Posted 08 July 2014 - 04:29 PM
The difficulty in pursuing a career starting in design (rather than programming, sound, art, etc.) is that small studios, which typically act as the gateway into the game-development industry, do not have a budget for them. Entry-level positions exist within large game studios but overall the industry is heavily saturated by smaller game studios.
Small studios, however, do not have a budget for designers because they take games from larger studios, and the larger studio is the one with the game designer. The smaller studio is expected to just listen and implement.
Not only that, but roughly all of those game designers got into that position by starting small (maybe as a game tester or any other career) and working into the position as a game designer.
Basically the industry is well aware that everyone and his or her dog has an over-inflated sense of one’s skill at game design, and they are particularly picky about whom they hire. Essentially no one just starts as a game designer, and instead is expected to take some other position and prove his or her worth as a designer along the way, before finally getting “promoted” (if you work as a programmer for a while you might start to consider that designing isn’t really where the fun (and salary) really is).
A Master’s degree actually changes little. Some people applied at my first small company and the CEO confided in me that he doesn’t like to see too many degrees on their applications because it always makes them ask for a higher salary, even though they haven’t proved themselves in the workplace (not only do they consider (rightfully or wrongfully) that they are more skilled, in any case they are older and can’t take an entry-level salary). He also said that just because they studied it in school it doesn’t mean they know it.
If you have a degree in computer science your best bet is to apply it to programming and use that as an entry point.
I originally had the same idea as you about wanting to be a designer, and by entering as a programmer I became a designer in just 3 or 4 years at that small studio I mentioned.
In my case I decided programming is really better, but if you stick with designing then your workplace experience, much more than any school experience, will be more valuable in getting a job as a designer in a larger studio.
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