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  • Entry-Level Video Game Designers

    [04.15.08]
    - Jill Duffy

  •  The Job Hunt
    I asked him to explain his process of applying for jobs. "Unfortunately," he said, "I wasn't being very intelligent. I was focusing too much on my thesis that I didn't start job hunting until two weeks before graduation."

    He looked for job openings online mostly at sites such as Gamasutra.com and Creativeheads.net. "I was really searching the job posts, doing that a lot, but also looking at companies that I respect and admire and sending my resume directly to them."

    The hunt finally rewarded him with a few phone interviews, one with a company in California and a few others with developers in Canada. Beginning in autumn, about five months after he started applying for jobs, Kilgore finally received a few invitations for on-site interviews.

    Kilgore was lucky to have interviews lined up in September and October because "everything kind of shuts down in December," he said. Two of the companies wanting to interview him were within driving distance, while two others required getting on a plane, which the companies paid for.

    Seeing as the interview at High Voltage was the one that ultimately resulted in his first job, I asked Kilgore to explain in some detail how the interview process went.

    First, he had one full phone interview and one "half" phone interview with designers at the company. They emailed him questions, such as "What games do you play?" and "What are you looking for in a company?" Kilgore said of his answers, "Apparently, I matched their profile."

    When asked what he focused on in his English studies, he responded, "Unfortunately, technical writing." Luckily, one of the interviewers snapped back with, "Hey! That's what my focus was." Overall, the interview went well enough.

    Then High Voltage suddenly went silent. "They never got back to me for four weeks, and I just started calling like every other day," Kilgore told me. Eventually, he got a hold of the creative director and had a "half" interview. He was told to email the creative director every month or two to keep in touch, which he did. But the company still never made an offer.

    January rolled around, and High Voltage suddenly called Kilgore "out of the blue," saying they'd like to fly him to Chicago and have a face-to-face interview.

    "I interviewed with a producer, a lead designer, and the creative director, and was offered a job on site."

    During the interview, Kilgore said he was asked, "How do you work?" High Voltage deals a lot with publishers, he explained, so the company wanted to gauge how well he would get along with those kinds of authoritative figure. They also asked, "How would you manage to get your ideas through without fighting the publisher?"

    In Kilgore's answer, he said, "If people have a reason why ... my question is always ‘Why?' ... If people have a good enough reason, then that's fine, and [I'm willing to] work from there. If you give me a good reason, I'll believe you and I'll try to convince you of my ideas. Everything is a compromise."

    In the Office
    Right now, as a relatively new designer on the team, Kilgore isn't having sit-downs with the publisher just yet. He works more with producers and lead designers. "It's definitely interesting because some of the other designers I'm working with come out of ‘trade schools,' so we definitely have a different flavor of how a game should or should not work," he said.

    Although he's been on the job a few months, Kilgore is still learning the ropes. "I still feel like I'm a student," he said. He also doesn't have a strong handle yet on the big picture of how production works. "All the leads are in one room... which makes sense, but at the same time, I'm a designer. I'm in a [different] room somewhere, and I would like to know the process with the artists [and other departments] ... learning the flow of how it's ‘correctly' done."

    I asked him to tell me something he found surprising about working in a professional game development studio, something he hadn't expected about it. "There's actually females here!" he said. "Not a whole lot, but more than I expected."

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