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What's the industry like?


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#1 MRom   Members   -  Reputation: 143

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 01:59 PM

Hey guys,

 

I'm new to the forum and signed up to ask you fine gents some questions about the industry.

 

A little background,

I've been employed in the Architecture field for over 5 years now. I can not say that I like my job and the pay is garbage. I've learned that the only reason for anyone to get into this industry is if you HONESTLY love the work because in the end that may be the only inccentive to stay.

 

That being said, for my entire life I've been a huge gamer and the gaming industry may be the only industry that I can honestly say I'm very familiar with. I'm consistently reading up on new games and the companies involved. 

 

I'm considering a career change. I can barely stand the architecture industry and I'm looking for a way out.

 

I've been looking online for information about what it's like to be employed in the gaming industry but figured it best to go straight to the source and ask you gentlemen.

 

What can I typically expect for pay, atmosphere, hours, etc? 

I've a kid so working round the clock may not be ideal.

 

What advice can you give me if I were to seek a job in the industry?

Are there any niche jobs that'd help my career along?

I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?

Any advice for schooling in my location?

 

Sorry for shooting a bunch of questions at you but any information is greatly appreciated!

 

Thanks guys.


Edited by MRom, 12 August 2014 - 02:00 PM.


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#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10148

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 03:16 PM

1. What can I typically expect for pay,
2. atmosphere,
3. hours,
4. etc?
5. What advice can you give me if I were to seek a job in the industry?
6. Are there any niche jobs that'd help my career along?
7. I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?
8. Any advice for schooling in my location?


1. It depends on which job specialty you do. Read the Game Industry Salary Survey (just Google it).
2. It's reasonably fun, considering the pressures and politics. It's a job in which you see people enjoying their work more than you probably do in architecture.
3. Long. Google "EA spouse" and "video game crunch."
4. Can you be more specific?
5. Read this forum's FAQs. http://www.gamedev.net/page/reference/faq.php/_/breaking-into-the-industry-r16
6. I suppose so, but I'm not sure what you're asking.
7. Not sure what you're asking. More opportunities in Toronto, London, and Ottawa than most other cities. See gamedevmap.com and gameindustrymap.com
8. None. Why do you want to go to school? Nobody'll be impressed that you just went back to school.
-- 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 kseh   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2195

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 04:12 PM

Data might be a little old but I found this report.

 

Canada's Video Game Industry in 2013



#4 Bregma   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5353

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 04:15 PM


I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?

Just a FYI, but Ottawa has a burgeoning gamedev industry, and local university Carleton offers a degreed gamedev program (not a coincidence).  It may be possible to both work in the industry while gaining specialized formal education there.


Stephen M. Webb
Professional Free Software Developer

#5 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10148

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 04:19 PM

Data might be a little old but I found this report.
 
Canada's Video Game Industry in 2013


An article from one year ago is not old. Next thing you know, information from a month ago will be "old"!
-- 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 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 22692

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 04:29 PM


 

3. hours

 

3. Long. Google "EA spouse" and "video game crunch."

 

Also, it depends on location and job.

 

In many parts of the world overtime pay is strictly mandated.

 

In the US it is mandated but loosely enforced, and a specific class of "computer professionals" are specifically exempted from overtime pay.  If you are a designer, artist, modeler, or tester and your US-based employer is not paying you for overtime it is time to put in a call to the appropriate government agency, either at the state level or the Department of Labor to find the right group. Let them know that your company is requiring unpaid overtime and work with them to get the investigation started. Every few years there tends to be some regional shake-ups where the state investigates and finds all kinds of unpaid overtime violations, occasionally some people categorized as contractors who legally must be employees, and so on.  It is the law, not your contract, that specifies if you are entitled to overtime pay.

 

Repeating: The Fair Labor Standard Act specifies that your specific work actions, not your job title and not your employment agreement, are the basis for overtime exemptions. Doctors, lawyers, company owners, and "computer professionals" (now called 'programmers') are nearly always exempt.  Many people get a job in this industry and since the other artists or testers or designers are working extra long hours, they don't think about reporting it and assume things are just that way. Yes, professionalism says you do the job you are paid to do, but there is a difference between voluntarily staying an extra hour or two because you want to finish versus your boss mandating that you work 50 or 60 hours. This is an area many companies (either intentionally or accidentally) end up skirting the law.

 

The easpouse lawsuit was one of those regional periodic purges. After the EA case quite a few other SoCal studios had visits from the state. Washington had one about two years later, as was my state. The government doesn't like it because it results in less taxes paid to them.

 

If you are a programmer, if you own a certain share of the small business, or if you are in any kind of management position with both 2+ direct reports AND less than 50% of your time is spent building stuff, those three groups are generally legally exempt from overtime in the US. If you are the corporate lawyer you are also exempt, but you would have already known that. Everyone else in the game industry (designers, testers, animators, modelers, etc) is legally entitled to overtime when the company requests extra work hours even if your contract calls you exempt and even if your boss tells you otherwise.


Edited by frob, 12 August 2014 - 04:35 PM.
Typos, time to quit typing for the day.

Check out my book, Game Development with Unity, aimed at beginners who want to build fun games fast.

Also check out my personal website at bryanwagstaff.com, where I write about assorted stuff.


#7 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 31781

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 06:11 PM

I have an ex-architect friend who's recycled their 3DS Max skills into becoming a game artist.
They're making an independent game, and doing contract work for about 3+ other local indie studios. So that kind of transition is definitely possible :D

As for full time work, it all depends on the company.
I've worked one place with an atmosphere of stress, tension, and hopelessness, where 10 hours of 'voluntary overtime' was expected, hours were mercilessly tracked with an in/out logging system, and pay-cheques were often one to two months late...
But I've also worked at another with the atmosphere of a giant trusting family, where there was never overtime, pay was always on time, HR was helpful, management were on our level, and hours were self-enforced ('if you have to pick up your kids at 3, that's fine, we trust you'll get your work done').
On that note, employers: simply trusting your staff and treating them as adults/friends does amazing things for morale/productivity!

Unfortunately, if you don't have enough confidence in your experience/talent for the role, or if you're the sole bread-winner for your family, then it's pot-luck as to which kind of company you'll end up in.
I would recommend interviewing the interviewers though - make sure to remember to ask them about frequency of overtime, culture/morale, etc... And once in a role, don't be afraid of standing up for your rights. A lot of toxic workplaces come about because peer-pressure makes injustice seem normal, but it can actually really brighten the whole team when a fresh face simply says "no, that's a bad idea, I'm going home now".

#8 Buster2000   Members   -  Reputation: 1774

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 01:39 AM

All the reasons that you give for wanting to get out of architechture are also reasons to NOT go into the games industry.

 

You should only go into games if you absolutly LOVE games and nothing more.

 

The pay in the games industry is garbage compared to doing the same job outside games. 

 

The work life balance whilst not as bad as the EA spouse thing is still very bad there are almost no games companies where you won't be expected to pull short notice late shifts or weekends.  (Note I said almost.  There may be one or two but these are the exception to the rule.)

 

There is very little job security.  Even the most successful companies will give staff the axe at the drop of the hat after a big release.

 

If you really want to go into games then I'd suggest trying to get a few freelance gigs that you can fit in alongside your current day job rather than just up sticks and leave.

 

The other thing I've found is even the nice companies that have no crunch policies and family friendly policies soon change whenever the end of year figures come through and managers get a little cranky.

 

 

 

This is my view as a bitter ex games industry programmer.  It may be entirely different for artists on the pay front.



#9 Valoon   GDNet+   -  Reputation: 482

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 02:50 AM

I think it's really true only for the programmers. For artists it's probably more job security to be in games actually (if they get a full time job).

 

I mean if you are an artist and you're not really into freelance I think the game industry is your best hope, there is even some composers with full time jobs.



#10 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10547

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 07:10 AM


I've been employed in the Architecture field for over 5 years now. I can not say that I like my job and the pay is garbage.

 

Hey that's what I think of the gaming industry :P

 


I've learned that the only reason for anyone to get into this industry is if you HONESTLY love the work because in the end that may be the only inccentive to stay.

 

Same...

 

 


What can I typically expect for pay, atmosphere, hours, etc? 

As a rookie, I'm going to assume you have no previous experience and will land as a QA (it's quite possible you'll end up elsewhere, especially given your architecture experience which is sometimes relevant to some extent of AAA level design). Salary will be minimal, athmosphere depends on the place you work for, and generally, hours will be squeezed away from you like you can't possibly imagine. 

The only person that I know that made it out of the architecture field into game development said he was actually better off in Architecture. But that's a very small sample.

 


I've a kid so working round the clock may not be ideal.

 

Join the club. I've got 2. Up to recently, I was just about never around. Not all positions are directly vulnerable to crunch time, but I'm in the management field, so I'm generally the one to bleed first. You may have a different experience depending on the studio, of course.

 


What advice can you give me if I were to seek a job in the industry?

 

Make sure that this is what you really want. I don't think of this industry as 'forgiving' or a good place to 'spend the time'. For the most part, experience earned in the field can't be used elsewhere as most jobs are either more creative or have a more scientific approach. Game development is right in the middle imho, and this makes our particular skillset unique. Very few people manage to transition out of game development seamlessly (aside from developers of course).

 


Are there any niche jobs that'd help my career along?

QA. It's a good job to land. It's not the only way in, but personally, I feel like its the best way to learn as much as possible about the industry from a position that shows you nearly everything from the get go. Get involved and you might just step up. That's what I did, initially.

 


I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?

I'm not fully familiar with Ontario's current situation, but I believe there was a Zynga studio there for a while (not sure if it is still around). A number of skilled developers worked for Zynga there. There's also Ubisoft Toronto. I think the head is still Jade Raymond (originally the designer for Assassin's Creed I). I've also heard of SnowedIn Studios on a number of occasions. 

You can probably find out more on the game dev map.

 


Any advice for schooling in my location?

 

Depends the job you want to land in the videogame industry. What would you like to do?



#11 MRom   Members   -  Reputation: 143

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 07:45 AM

First, thank you everyone for your time.

 

You've given me quite a bit to consider and more material to go through and read up on.

To be honest it still looks better than the architecture industry and probably even pays better at frst glance.

 

One of my biggest concerns is salary/pay. With my son being 4 months old I find myself worried about being financially stable. Currently me and my wife are living on one salary so times are a bit hard.

I've read somewhere, your posts say otherwise, that there's money in game development. I figured that it may be a good move and maybe I'd be able to combine my passion for games with a career - a job I'd be happy with for once.

 

I've been exploring several options but this one I thought would be the one I'd actually enjoy. Perhaps it's back to the drawing board?



#12 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10547

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 09:12 AM


I've read somewhere, your posts say otherwise, that there's money in game development. I figured that it may be a good move and maybe I'd be able to combine my passion for games with a career - a job I'd be happy with for once.

 

There's money for seniors, but it has the lowest entry salaries I've seen.

When I transitioned to this industry I basically lost half my paycheck, and I was a junior at what I did before, so it tells you how bad the drop can be.

6 years later, I'm still recovering from the loss and am almost at the level I was originally...

I'm probably not the right guy to say 'there's money in video games' to ;)



#13 DerekL   Members   -  Reputation: 252

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 04:56 PM

What can I typically expect for pay, atmosphere, hours, etc? 

 

 

Atmosphere like any company depends on the company, I've worked at companies with great atmospheres where team building is crucial and other companies where you feel like you don't even matter and you could be replaced and nobody would notice or care. The game industry wages are usually lower than their software counterparts but can still be worth doing.

You also have to watch out for layoffs, ive been laid off 4 times in the last 5 years, it happens all the time in the game industry for multiple reasons(not enough money, downsizing, end of project)

 

I've a kid so working round the clock may not be ideal.

 

 

Then the game industry might not be for you as most companies have crunch periods where they expect extra work from you to get things done on time. Hours of overtime/crunch depends on the company and their release structure( web games are a little less strict for this as you can push updates when you want as opposed ot console games where you purchase a release date and that's your release date no ifs or buts about it. You can also find working at a company that is under a publisher deal to be stressful as the company usually doesn't get paid unless it hits milestones.

 

What advice can you give me if I were to seek a job in the industry?

 

Don't go work for a startup if you want free time. Also do research on the companies you want to apply at beforehand. I know some people who have ended up at some pretty crappy game jobs. Consider moving to somewhere were there are more game companies if your having trouble finding a job.

If you are looking at one of the industries top companies like bliz, ea, ubi I would suggest a different company as larger game companies like these tend to have less than great work atmospheres and you get hired as part time/full time so you don't get benefits.

 

Are there any niche jobs that'd help my career along?.

 

Your architecture background is probably enough, look at some game tutorials and get a demo going that you can show to possible employers

 

I live in Ontario, Canada - What's the industry like here?

 

There are quite a few game companies in Toronto, check out gamedevmap.com to get a feel for what companies are around you, do some research.

 

Any advice for schooling in my location?

 

Why do you want to go back to school? Your architecture background is it a CS degree? If so you are fine.

 

If you do end up going back to school dont go to a "game" university/college go to a proper university with a proper CS degree that is accredited and will be accepted where you plan on going to school. 



#14 emcconnell   Members   -  Reputation: 924

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 04:56 PM

I've worked on teams ranging from 5-500 and as various programmer and designer positions. The hours vary honestly. I've worked 9-5, 9-7 and 8-6. Crunch can mean anything from 10 hours a day for a week to 80 hours a week for months. Things can get really depressing honestly.

 

Depending on the company you may lose your job at any time. Your team could get shut, the game could get canceled or the company could go under. Everyone has stories of awesome games that never saw the light of day.

 

The money has always been good to me, I have a MS in Computer Science. Comparing to my jobs outside the industry, it only trails a bit.

 

The atmosphere also greatly varies from a hanging with your friends feeling to a everyone getting drilled and turning on each other due to the stress.

 

 

 

The industry can be amazing but it can also be absolutely terrible. It can be creatively fulfilling and soul-sucking. I honestly wouldn't recommend it at this point. The high end of the industry is rough. If you are "considering" it then don't. Try making some indies games and get educated in game development that way.



#15 DerekL   Members   -  Reputation: 252

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 05:04 PM

One of my biggest concerns is salary/pay. With my son being 4 months old I find myself worried about being financially stable. Currently me and my wife are living on one salary so times are a bit hard.

I've read somewhere, your posts say otherwise, that there's money in game development. I figured that it may be a good move and maybe I'd be able to combine my passion for games with a career - a job I'd be happy with for once.

 

If you feel as though you have enough experience, try not to go for an entry level position this might help bump the salary up. There is money to be made in games but you also have to look at the amount of successful gaming studios to unsuccessful ones. 

Join a startup - Low pay - Higher chance of a bigger payout later down the road. ( expect tons of overtime)

Big company - Lower pay unless you are a senior, expect lots of overtime and probably get pigeon holed into one role(my friend has been drawing jersey, shorts and shoe textures for the last 5 years)

Smaller company - Higher pay most likely and you get the chance to broaden your skills( you will get a lot of opportunities to pickup new task and takeover new responsibilities as well as climb the ladder)



#16 BagelHero   Members   -  Reputation: 1481

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Posted 13 August 2014 - 07:48 PM

This forum is really strange to come back to when you've been frequenting game art sites. Entirely different attitude...

I know a handful of ex-architects making a reasonably happy living off being environment artists or level designers. They like their jobs, but the nature of the industry is that it's quite difficult to weather.

 

A teacher of mine (who left the school last year to go work at 2K Australia) said switching to games was one of the better decisions he'd made, even with the depressing reality of getting cut at the end of big projects and working on so many games that just never come out. See, the reason he'd wanted to be an architect in the first place was that he wanted to make buildings, interesting ones. He didn't realise how much hard work would go into doing things he really didn't care about. Then he discovered environment art, and to him, it was all of the things in Architecture that he wanted to do, but were unviable and not what you ended up spending all your time on. He could cojure up any crazy design he wanted, no matter how improbable, and it would actually be viable for the project. That was about when he jumped ship and took up a mid-level environment role at a reasonably sized studio.

 

Thats not to say that any of this is applicable to you, but to give you a real world example of this kind of situation working out.
But especially if you have a family, it's important to warn that the industry doesn't always treat it's employ well; the example of getting cut every time a big project is finished and similar are uncomfortably common stories.

 

Games may actually hold the ideal job for you, but it's best if you make it a passion project. Don't quit your day job, but spend your free time exploring jobs in the industry you could see yourself doing eg, environment artist, technical artist, level designer... If you really enjoy it (the task, not the idea of making games), and you want to persue it (meaning, you love it so much you wouldn't mind slaving away on it day in and day out), THEN consider it. You say you like games? Keep in mind that if you're serious about wanting to make them, you may very well not have that much time to actually play them. And making them isn't playing them. Kinda sucks the fun out of a lot of the ones you do play, too.

Plenty of people make it just fine in the industry, but it's a combination of luck and passion. You may not want to rely on luck when you have a family to think of, but if you like it enough, it's certainly possible to give it a go with all that fire in your belly and the hard work that comes along with it. Just actually figure out if you like it that much, first. Because you may find it holds the same issues as your previous career choices.

 

Good luck!

 


 



#17 Orymus3   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 10547

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 06:47 AM


You also have to watch out for layoffs, ive been laid off 4 times in the last 5 years, it happens all the time in the game industry for multiple reasons(not enough money, downsizing, end of project)

 

That's some serious bad luck you've got there?

 

 


I've worked on teams ranging from 5-500 and as various programmer and designer positions. The hours vary honestly. I've worked 9-5, 9-7 and 8-6. Crunch can mean anything from 10 hours a day for a week to 80 hours a week for months. Things can get really depressing honestly.

 

I absolutely second that. Personally, I've seen 80-90h/w for 6 months straight. I've made it clear when I came to my new employer that this would never happen again (they can get either from me though, either 6 months of crunch time, or a single week of 80-90h).

 


Smaller company - Higher pay most likely and you get the chance to broaden your skills( you will get a lot of opportunities to pickup new task and takeover new responsibilities as well as climb the ladder)

Higher chances of layoffs though. I used a small company as a stepping stone. We had people laid off monthly at best...

 

 

I would recommend making games as an indie as well. In fact, I feel a significant portion of the people in the industry that are in because of their passion end up leaving bigger businesses because of irreconcilable differences and start their own indie business later down the road.

That being said, you'll probably need industry experience at some point, if only to compare your way of doing things with the industry standards and see where you might err, and where they might.



#18 MRom   Members   -  Reputation: 143

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 08:12 AM

Again, everyone thanks so much for the input. I want you all to know that your advice, comments, and experience isn't falling on deaf ears. I'm seriously listening and trying to take in everything being said.

 

Perhaps you've a good point about trying the industry out via indie projects instead of jumping right in. 

 

so i've a few more questions then:

 

First, in the broader view of the industry, which jobs are highest in demand? In architecture the industry is swinging over to new software called 'Revit' so having experience/skill with that program almost guarntees you a job. is there something similar to this in the gaming industry?

 

Second, how exactly does the indie scene work? A broad question I'm sure but a quick summary would help. Where should I focus my attention to if I were to try and make an impact there?



#19 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10148

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 08:22 AM

which jobs are highest in demand?


Programmers are always highest in demand. Again I refer you to the Game Industry Salary Surveys - read through several of them (not just the graphs).
-- 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.

#20 DerekL   Members   -  Reputation: 252

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Posted 14 August 2014 - 01:49 PM

First, in the broader view of the industry, which jobs are highest in demand? In architecture the industry is swinging over to new software called 'Revit' so having experience/skill with that program almost guarntees you a job. is there something similar to this in the gaming industry?

 

 

Programmers are always the highest in demand, There's usually anywhere around 4-10 programmers per designer and maybe 1-3 artists.






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