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Location, Location, Location...
by Robert Madsen on 02/03/10 09:07:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


First, let me say that the feedback from my last blog was welcome and stimulating. Ad to that the honor of being chosen by Gamasutra to be the featured blog of the week! I had hoped to keep up my once a week "resolution", but as you can see, I haven't quite done so. But now the show must go on!

Last week I discussed some issues that make getting a job in the game industry slightly different than some other fields. This week I'll discuss one of the practical side effects of this difference: location. Although jobs in the game industry are spread out all over the world, they tend to cluster in certain areas. If you live in one of those clusters, then it will be much easier for you to find a job. If you don't, then get ready to move! 

When it comes to location, the game industry is much like other entertainment industries. For the music industry, the main hub is Nashville. For dance and stage acting it's New York.  For movies, Hollywood. So where are the major hubs of activity for the game industry?

Although there is no single location that companies flock to for the game industry, there are several cities that have become prominent hubs:

  • Los Angeles, CA - not surprising since its home to the entertainment industry in general
  • San Francisco, CA - especially prominent for the games journalism and marketing sectors
  • Seattle, WA - must have something to do with a small company started by Bill Gates
  • Austin, TX - mostly known for a wealth of smaller independent studios

While there are locations scattered across the U.S. (and the world) where you can find a job in the game industry, you increase your likelihood of getting a job if you live in one of these key hubs. The need to be willing to relocated was particularly relevant to my situation.

At the time that I began considering a move into the game industry, I was living in Grand Junction, CO. This is a moderate sized city close to the border of Utah. The closest large cities were Salt Lake City, UT to the west and Denver, CO to the east, each about 250 miles away. Suffice to say that Grand Junction is too small to have any game-related companies, so I knew I was going to have to move. If I wanted to stay relatively close to "home", then both Salt Lake City and Denver were prospects.

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of game companies in both Salt Lake City and Denver.  In order to find a job in the game industry, I had to expand my horizons.  So I extended my search to include the western half of the United States. I landed my first job in Dallas, TX. This meant moving 1000 miles away from my family in Grand Junction, but it was a move I was willing to take.

After the studio in Dallas laid off many of its employees, I was faced with an even more difficult decision. With the economic and job situation at the time, I was forced to consider any job in any location in the United States. Even that wasn't enough, and eventually I took a job in Canada!

The moral of this story: to get your first job in the game industry you'll probably have to move. To get your second job in the game industry, you'll probably have to move.

Unfortunately, the game industry is also pretty notorious for high rates of turnover. That means that you probably won't only move once during your game career. You may move every time you get another job. This is where living in a hub that has many game companies becomes a real advantage. The more game companies that are in the area, the less likely that you'll have to pack your bags every time something changes.

A particularly useful resource in this regard is David Perry's Game Industry Map located at This site allows you to search the world for game related companies. If you search for a particular location, it will show you a map identifying all of the game related companies in that area. It's like the Google Maps of the game industry! 

That's it for this week. Stay tuned next week when I delve in to the big question of how to best prepare yourself for a job in the game industry. 


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Bart Stewart
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I'd like to think (or maybe hope) that this getting a little easier due to virtualization and the extension of broadband networks into more locations.

I can see a Big Game needing to have people on-site -- there's a lot of communication/coordination required, for which secure high-speed networking could get expensive. But for a small project -- say, 5 to 10 people -- has working as a virtual team become feasible yet?

If not, what's still required for that to become a viable option?

Dave Endresak
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There's also the little factor of companies paying for relocation. Same for education institutions or any other group. This is the real problem - none of them want to pay. In addition, they often choose to ignore anyone who is not in their local area - they'll even put such restrictions in public job postings. Nice discrimination, and so much for equal opportunity or getting the best person for any task. Ultimately, it doesn't matter how free you are or how much you'd love to relocate for work because it comes down to people in power excluding you from even having a choice in the matter.

Of course, there are exceptions, but we are speaking about the general reality, I think, not the exceptional lucky instances.

Reza Ghavami
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Great advice, Robert! I am aspiring to get into the industry in fact, and owe you my gratitude.

Stephen Chin
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It seems like virtual offices (for lack of a better term) seems to be something a lot of people are looking to do for precisely that reason. There was a blog earlier that discussed project design tools like Google Wave. I suppose, at a basic level, a virtual office requires the same sort of adjustments that having to telecommute to a regular office requires - process specific to that space and certain a little bit more of the type of people that can work in this fashion.

Patrick Dugan
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If I didn't have the foresight to outsource myself to the third world, I not only would have had more difficulty getting into the game industry, but I certainly wouldn't have been a lead designer on a retail console game by age 23.

Maurício Gomes
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I think that one of the biggest hurdles, are when you need to move to another country, and that country is not willing go accept you unless you have a job, but you won't get a job unless you live there...

I am at that situation, I live in Brazil, brazillians are hated (and with reason, also the same reason why I want to leave) in other countries, so getting permission to move there legally is hard, even harder that you need to get said permission before getting a job there, this mean somehow getting in the industry locally, something that if was easy, would not need relocation...

Thomas Whitfield
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A lot of them aren't willing to pay for relocation (which I understand).

Even better, a lot of the "entry level" jobs are the ones marked local only... so basically you already have to live there to break in.

Starting out in the games industry is starting to be a catch-22.

Everyone seems to only to be looking for senior (5+, 8+, 10+ years) people. Even the junior positions are starting to list requirements like 5 years and 3 titles shipped... in addition to being local.

Ian Fisch
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I think the advantage of America is that it's so big, and you don't need a visa to live in another state.

I've moved around a lot for jobs. That's just the American way. It frustrates me when my friends refuse to move, but claim to really want to work in the games industry. Rather than move, they join trade groups to convince the companies to come to them. It doesn't work that way fellas.

Hsiao Wei Chen
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I live in the Philippines, and getting into the game industry for me here, was actually quite easy, because most of the game companies here are outsourcers for some of the big name companies in other countries (so no need for traveling :D). The company I work for is actually one of the featured contractors here on Gamasutra (we worked on "Uncharted 2" :D, or at least my officemates did, since I'm not an artist).

Robert Madsen
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My experience has been that game companies are more willing to pay for relocation (at least in the United States) than other industries. For example, when I was looking for work, I began considering jobs in the IT arena again. None of them offered relocation, and most job postings specifically said so or indicated they would only consider local applicants. On the other hand, both companies that I have worked for (yes, all 2 of them!) have assisted with my relocation.

Ian: I agree with you that people who want to be in the game industry but aren't willing to move are being unrealistic. It is very similar in the music industry. If you are an up-and-coming band and you aren't willing to move to either Nashville or Los Angeles, then your chances of landing a recording contract are very small. Unfortunately, moving around has become much more a part of modern career life.

Finally, on working remotely, there is still large resistance to this from most companies. When I was self-employed, I worked successfully on many projects remotely. Unfortunately, I think that companies still worry about barriers to communication and lack of control. Plus, in crunch time, there is no doubt that a team in the same office is going to be able to be more responsive. I'm not sure what it is going to take to solve these issues.