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Sponsored Feature: Breaking Into the Game Industry

March 12, 2012 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next
 

Excerpts are from Breaking Into the Game Industry, Advice for a Successful Career from Those Who Have Done It by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber, published by Course Technology PTR. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Find more books on Game Development at Courseptr.com.

What Do Game Designers Need to Show in Their Portfolios?

Brenda: Games, games, and more games. Showing completed games in your portfolio is a must whether you're just graduating from a college program, coming in as a self-taught designer, or are a transitioning game industry vet. A game designer who has no games in her portfolio may as well say, "You'll just have to take my word for it," and that never bodes well for future interview possibilities. On many occasions, I have heard budding designers say, "Well, with all my college courses, I just didn't have time to work on games." To a professional, this suggests a genuine lack of passion and insight as well as a naive view of the industry. If you felt so overwhelmed by your college courses, how will you do under the pressure of intense deadlines and game industry scrutiny? You think it gets easier?

When I am hiring entry-level or intern game designers, inevitably, there will be a pile of résumés. Some will contain giant design docs. Others will contain actual running games. I will go for the actual game every single time. It shows you went further, and had that discipline and devotion to see it through. There are a thousand ways for a design to go right and wrong, and the finished game shows me the designer has considered those paths, for better or worse. Completed games or levels will win over a design doc every single time. Who wants to read 200 pages when you can play a simple game?

Although it might seem challenging, select a group of individuals (or go solo) and participate in indie games and game jams. The indie scene is strong and conferences like IndieCade and the Independent Games Festival at GDC offer budding designers a chance at substantial recognition and awards. Even being selected to show at these festivals is prestigious. Game jams, in contrast, are open to everyone and offer a chance to make a game in just a weekend (with spectacular results, both good and bad). Participation shows drive, genuine passion, and might just get you a finished game at the end.

The ability to code in some language is also highly desired. Language preference varies company to company, genre to genre, and platform to platform. For many, the perfect package is a coder who can design games. Many of the industry's greats, from Will Wright to John Romero to Sid Meier, are exactly these types of designers.

Another clue into a person's passion is a "body of work" and play that suggests passion for video games and game design. People who maintain blogs with posts that talk about or dissect video games are useful, provided their analysis is accurate and reasonable. Also, slamming a game publicly isn't looked upon well by people in the industry, in general. Likewise, many developers also do a thorough review of a new prospect's playing habits, as much as they are able to. Facebook and Twitter show plenty of clues to let prospective employers know what a person is and is not into. When an employee applies for a job making social games, for instance, I check out their Facebook page to see what they're playing. If there's no evidence to be seen, it suggests one of two things: They aren't really interested in social games, or they delete all their posts. Neither says good things about a prospective hire.


Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

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Comments


Matt Waldron
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This is an invaluable article. Thanks to everyone who took time to contribute to this. Of the many useful bits of information contained in this piece, the principal take-away for me (which was the common thread linking every writer's piece) was to make and finish a game: that seems to be definitively the first "must-do" to break into the industry.

Robert Chang
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"When an employee applies for a job making social games, for instance, I check out their Facebook page to see what they're playing."

I seriously hope that it is made illegal for employers to probe into the private lives of their employees, especially to use this as a basis of employment.

Jonathan Jennings
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I get why he does this and I don't feel like it's a tremendous violation of my privacy but to me it also seems kind of like a huge jump to base hiring someone off of. on m facebook i mention games but don't publicly display or mention my gamertga or even have my facebook and psn/gamertag linked. if I was asked to provide my gamertag so a studio could see the types of games I play I would welcome that because I play a multitiude of games and also have a very old and very " well used" account on a few gaming forums but if someone attempted to monitor what i play to determine if I was worthy of a job I know I personally owuld be SOL .

to me it seems more inconsiderate because there are multitiude of avenues you could request from an individual to show their playing habits and i personally don't brandish the fact I play games all over my facebook page I do it on gaming related chat sites and platforms . I just would hope if that is his stance he considers there are a multitude of venues in which a person can express their gaming habits and facebook is just one outlet. I personally use mine more for talking to my non-gamer friends and family anyhow.

Tomas Majernik
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Since when are the things you voluntarily put on a social network for everybody to see your private life? If something is your private life and you don`t want to share it with anybody else - don`t put it online. It is that simple.

Make it illegal for someone to read your public profile on a social network, really?

Robert Chang
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considering the cryptic labyrinthine nature of Facebook privacy policy, what you "voluntarily" put on your profile may have a private setting, but can be accessed publicly. It's not even that difficult to do.

I see other people's pictures on my Facebook feed that I have never even met before all the time on a daily basis, and I'm sure that they didn't include me in their privacy setting.

And i'm not saying to make it illegal for someone to read your public profile. I'm saying make it illegal to base employment on your Facebook profile.

Robert Chang
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actually now that I think about it, what's worst about this employment policy is that it's saying "well if you want to be private, then make your activities private." But if you actually do make it private, the same employer turns around and say, "I don't see any activity on your profile, so you're not suitable." It's pretty ridiculous.

Nathaniel Marlow
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@Tomas
The issue isn't employers reading a candidate's facebook profile. The issue is the possibility of them looking for and learning information that they are not entitled to know (such as religious beliefs, for example) and then illegally factoring that into their decision to hire or not.

Thierry Tremblay
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Nothing you put on the Internet is private. No amount of policy / settings will change that.

Steven An
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OK, don't put anything you don't want employers to know on Facebook. YAAY problem solved.

Kelly Kleider
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@Steven
Really the answer to using something is to not use it?

I would rather see work related things connected to a linked-in account. I have no interest in looking at someone's facebook page.

Steven An
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@Kelly - If everything you would put on Facebook would be harmful to your career...then OK you should stop using it. Personally, there's plenty of stuff I post on FB that is just fun or interesting that I want to share with friends, but I wouldn't mind employers seeing it. And for stuff that's private? I don't put that on the internet.

Eric McVinney
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What you could do is have a made up name and not your real one. Works for me :P

However, it does matter to an employer, or someone like me, who wants to find out if the next QA sla- I mean tester will be someone who is (in)sane. Anything that has to do with religion shouldn't matter, at all. What I look for (and not always on Facebook) is employment history, any criminal history, or any tweets/comments that would raise any red flags.

EDIT: Also, if you really want your FB life to be private, don't put in any info in the work history section.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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At the risk of sounding insensitive -- why does religious practice get a free ride? I understand ethnicity and gender being taboo hiring criteria because those are things you are born with, but people choose their religion just as easily as they choose their hobbies.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Evan Combs
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Personally if someone didn't want to hire me because of my religion or whatever I wouldn't want to work for them anyways.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Robert Chang
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@Eric

The problem with using Facebook/twitter, etc to determine if someone is crazy or behave morally according to your standard is that people's life outside of work is not the employer's business. Imagine this: so now, you use these barometers to determine employment. Okay, so the candidate had a perfectly clean record, that person gets hired. Two weeks from now, he or she tweeted something that you disagreed with, be it philosophy religious political or otherwise. Do you terminate employment?

The problem is that people disagree all the time, and now you might have a high moral and say that disagreement/criticism is constructive and is not grounds for unemployment. If someone excels at his/her profession, that's all that matters to the profession, anything outside of that is within bounds of the law and the judicial, neither of which the employer has the right to govern. Therefore, using Facebook and twitter is setting a precedence that employers can and should look into people's private lives (lives outside of work) as grounds for employment, meaning that should someone say something that the employer disagrees with or associates with someone the employer disagrees with, the employer has grounds for terminating the employee.

This leads to a McCarthy witch hunt. Everyone who disagree with those at the top are guilty, and everyone must fall in line.

My point is that what I do outside of work should not be scrutinized by my employer. My employer should not have access to where I go, and what I do outside of work. People should not live in fear that if they drink and smoked pot with some friends who happens to post the pictures somewhere that it would come back to haunt them.

Get out of our private lives. Employers were able to judge character based on interviews and not on social networks before, why can't you do that now? If someone "acts" good during interviews and work, then who cares what they do outside of it to the employer? Why do you care what people do outside of work if that person is doing a good job?

David Lindsay
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What about designers living in countries that ban Facebook?

I guess they can go screw themselves, right? Cause you would never make an account on a foreign social network -that'd be totally weeeird!

You'll just see an empty Facebook profile and assume they're a loser.

Hell, even American McGee works in China. Sheesh! And how many Nintendo employees in Japan have a Facebook account? The cultural expectations in this article are STRONG.

Jorge Arroyo
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Truly an excellent article. Thank you to the designers who contributed. You gave us all something to consider and definitely lit a fire under this particular hopeful designer!

Gary LaRochelle
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"When an employee applies for a job making social games, for instance, I check out their Facebook page to see what they're playing. If there's no evidence to be seen, it suggests one of two things: They aren't really interested in social games, or they delete all their posts. Neither says good things about a prospective hire."

Or it means they play social games on other outlets (Smart phones, other web sites) besides Facebook.
Or they just don't like the games that are offered on Facebook.

E Zachary Knight
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The thing I find frustrating about that comment is that she dismisses those that don't like to leave spam on their wall.

I have played a number of Facebook games in my time. I would post the spam on my wall to advance, but as soon as the task was done, I would delete it because it was no longer of any value to me nor my friends. I did this to keep only relevant things on my wall.

That is not a bad thing.

Erin Hoffman
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Two things.

If you consider wall posts "spam", you have a fundamental disconnect with the main body of core social gamers. That is an important thing to know.

Second, some of the stuff from the book as pertaining specifically to wall posts and social games is naturally going to be a little dated because of how fast the platform moves. You can now go to someone's timeline and see what they've been playing in their "apps recently used" box, which wasn't available at the time of this writing, so wall posts were the primary indicator.

Bonus, if you don't like ANY of the games "offered on Facebook", you probably don't want to be a social game designer.

David Lindsay
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Or you are one of 1.6 billion Chinese people who all play social games, none of whom ever use Facebook because of government policy.

Yes, even the majority of those who live outside China would rather go to Tencent's platform, 360's platform or any other platform. Why? Their friends in China can play with them. Hence, it's social.

I play a huge number of social games, some of which are on Facebook, but NONE of which I play ON facebook.

Daniel Brown
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Well looks like i'm off to make a finished simple game. So many ideas, so little time.

Cartrell Hampton
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Hey.
Good skill finishing your game!
- Ziro out.

Steven An
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Do it! Start small. Clone something.

Cartrell Hampton
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Hey.

Nice article. I enjoyed reading this. The single-most important point I got from this is: complete your game. Second most important thing: learn to walk then run.
I'm there with two Flash games out. Guess I'd better get the third one off the ground at some point.

_______________________________
- Ziro out.

sean lindskog
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This is really fantastic advice.


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