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Convicted Felon as a game programmer


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#1 kiet_ngu   Members   -  Reputation: 132

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:36 AM

Hello,
My name is Kiet Ngu. I am new to this site. I am a convicted felon. 18 years old. I made a mistake and like the saying goes "do the crime, do the time", I learned from it and right now I am trying to get my shit together. I wanted to know what is the job outlook for a convicted felon trying to become a game programmer. I know it will be hard and I expect that, just trying to see what I am up against. I will be attending college at University of Utah for their EAE program which is entertainment and arts program. It was rated top 10 as best game design colleges in the nation by Princeton Review. If your wondering what the crime was, I did breaking and entering (burglary). Again, I know i ruined my life but right now I'm trying to put it behind me. When I finish the program after 4 years, what are the chances of me getting a job? I like any opinions from anybody but looking for a job recruiter to tell me his take on it.

Edited by Josh Petrie, 09 November 2012 - 10:52 AM.
Please don't use polls in For Beginners.


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#2 SimonForsman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6106

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:51 AM

I'm not gonna vote since i don't live in the US (and i know these things can vary greatly between cultures), Personally i wouldn't consider burglary to be bad enough to not give you a second chance.
I don't suffer from insanity, I'm enjoying every minute of it.
The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

#3 kiet_ngu   Members   -  Reputation: 132

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:53 AM

Thank you, for the post.

#4 Zed McJack   Members   -  Reputation: 349

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:55 AM

I dont see how that has any connection with for beginners forum its more about society, but, yes, everyone deserves a second chance. Though I can argue that all system is ill based and obsolete, it does not work very much, except as means of ruining lifes of already socialy problematic people and their behaviours

#5 kiet_ngu   Members   -  Reputation: 132

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:58 AM

I didn't know where to post this up, I just wanted some advice on how to go about starting my career in game programming as a felon. Thank you for your post.

#6 Lauris Kaplinski   Members   -  Reputation: 841

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 05:26 AM

I also think everyone deserves second chance. And third, and fourth...
The other side of the thing is that society also has a right to protect themselves. Thus the suspicion is understandable and certain places will be off-limits for a long time. But hopefully not game development.

My suggestion is to actively pursue freelance and contract work. First thus it is easier to find work - many employers probably will prefer the candidate without conviction, but do not care so much about the background of freelancer. And second you will build portfolio and thus the next time you apply for a job you will be significantly better than the other candidate without conviction ;-) Plus you may eventually end up creating your own company instead...
Lauris Kaplinski

First technology demo of my game Shinya is out: http://lauris.kaplinski.com/shinya
Khayyam 3D - a freeware poser and scene builder application: http://khayyam.kaplinski.com/

#7 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 30350

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 05:31 AM

I'm not gonna vote since i don't live in the US (and i know these things can vary greatly between cultures)

^^ same as above - I don't understand the US system of branding "felons" or what kind of discrimination it means for you, so I can't vote.

I've never been asked about my past by games companies -- if you're getting an education now, and then apply for jobs afterwards, there's no reason for them to even ask about what you were doing before college.
The only time I've had an employer dig into my past was when I worked for a gambling company, and that was only because they sold products in Nevada, and Nevada state law required them to have every employee (on the other side of the world) undergo a police background check and have a clean record.

I know that if I wanted to work in the USA, then in order to get a Visa, I would also have to undergo a police background check and have a clean record, but that's not a problem for you unless you want to work in many different countries.

#8 Lateralis   Members   -  Reputation: 116

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 05:51 AM

No place I've worked for has ever asked for any background information beyond my resumé. But again, not the US. You're lucky that your conviction was as a kid, though, employers might become suspicious if an older guy has a large gap in his resumé that has nothing in it, but if you go to college and start your resumé from there, then you should be fine. Even if an employer asks and you have to tell them, going to college and proving you got your life together after that will show that you're able to work at things and stick to it. Heck, if everybody was judged for the stupid things we did as teenagers none of us would ever have jobs. Posted Image

#9 Telastyn   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3726

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 06:50 AM

US applications for employment pretty much all ask about felonies. I would think that the young age when it occurred and the relative lack of severity (burglars are less risky hires than murderers, rapists, etc) will make many companies discount it. That said, it will be a mark against you. If you and another candidate are otherwise equal, they will choose the other guy.

Not insurmountable by any means, but something to be aware of. It will also be good to have your story well rehearsed if they ask, and be forthcoming/honest when talking about it. 'I was young and dumb' is a well known story, since everyone was once young and dumb.

#10 Toothpix   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 810

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 07:25 AM

I would say your second chance (regardless of profession) depends on the circumstances of your crime. You didn't take a man's life or rape a woman or destroy a building. You broke into somebody's property. I would say that since you were a kid, you were naive, and you didn't permanently harm someone, you do get a second chance, but nobody deserves one. God gives people chances and forgives them from anything from petty theft to a serial rapist. But on a different note, if you really want to work on games, I would advise computer science over game design, because chances are you will be an indie game developer making the game yourself, as most studios (forget studios, most businesses) will not hire a convicted felon. You can still make great games by yourself, however. Best of luck to you.

C dominates the world of linear procedural computing, which won't advance. The future lies in MASSIVE parallelism.


#11 freakchild   Members   -  Reputation: 557

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 10:43 AM

You want advice? Well, if after all that you've decided to get on with life and are going to U of U, it looks to me like you're already rebuilding things positively.

Just get on with things as you are. You will never shake this off (you already know this) but don't fear it too much because the impact it has will lessen over time. In deciding what you want to do and just getting on with it you're accepting the thorn in your side that it is. It's better you try this, than write yourself off as a career criminal and don't try...or worse. It will become a much smaller thorn quite quickly if you stay on the straight and narrow, perhaps even set an example for others.

Doing well at school, will put it one step behind you and potential employers will have something both more recent and positive to focus on in hiring you. Do well at your first employment and I think other potential employers will trust that you're not the kid who made a mistake, but a potential employee.

Although you might find some places that won't employ you, I'm sure you will find many who will overlook it especially for something done as a minor. When it comes to applying for jobs, be up front about it but personally I would say 'not so up front'. Putting this in your initial application is probably not a good idea, but I would say that if you're invited for interviews you need to start thinking about talking at that point to their HR. In this industry, usually there are phone interviews and I would consider speaking about it at that point and possibly follow up with an email to the hiring manager or HR. In both cases, explain that you have a history, aren't hiding it but wanted to get chance to speak first and you were always going to be 'up front'. If you are following up with something in writing after a call, then point out you were up front in the call, backing up the idea you were up front at the most appropriate point.

Get references, including those of the character kind along the way. College professors will be quite ideal for this because what they think will be respected. Get a job while you are at college too, for the same reasons - effectively showing that you are a reliable employee.

Be careful what you get up to for the next few years and if you're ever in a place where you could be in trouble with the police even just by association, think about not staying there. Party with weed about...consider going home. At a bar...don't get too drunk, avoid getting into fights, etc. You don't have to be an angel by any means, just don't take risks.

Do remember that we all have skeletons in the closet one way or the other.

Incidentally, do bear in mind the above 'do computer science over game design' is common advice around here and with very good reason. If you are intent on programming and can change that over, I would.

#12 Yrjö P.   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1412

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 11:01 AM

I think no one would care about a simple non-violent crime, especially since you have committed it while young. Just make sure you stay squeeky clean.

Also, you should keep quiet about the conviction, especially online. It may be public knowledge, but there's a difference between "public knowledge" someone can find out by going to the archives of a specific courthouse, and stuff that comes up in the first five pages when they google your name. If you have a @fuckdapolice Twitter account, get rid of it.

Find out what your local law says about employers and your legal history. Many times it would be illegal for an employer to even ask about it. It is also possible that you are allowed to lie in answer to such a question and that doesn't give the employer the right to kick you out later. And finally, even if you are "supposed to" tell them, you might still not want to. Get informed, be ready to make an informed decision.

#13 kiet_ngu   Members   -  Reputation: 132

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 11:06 AM

Thank you everyone for their support and advice. I will take the computer science degree. I will work hard. I will succeed.

#14 achild   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1784

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 11:15 AM

Just wanted to say, as a fellow convicted felon, that if you are good (as in you excel in some area in software development) and the manager wants you, you will likely get the job. The only thing that can stop that is if there is some company policy they absolutely can not exercise any power over, for instance. Or if their manager hates you - even then the manager that likes you may very well convince them to "give you a chance".

Just because you did some stuff does not mean your life is over. Not at all. Just stay out of trouble now! And if something doesn't work out because of your past, then be glad because it will still guide you to something else that will.

It is nice to see your determination. I am proof you will be okay Posted Image

Edited by achild, 09 November 2012 - 11:18 AM.


#15 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9859

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 11:22 AM

I dont see how that has any connection with for beginners forum


I didn't, either, so I moved it to the Breaking In forum (sorry if that sounds disturbingly apropos to the OP's crime background - it's not intentional).
-- Tom Sloper
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Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#16 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 21115

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 12:01 PM

As a side note, after a while you can ask to have it expunged.

Assuming you can convince the courts they will reduce the record to a misdemeanor, getting the mark off your record.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#17 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 8929

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 12:18 PM

My 2 cents: I have no foreknowledge of US laws, but as a potential recruiter, I would probably ask you a lot of questions in an interview, and I would need to be reassured that your ability to transgress social laws has been corrected. It would "scream" to me that you could potentially cut corners, cheat on your hours at work, etc.
You may be fighting an uphill battle and it will take more than words to convince anyone, but its not impossible.
Certain companies may willingly ignore your application for company image reasons: if they specialize in kid's games, they want to avoid any scandal. Your crime has nothing to do with that, but they may not want to risk it.
I would also advise to discuss it openly, as early as possible, without actually over-emphasizing it: it probably wrecked your life, but don't miss on the chance that it may not matter that much to your potential employer. A lot of people over-dramatise things from their own perspective and that may make you sounds like a whiner. I liked how you opened your post: "did the crime, did my time" may be all that you need to say about this.

Otherwise, you pretty much have the same chances are everyone else I would assume. It isn't very different from someone who is handing over a resume that goes something like:
1999-2002 JOB "A"
2002-2009 JOB "B"
2012-2012 JOB "C"
Now, that guy IS hiding something (2009-2012?!)

#18 Rattenhirn   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1748

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 03:13 PM

No clue how it is in the US, but we don't require the criminal records to be revealed to us.
Gaps in the CV are often something I ask about, but more out of curiosity. It is sometimes quite interesting to talk about what happened during that time, and would be so in your case, I suspect! ;)

Since I haven't (to my knowledge) had a case like this, it's hard to say how I'd react. But in general I try to keep my judgment confined to abilities, potential and social compatibility. So being friendly, interested, competent and not insane usually outweighs curiosities in the CV, and vice versa...

#19 MarkS   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 882

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 04:13 PM

I have known a great many ex-cons. I have even hired ex-cons, albeit, not in the game industry and my experiences have been positive.

However, I will say this. You were convicted for burglary (theft). With such convictions come inevitable questions, like "Will he steal our intellectual property and sell it to a competitor?" I am not saying it is impossible to get a job in the industry; to be quite honest, I don't know as I don't work in the industry. Just expect recruiters to be rather cautious.

Whatever you do, STAY OUT OF TROUBLE! If there is anything in your life that you have 100% control over, it is the ability to NOT commit a crime. ;) Don't know the circumstances, don't care. Just don't do it again.

#20 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 21115

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Posted 09 November 2012 - 04:26 PM

No clue how it is in the US, but we don't require the criminal records to be revealed to us.


In the United States, an employer may ask if an individual was convicted of a crime which has not been sealed or expunged (it includes both felonies and misdemeanors). They can ask the date and nature of any convictions. They can ask if you are currently out on bail, the subject of a warrant for arrest, or otherwise released pending trial.

Employers cannot ask about non-criminal suits, arrests, settlements, or lawsuits that didn't result in a conviction.

Automatic disqualification based on that information is illegal. Employers can use it to establish a business-related reason if it is considered, as was discussed in the earlier posts above.




If you have only a single conviction on your record, many different felony offenses can be sealed or expunged. Generally it is one or three years after reparations (incarceration or probation) are completed. If that is the OP's only crime of record I strongly recommend doing that when the time is up. Since he is only 18, that time should be up long before earning their bachelor's degree.

Edited by frob, 09 November 2012 - 04:30 PM.

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