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Old 05-29-2008, 10:10 AM   #1
Elan
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Default I'm 26 and I'm stuck.

Greetings!

Allow me to paint a bit of a background for myself before I get to the crux of my problem. I've known since I was about sixteen that I wanted to be involved in gaming. This was a decade ago, where games had slowly begun shaking their guise as an entertainment medium and really began to emerge as an art form. I've always considered myself a creative person, more potent in the crafting of words with a keyboard and monitor, rather than some charcoal pencils and an easel. I figure that combining my love of gaming and my creativity is a pretty natural synergy. My major is college was English, though it was originally Computer Science. I'm sure you can see where I was going with CS, but my mathematical and programming skills weren't quite up to par with my writing ability.

Four years and a degree later, here I am, gainfully employed, paying off student loans and other life costs. While I'm comfortable where I am with my job, I'm certainly not content with it. I'd be much happier doing something I love than something just to get through life. It goes back to the old "do what you love" adage. I've been applying to various gaming jobs in the Los Angeles area for almost a year now, and I have only heard back from one company. They're all positions I'm qualified for, I just feel like I lack some sort of experience to really put me in the running.

With that in mind, I've recently applied to a local community college for a few courses in game design, just to put a jump start on the experience, and possibly nail down a few contacts in the industry. Lately, though, I've been considering going after another bachelor's degree, in design. The problem with this is the full-time nature of a BA, and my conflicting financial responsibilities. I'm 26 and I'm stuck. I could bite the bullet and bury myself under another 40-60 thousand dollars of debt. I don't really covet money, so that's a dive I could take... but I do enjoy having some living comfort... I'm a dude who enjoys gaming, after all.

Anyway. That's me, and that's my dilemma.
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Old 05-29-2008, 11:31 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elan View Post
I could bite the bullet and bury myself under another 40-60 thousand dollars of debt.
Damn you guys get ripped off with education... Personally I don't feel that design courses are worth that much money. Considering that you are VERY unlikely to get a design role straight out of the course, it only really serves as a briefing on how to do a game design, which you could learn for yourself from your own experimentation & whilst getting experience in another area of the industry such as QA.

If you're looking for a design position and don't want to go through QA, I recommend that you consider level design. Find an engine that supports scripting and practice your design skills with the level layout. Where will the player go, how can you influence them? What atmosphere do you want? How can you create that? What's more you don't really need to be too skilled at art & programming to do it. Once you've got the flow of a level right, do some more. Then find a story & theme to link them together and you've just created the basis for a game by thinking about the design. Write it up, slap it into a portfolio and then send it for your next job application.
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Old 05-29-2008, 11:40 AM   #3
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Hello and welcome.

What jobs did you apply for in the industry that you said you are qualified for? Unfortunately, the games industry isn't like most industries. Having a relevant degree won't qualify you for a position. They want to see experience via a shipped title and, barring that, experience via a professional-looking portfolio. So what sort of jobs have you been applying for over the last year? You were and English major, with some CS... writing jobs? Did you submit a writing sample tailored to the industry? Programming jobs? Do you have a portfolio with sample code and a small demo game you've programmed? The few design jobs that are open to entry-level (yep, that means degree-holding) people? Did you have a fully playable level or demo game?

What are these courses you've applied for? Unless they're going to teach you how to make something you can include in an awesome portfolio then it's probably not worth your money, to be honest. First though, narrow down what it is you actually want to do in the industry. There are a lot of positions, and an English degree has gotten someone into each and every one of them, I quite imagine, but not without showing a knowledge of and mastery of the field.

I hope my response doesn't come across as harsh, but I just want to make sure you understand exactly why it is those companies turned you down and what you need to do to keep it from happening again, and off the cuff here I'm going to say it probably doesn't lie in taking those courses you mentioned, unless they're going to instruct you in something that will help you pull together a portfolio.
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Old 05-29-2008, 11:47 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Claxon View Post
Damn you guys get ripped off with education... Personally I don't feel that design courses are worth that much money. Considering that you are VERY unlikely to get a design role straight out of the course, it only really serves as a briefing on how to do a game design, which you could learn for yourself from your own experimentation & whilst getting experience in another area of the industry such as QA.
This isn't the industry to get any job straight out of a course, though. It's not just relevant to designers, though more and more design positions are opening up and true game design programs are giving students the experience to work in teams to create several games.

For the games industry, a degree alone is just never going to translate directly into a job. So when you're paying 50k, you're not paying for a job or to even be considered for a job. You're paying for training that will help you get to a place where you can work to be considered for a job.

That said, in this case, I don't think it's appropriate for the OP. He has a BA and English is as good a degree as any with which to apply. What he needs now is relevant experience for his portfolio.
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Old 05-29-2008, 12:16 PM   #5
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1. What job are you currently doing?
2. What jobs are you applying for? (Exact descriptions and/or links would be helpful)
3. Do you have a resume that we could view?
4. Do you have a portfolio that we can view?
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:58 PM   #6
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Thank you all for your replies.

I feel I should elaborate on specifically what I'm after. I fancy myself as a idea man, a concept designer. One of the guys who comes up with some awesome game mechanic. That's really what I'm after. Story and plot also resonate with me. I realize these positions aren't quite entry-level, that you can't just waltz into these jobs without any experience. That is why I've come here. How do I get there? Without, you know, starting my own production studio.

Currently, I'm employed in the publishing industry as a Production Editor. I handle various editorial tasks, manage and keep schedules, handle reprints of my department, maintain database entry, proofreading, and I'm a liason between departments (design, production, editorial, marketing, etc).

I normally apply to production-based positions because I have experience in that field... albeit, in an entirely different industry. I have applied to Associate Producer (experience-based, needs shipped titles, like CKeene mentions), Production Coordinator, Assistant Historian, and Writer. Essentially, I apply to jobs I feel I can do entry-level. I've learned that Associate Producer isn't entry-level, so I've ceased applying to those positions. Many of the jobs I have been applying to do not mention portfolios, save for writing samples that include a few short stories and expository writing. Otherwise, I have no portfolio, and that's why I want to take few design courses.

I do not apply to designer positions because they unanimously require experience with some software of which I've never heard. Programming isn't even reasonably in my realm of understanding (in college, I failed my very first programming class, and got out shortly after that).

Hope this clarifies things!
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Old 05-29-2008, 02:41 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CKeene View Post
This isn't the industry to get any job straight out of a course, though.
I did. Granted I put a hell of a lot of spare time into my own projects, but that's pretty much expected. My BSc Honours degree only had a course fee of about 3500 (around $7000). You might as well spend the money funding an indie-dev project using a cheap Engine like Torque. Companies don't consider a degree as "Commercial Experience", but a funded project is more appealing (even with a low budget). After an indie project (particularly if it's good) you're more likely to be able to enter another company at a higher position (possibly going straight to their design team) than coming fresh from University.
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Old 05-29-2008, 03:23 PM   #8
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That's what I mean though, Claxon. One can't expect to just do the minimum required for their degree and trade it in for a job in the games industry, you know? Many people have attained jobs straight out of school though, thanks to putting in a lot of extra work. It's something I myself hope for and am working toward.

To the OP:

Quote:
I fancy myself as a idea man, a concept designer. One of the guys who comes up with some awesome game mechanic. That's really what I'm after. Story and plot also resonate with me.
The 'idea man' job doesn't really exist, unfortunately. It's a myth we all succumb to at first, so don't feel bad. Unless you're a Sid Meier or Will Wright, you won't be the main guy pumping out ideas. Here's some of what a game designer does do, though, as pulled from Tom Sloper's site:

Quote:
Come to work every morning. Communicate effectively with producers, programmers, and other creative personnel. Participate meaningfully in meetings, cooperate with company requirements in terms of filling out timesheets, filing reports, and a lot of boring stuff like that. When you are assigned to work on a project, you have to put aside your pet ideas (which nobody ever seems to want to spend time and money on) and work on the assigned project. Most of the work of a game designer entails writing lengthy documents, attending meetings, soothing frayed nerves, using salesmanship skills, and writing lists.
It's not very glamorous. Keep in mind though, it depends on the company. Smaller companies will most likely have you doing other things. That's why it's important for a designer to be as well-rounded as possible. Learn as much about game development as you can, even, yes, beginning programming.

Quote:
I realize these positions aren't quite entry-level, that you can't just waltz into these jobs without any experience. That is why I've come here. How do I get there? Without, you know, starting my own production studio.
Actually, some studios do hire designers entry-level. This position is generally called "Junior Designer". As for paths to take, there's the tried and true QA to Lead QA to Game Designer, or Level Designer to Game Designer, or Associate Producer to Game Designer, which is what a colleague of mine at RDS, Monty Markland, recently did at OEI, so before folks say 'nuh uh, you can't get a job as an Associate Producer on an entry-level basis!', I have the proof! But seriously. He worked as Lead Designer on a high-profile mod team that was constantly under OEI's appreciative eye, so it's a bit different.

My point is, there are many paths. But I recommend you build up a nice portfolio for a game designer. What should it have in it? Read this article:

http://www.gamecareerguide.com/featu...tfolio_is_.php
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Old 05-29-2008, 04:39 PM   #9
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I hope this thread has helped Elan. I myself am in fact behind in schedule terms and fear may end up in the same situation.

I believe my situation may be even worse, given the fact that I presently attend law school and live in Brazil. Though I'm one year and a half away from getting my bachelor's degree, I also attend other design classes at my university and participate in a game research & development group.

But I fear none of this may be enough for me to become a game designer/writer.

Contrary to Elan's situation, I do think I might benefit from a post graduate program after I'm done with Law. Then again Yaustar has previously given advice at this thread.

I don't know...maybe my situation can shed some light on Evan's (I hope).
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