Breaking into the games industry

I was originally going to write about the new ideas for death penalties the folks over at Sigil are implementing for Vanguard. However, triggered by Moorgard’s thoughts on landing a job in the industry and spurred on by Michael French’s recent opinion piece on Next Generation I decided the time was right for my “Breaking into games” rant.


As many of you may know I’ve been trying to land a job in the industry for over six months now – actually longer, it’s just been about that long since I finished my degree in Game Design so I’m only counting the time since school. If you take a look at my resume you’ll see that, while I don’t have a ton of experience in the game or entertainment industries, I have a wide variety of experience in other fields. Now, I’m not expecting to land a Designer, or even an Assistant Designer, position right off the bat. I may have tons of ideas for the next great game or how you can improve your existing game but I realize that ideas are a dime a dozen and companies aren’t going to put the design of their million dollar baby into the hands of someone without a track record. I do expect my experience outside of the industry to count for something though, I’m not about to move to California and take a $10.00/hour job in QA just to “prove myself”.

So lets look at a typical job posting for what most industries would consider an entry level position:

Assistant Producer

If you can identify with the following, we want to hear from you!

-A strong sense of curiosity. – Yep, got that in spades
-The need to be involved. – Got this one too, I always like to know what’s going on
-Willingness to learn and grow. – Been doing this one for more years than I care to mention and I always feel that there’s more to learn
-The ability to think for yourself. – Yes, and I even understand that its possible to think for yourself and still be able to follow instructions
-The ability to follow instruction. – Umm…yeah…see U.S. Navy on the resume 🙂
-Exceptional personal skills. – Not sure about exceptional but I’ve managed to get along with most people for quite a few years…even some I didn’t really like
-Good public speaker. – If it’s a topic I’m passionate about…say the latest cool game 🙂
-Exceptional organization skills. – Yeah, I think that’s covered by both Navy experience and other things on the old resume
-Strong attention to detail. – Did I mention I was in the Navy…I think that phrase was uttered about 1000 times a day during boot camp and it was actually a rating on our reviews
-Courage and tenacity. – Ummm…I guess that depends on what you mean…I’m not willing to take a bullet for the Producer or anything but I’ll stand up for my team and my project
-An aptitude for problem solving. – I think the resume shows I’ve solved my share of problems…I’ve definatly solved more than I created.

Experience:
-At least 1 year of game industry experience, preferably in production or QA role. – Nope, though I’m hoping that my time spent as an offsite GM will count even though I don’t get paid
-Knowledge of Microsoft Office products a bonus. – While I’m not expert I use Word and Excel almost daily. I’ve used Project and Powerpoint and I used to use Access quite a bit several years ago.

Responsibilities:
-Assists producers with product development.
-Assists with assessing and maintaining product quality.
-Assist in project staffing process.
-Assists in resource relocation processes.

I’ve applied for this position, posted on GamaSutra last week, and have yet to hear anything back from them. To be honest I doubt if I will, you see I don’t have that “At least 1 year of game industry experience…” that I highlighted up there. Everything else? I’m probably over qualified for to be honest, but I realize that I’m trying to break into a different industry so I’m willing to take a more entry level position. The problem is that, unless you’re a programmer, the game industry considers their only “entry level” positions to be either in QA or tech support.

This is fine if you’re a high school graduate looking to break into the industry. You’re going to be hard pressed to get people with a Bachelors degree to come to your industry if the only way they can get their foot in the door is to start out working for $10.00 an hour. As the NextGen article said, there are a ton of jobs going un-filled in the industry because the people that make the hiring decisions are hung up on this 1 to 2 years of industry experience with at least 1 shipped title. People wonder why creativity is dead in the industry, besides all of the other big money, imitating Hollywood issues, you might also want to look at your hiring practices. How many talented and creative people are turned away every year because they don’t have “industry experience”.

So if you’re in the industry and are looking for someone with a wealth of real world experience managing people an coordinating projects across different areas of a large company but doesn’t have a lot of Game Industry experience let me know, I’d be glad to take an Assistant Producer position to learn the industry specific skills.

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