "Do X, Apply, Get Y" We can all see the types of things that make a good portfolio, but at the end of the day even that doesn`t guarantee you the job.

It seems that in order to get into the industry (to me.) it feels like you need to start building a portfolio before university or college, or even out of high school. Right now I need a full time job to pay off bills to live... and that really cuts into my "Let`s make an awesome portfolio" time. Also, there are no definates when it comes to what a portfolio is.

I want to design games, and there are a billion sites on what should go in my particular portfolio. However, a lot of these sites contradict themselves or each other and leave me still asking... how do I get that job at Bioware?

There are no absolutes, and only I know that I am willing to work 120 hours a week and get paid for 40. Only I know what I am capable of, and it`s very hard to transfer into a portfolio. Landing the interview is 110% the hardest part of the whole ordeal. This isn`t just a job at McDonalds, this is the career. This is MY career choice, the job I want to move up in from the ground up and run by the 10 year mark. It`s easy to apply to an EB Games as a Sales Associate and move up to Management, they`ve got that chain of command. Perhaps this is what the industry needs? That starting point and chain of here`s what comes after you start?

I don`t really know, but all I do know is that you increase your chances of getting a job when you live next door to the company or industry. I am moving 3300 miles away from my family to hopefully get a job at a company I`m not sure will hire me. Here`s to hoping my portfolio is strong enough.

Just my .02 cents.

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Old 05-16-2008, 02:41 PM   #10
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Note: This is from the UK's industry point of view.

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I think the main problem he's trying to get across is there is no "Do X, Apply, Get Y"
If that is true then I would argue that it be impossible to such as a guide which is so clear cut. Given the various backgrounds and circumstances of people who have broke into the industry and ones that are still trying, I really think writing such a guide is impossible.

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We can all see the types of things that make a good portfolio but at the end of the day even that doesn`t guarantee you the job.
That is true, it is however a large factor in getting an interview and whether you get that job will be based on what you do in that interview. Saying that, I have seen an instance where someone people have broke in without a portfolio although it still came down to proving his skills to get the current role he is in.

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It seems that in order to get into the industry (to me.) it feels like you need to start building a portfolio before university or college, or even out of high school.
I don't think this is true. A portfolio should showcase your best work and arguably your best work isn't produced prior to University or even prior to your third year at University.

Quote:
I want to design games, and there are a billion sites on what should go in my particular portfolio. However, a lot of these sites contradict themselves or each other and leave me still asking... how do I get that job at Bioware?
I find looking at portfolios of others who have got jobs in the industry does help, here is an example of a Level Designer's portfolio: http://www.essell.org/portfolio/
Don't forget that getting the interview is half the job, you need to be able to impress them during the interview as well.

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It`s easy to apply to an EB Games as a Sales Associate and move up to Management, they`ve got that chain of command. Perhaps this is what the industry needs? That starting point and chain of here`s what comes after you start?
The industry does have a 'chain of command'. That is why there are various roles such as Graduate/Junior, Senior and Lead in each major discipline. You start as a Junior and work your way up to a Lead position and beyond if you want to. I started as a Junior Level Scripter and then moved on to the next step of the chain as a Junior Gameplay programmer when I showed I could do the work that was expected of me.

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I don`t really know, but all I do know is that you increase your chances of getting a job when you live next door to the company or industry.
Now this is the part that confuses me completely. I have no idea where you got this from as I have never seen this advice being given. As long as you are willing to relocate for the role, your current location should have no bearing on whether or not get an interview or the role.

Last edited by yaustar : 05-16-2008 at 02:44 PM.
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