To help ring in 2008, the latest Ask the Experts column on sister web site GameCareerGuide.com is 10 New Year's Resolutions
for aspiring game developers.
Gamasutra.com is also running this breaking in advice column, so here are those 10 things soon-to-be game developers might try to accomplish in 2008 to help get them closer to that first video game job. For more introductory advice on the video game industry, visit GameCareerGuide.com's Getting Started
10 New Year's Resolutions
1. Attend a conference.
Everyone in the video game industry will tell you that if you want to work in this industry, you must go to some of the events. Some are free and don't have any requirements for entry. Others can be costly or be limited to students or IGDA members only. Check out our calendar
for an ongoing and international list of events. If you're a student who is deep into a game development program, go to the GDC this February, even if it's at the expense of missing all other conferences. Take Brenda Brathwaite's advice
2. Join the IGDA.
Not only join, but attend the chapter meetings. Student memberships cost only $30 for the year.
3. Read the news on Gamasutra.com every day.
We even put it on GameCareerGuide.com's homepage for you! (See the far right column.) At the very least, skim the headlines daily.
4. Read job ads.
Read job ads for jobs you'd want well before you're ready to apply. Look at job ads that are beyond your reach too to gain an understanding of the career paths that exist in the video game industry. For example, look at what kinds of skills employers want from developers who have three or more shipped titles, or who have more than five years experience.
5. Talk to developers.
If you attend the GDC or join the IGDA, speaking to real developers is going to be much easier. Ask specific and relevant questions -- not general ones -- about their work and work life. "What kinds of games do you make in your current job, and what insights do you have about working on different styles of games?" "Tell me about your very first game job interview?" "What kinds of things were your current employers interested in when you interviewed for this job?"
6. Wise up about your future paycheck.
If for some god-awful reason no one has yet told you, "Don't get into video game development for the money," then let me be the one to break it to you now. Salaries from the 2006-07 tax year
are available in the last Game Developer Salary Survey, and the new one for 2007-08 will be published in the April 2008 issue of Game Developer magazine
. Having realistic expectations about your future paycheck is as important as having realistic expectations about the kind of work you will be doing as a game developer.
7. Play games outside your preferences.
Try playing some video games that you would never normally play. Flip through the list of indie and student-made games winning accolades this year at the IGF
. Search out games whose target audience is not you. What games are popular with preschoolers? What games are retired people playing? If you've never played a massively multiplayer online game, pick one up for as long as the free trial lasts. And play with an open mind, asking yourself why this type of game appeals to so many people, but not you.
8. Write, publish, speak.
Submit a game postmortem or article pitch to GameCareerGuide.com. Submit a paper topic or presentation proposal to a small conference. There are calls for papers all year long, and often the event happens months after the submission process, giving you plenty of time to prepare thoroughly. This point is especially important for game university students, and doubly important if you're in a master's or PhD program.
9. Sketch something.
Artists, designers, programmers, producers, testers -- everyone! Try sketching an idea you have that's related to game development. As a game developer, no matter your position, you will likely have to communicate fairly abstract ideas at some point or other in your career. Practice now by incorporating doodles in your next group project. Some instant messaging programs even support drawing and painting tools, so you can even sketch in real time with geographically dispersed peers.
10. Read a game development book.
There are many, ranging from the theoretical, to the practical, to books used for training. Pick up a book that interests you, but also one that other game developers may have read because it will give you fodder for an intelligent and relevant conversation.
: Chris Hecker (Spore
) and Jon Blow (Braid
) have contributed their own counter-list
, '2008 Resolutions For Game Industry Newbies: The Hecker/Blow Cut', with plenty of other good advice.]