Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Do Something (How to get hired by a video game company)


Sometimes I'll be interviewing somebody (let's say, a programmer) who says he wants to make video games more than anything else in his life. So I say "Great! What have you done with that passion? What have you done outside of school, in your spare time? Full game projects? Cool demos? Technology experiments?" And he says "oh, nothing, just my school projects". And I want to CRY!

If you want to be an artist, draw stuff, all the time, starting right now, and work at getting better. Take classes. Go to life-drawing sessions. Learn to draw the human figure. Stop drawing robots and anime characters.

If you want to be a programmer, write code, all the time, starting right now, and work at getting better. Go to school and take game-related classes. Work on some technology experiments and demos. Write a simple game on your own. Get an internship at a game company. Work your way up.

If you want to be a designer, learn to write. Write stuff, all the time, starting right now, and work at getting better. Write designs, write stories, write reviews of other games. Read books about design, and play other games as much as possible, including games that are not normally your cup of tea. Figure out why they're good or bad. Figure out why other people think they're good or bad. Pay attention to popular culture, and figure out what people like.  More than anything else, make some games! (pen and paper table-top game, card game, first-person shooter mod, flash game, anything to show an actual product, not just documentation).

Collect all these things you've created into a portfolio, and when you get a chance to interview at a game company, show it to them and say "This is what I want to do!" If they don't hire you, find out why, and fix it.

And if you really want to do this more than anything else, then be willing to work your way up. Get in the door with a smaller job and start proving yourself. That's how I started, and that's how most of the people here got started.

Do something.



Unknown said...

This is Joshua McClain (Renown Recon). Thanks for referring me to your blog post. I will be sure to do as you say, and start putting a portfolio together now.

I can't see myself doing anything other then being in this industry, and I'll prove that I can bring a unique touch to what ever company I choose. (Hopefully Ninjabee ^_^)

Daniel Trudel said...

Awesome advice. I learned a bit that I was un aware of. I am curious though. I've been working, or trying to atleast, on some side projects with some former classmates. Do recruiters look for this kind of stuff or do they prefer solo work?

stay said...

Good question. Team work is fine, and in some ways preferable to solo work, but keep these things in mind:

A good interviewer will want to know which parts you specifically did, and they'll want to make sure you're not taking credit for somebody else's work, so you should expect a couple of random probing questions.

For instance, when we review a 3D film worked on by an artist candidate, we ask deep questions about whether she did the modeling, texturing, rigging, lighting, camera, animating, etc., and for which scenes.

In addition, the more complete the work the better. If you worked with a team and only got part of an early tech demo done, it won't be very impressive. If you worked with a team that built and shipped a whole game, and you had an important role somewhere in there, then yes, that rocks, and is about the most valuable thing you can show.