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I have a degree and experience, what should I be doing next?


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#1 wh1036   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 04:26 PM

My long-term goal is to be a game producer, but for now I'm interested in breaking into the industry at all. That's a very common story, so let me tell you about myself. I have a bachelor's degree in management and an associate's degree in IT. In the time I was earning those I worked as a restaurant manager and had a year-long internship at a local game developer (small company, has been around about 10 years). At my internship I mainly did customer support and QA along with taking notes in production meetings. I have spent the last 2 years working in tech support at a college and teaching myself game design using Unity.

I am wondering what I should do next to try to break into the game industry. A job as an assistant or associate producer, or anything business related would be amazing, but I'm wondering if applying for QA or customer support jobs would be more realistic. Being a new dad, free time is hard to come by and I'm wondering what I should be focusing on now. Am at the right level to be considered for any of the previously mentioned jobs, or if I should be concentrating on learning more about the industry? Will game companies be at all interested in my internship or food service management experience, or only full-time game industry experience? Any advice?

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#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9152

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 06:19 PM

My long-term goal is to be a game producer, but for now I'm interested in breaking into the industry
- bachelor's degree in management and an associate's degree in IT. I
- worked as a restaurant manager
- had a year-long internship at a local game developer... did customer support and QA along with taking notes in production meetings.
- I have spent the last 2 years working in tech support at a college and teaching myself game design using Unity.

I am wondering what I should do next to try to break into the game industry.

Being a new dad, free time is hard to come by

Am at the right level to be considered for any of the previously mentioned jobs, or if I should be concentrating on learning more about the industry?


In order to become a game producer, what you need is another 2 years in the game industry. It's doable from QA, but QA pay is insufficient for a family man. You should try for an IT job at a game company. It'll be difficult to work up to production from there, but it's possible.

Next problem: how many game companies (especially big game companies) are located within daily commuting distance of where you and your family reside?

By the way, have you checked out this forum's FAQs yet?
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
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.

#3 wh1036   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 14 February 2014 - 07:56 PM

Hi Tom,

Thanks for your reply! Working in IT for a game company does make sense as an entry point for me, but I was unsure of if that would help me get into production in the long term. Since at this point I need to worry about breaking in, I'll try to focus on that and worry about getting into production later.

I live within commuting distance of Dallas, TX, so there are a a decent number of game companies nearby. I grew up near Austin, so I'd love to work there, but I understand starting out I should look closer to my current home.

I have looked over a few of the FAQs fo this forum, and have read many FAQs on sloperama.com, but I am brand new to the gamedev.net forums. I'll spend some more time reviewing posts and FAQs, just thought I'd post because most of what I see are from either high school or college students, or people with plenty of experience in programming, game design, etc, trying to get into the industry. I feel like my business education, IT experience, and interest in game production are kind of an unusual combination.

Thanks again :)

#4 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 19762

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 12:21 AM

As mentioned above, you're going to need a few years of industry experience first.

Producer positions are fairly rare, and when they show up they demand industry experience. Right now Gamasutra's job board has 11 job entries under the producer umbrella (compared to 88 programmers and 45 art related jobs). One says "associate production manager" and lists a strict requirement of 3 years of industry experience. The others I glanced at were all 5+ years of industry experience.

QA is a possible route in, but the odds of you working a QA job over to a producer job is not very realistic. Sure there are tales of janitors becoming CEOs, but that isn't a good plan. I have known hundreds of people who worked in QA. Most worked through a 3-month or 6-month contract and were never seen again. I know roughly five who moved into other roles, usually low-level designers and one as a concept artist. My observation would be about a 0.5% chance of just converting the job into a permanent position at all. Not good odds.

Your internship with the game company and with restaurant management is probably the best lead you've got. Don't waste your time with a QA job. Are you close enough to that same studio that you could work there? Dallas has game companies, and so does Austin, so don't let that stop you. Do you still have contacts with any of those individuals? If not, fix that and re-connect.

Personal connections are usually the best bet for this type of job. Look for the friend of a friend of a friend who knows somebody at a game studio, and become their new best friend. Talk to them, and figure out how to help them make a position for you an associate producer.

As you talk to those friends-of-friends, you will need to leverage your prior experience quite a lot. Here are some things I would think about in trying to make the transfer:

Producers rely on calendars and emails; they are much like the restaurant manager who keeps everything running smoothly. Producers need experience so they know when things are going to happen and how to guide them. My best producers that I have worked with have been more like security guards around the development team -- they invest incredible amounts of energy to ensure the developers can spend time developing. They make the schedule work, although I honestly have no clue how. If someone even starts to approach an artist or animator or programmer with any problem not directly related to the task at hand a good producer will (proverbially) tackle that individual to the ground and prevent them from disturbing anybody. They do everything they can to block interruptions, dealing with the person and getting the material on a calendar instead, and gently introducing whatever it is to the team at the proper place in the schedule. Like the store manager, you need to keep shooing the teenager's friends away, handle all the complaints, and deal with every emergency preferably before it becomes an emergency. You need to fill in schedule gaps and timing issues as they appear, hire and deal with contractors, and do thousands of other things around the studio.

You already have connections from working a year as an intern. You already have management experience in the food industry. Do you want the job or not? Don't wait around trying to win a lottery at a publicly-announced entry-level opening. You need to intelligently navigate your social network and actively knock down the barriers with tact and diplomacy, politely yet firmly getting people to see that they need you. It will be good practice, because that is most of what a producer does daily.

Edited by frob, 15 February 2014 - 12:27 AM.
Typos are fun.

Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#5 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9152

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 02:17 PM

I know roughly five [QA testers] who moved into other roles, usually low-level designers and one as a concept artist.


I know one who became a producer on AAA titles.
I know one who became president of a studio.
I know one who became a VP of a AAA publisher.
I know one who became a producer at a studio.
QA isn't for everyone. It isn't a guarantee of advancement. But for many, it's a foot in and a leg up.

Edited by Tom Sloper, 15 February 2014 - 02:17 PM.

-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
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.

#6 wh1036   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 15 February 2014 - 10:52 PM

Do you still have contacts with any of those individuals? If not, fix that and re-connect.
...
Personal connections are usually the best bet for this type of job. Look for the friend of a friend of a friend who knows somebody at a game studio, and become their new best friend. Talk to them, and figure out how to help them make a position for you an associate producer.

...
Don't wait around trying to win a lottery at a publicly-announced entry-level opening. You need to intelligently navigate your social network and actively knock down the barriers with tact and diplomacy, politely yet firmly getting people to see that they need you. It will be good practice, because that is most of what a producer does daily.

 

It's been a few years since I've talked to anyone at my internship, but I did have a few mentors, got along with everyone while I was there, and left on a good note. The company is so small I doubt they'd be able to just create an opening for me, but I bet they'd have some good advice or leads for me and if nothing else it would be good to catch up with some of the guys I used to hang out with. The college I work at has a game design program too. I don't want everyone to know I'm looking for a new job just yet, but I bet some of the teachers could probably introduce me to some people in the industry.

 

I'm very eager to get a job in the game industry as soon as possible, but at the same time I'm willing to wait for a position that's a good fit for me and with a good team. I'm going to aim for IT or an entry-level business position, but will stay open-minded. I think for now I'll start working on networking, keep applying for public listings, keep studying the industry, and stay alert for any opportunities.

 

Thanks for the advice!


Edited by wh1036, 15 February 2014 - 10:52 PM.





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