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Seraphyn

Need help from game developers!

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Hello, This might seem odd... but when it comes to homework, there are times of desperation! I am currently a college student with the goal of becoming a Level Designer in the field of Digital Game Development. This summer one of my classes is Introduction to Computer Science and for our exam… we have to interview people in the field we plan to become and see how technology influences it. I live in Va and it is not known for its Game Developer industry. So, I have turned to the internet as my source of contact! I would be so appreciative! Basically I will just put my questions here and if you could reply with your answers (as in-depth as possible please) it would help me so much on this assignment! Ok, here goes: - What type and level of education is expected in the field Digital Game Development? - What are the continuing education or certification requirements? - How has technology improved the field and how do you think it has hurt the field? - Where do you see the field in 10 years and how will technology play a role? - What is the typical entry level salary for this field? - What would you say the job prospects are for the Richmond area in the state of Virginia? - What geographic area do you think is more suited for job prospects in this field? - What advice would you give to someone (like me) who is planning to start a career in the field? - What kind of hours can someone look forward to pulling a week? - What kind of environment do you work in? - What kind of advancement does this field present? I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking your time to help me with this assignment by answering my questions! (This is good information for anyone considering the field.) *smile*

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What type and level of education is expected in the field Digital Game Development?


This depends almost entirely on the position you're trying to secure and the employer. For some entry-level positions like QA there are very low (if any) requirements; for others, like management-level development staff, employers will likely seek a Bachelor's level or even Masters level degree. Generally speaking, though, a BS/BA will do nicely.


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What are the continuing education or certification requirements?


Again this depends on the position and employer. Creative positions (art, music, level design, etc.) generally do not have too much in the way of continuing education requirements - if you're good at what you do, that's generally enough for most employers. Programming positions, however, are on the other extreme. A good programmer must always be able to learn new technologies and keep pace with current trends, standards, and advancements in the field. Occasionally certifications will come into play, but in my experience a strong portfolio of personal projects is a more useful indicator of competence than standardized certifications. Most certifications become outdated very quickly, so they are not the best indicator that one is capable of adapting to new situations; they mostly prove you know one specific technology or area very well.


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How has technology improved the field and how do you think it has hurt the field?


This is currently a very controversial topic, and the answers you get are going to be highly subjective and highly varied. In my personal opinion, technology has done nothing but good for the industry - it has allowed creative people to realize ever more amazing and compelling visions. The danger, however, is that economics (primarily the economics of large, monolithic, paranoid, and greedy publishing firms) has led to an overemphasis on technological accomplishment at the unfortunate expense of content. There are obvious exceptions, but in too many cases the temptation to flood the market with pretty pictures has overwhelmed the drive to create good games. However, most gamers (and virtually everyone in the industry itself) are acutely aware of this issue, and I feel that a backlash is inevitable in the next few years.


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Where do you see the field in 10 years and how will technology play a role?


Technology moves far too fast to ever make accurate predictions about what will come in 10 years. I can tell you that ten years ago I would have scoffed at the concept of a 2GHz CPU. Five years ago I would have questioned the notion of realtime raytracing in hardware (until, of course, four years ago, at which point I started working on it [wink] ). I think the only safe prediction to make is that we've only started to scratch the surface of potential, and we're in for some very exciting developments both in terms of technology and in terms of content. I think the issue of economics-vs-creativity discussed above will continue to exist (probably forever), but with any luck we'll see a shift away from the current graphics-obsessed, publisher-dominated situation and see an overall improvement in the state of things.


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What is the typical entry level salary for this field?


This depends, yet again, on a number of factors. The position obviously makes a huge difference, and the region of the country/world is also very important. Entry-level positions may fetch anything from $28,000 to $45,000 (or more) depending on location and qualifications. In general, though, entry-level positions likely won't be making "good money" by comparison to other jobs.


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What would you say the job prospects are for the Richmond area in the state of Virginia?


I can't personally make any educated statements about this, but I know some people in the area, and from what I understand the prospects are somewhere between "dismal" and "just move to another f***ing state already" [wink] You never know, though - game development is not particularly geography-dependent, so you may stumble across a position or three in just about any location.


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What geographic area do you think is more suited for job prospects in this field?


I don't think any area is inherently more suited to employment opportunities. However, the jobs will be where the businesses are, and tech business are usually found in the general vicinity of good tech schools or historical/traditional landmarks. At one point Silicon Valley was of course the de facto center for this sort of thing, but in general development is becoming more uniformly distributed across a whole variety of locations. In a few cases, locale means absolutely nothing - with the Internet, people can work from anywhere. I myself do my game development via telecommute. I have met only one person face-to-face from the company I work for - their main office is on a totally different continent. There are of course advantages and disadvantages to this, but it is certainly an option these days.


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What advice would you give to someone (like me) who is planning to start a career in the field?


Make sure you do your stuff very well. There's a lot of young, bright-eyed college grads who think their shiny new degree will land them a dream job making games all day, and that they'll be able to retire early with heaps of fame-n'-fortune. This is not true. Most positions are highly competitive and the actual skills you need to survive in the industry are often not directly related to what you're taught in class. The other major factor is that you will not, generally speaking, get rich in any sense from game development. In the current industry it's not exactly a gold mine.

With the reality check safely passed, I'd say the next big thing to keep in mind is that you will probably have to fight to earn everything you get in the industry. Start with a simple job - don't be afraid to go the QA path and work your way up the ladder. Be prepared for a lot of personal sacrifice and more than a few lost weekends. It's a fairly brutal business as white-collar jobs go, and only the strong survive.


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What kind of hours can someone look forward to pulling a week?


I'd phrase it more along the lines of "What kind of hours can someone dread getting wrung out of them every week" - which should give you a fairly good idea of where I'm headed with this. Basically, in general, don't expect a cushy 40-hour, 6-weeks-of-vacation job. In crunch time you may well put in 80 to 100 hour weeks, and burn through a lot of weekends and late nights. It's a rare position that lets you go home at 5 and spend Saturday at the beach. This is slowly getting better, but there's still a pretty high time demand overall. You may even find yourself working two jobs, especially when you start out, which will make things even more demanding.


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What kind of environment do you work in?


In my day job, a small office suite. I have a half-cube and work with 3 other guys. It's quite relaxed and informal (I'm wearing a swag shirt from E3 at the moment) and we generally have a good atmosphere. It's a little hectic since it's a small business, but you get used to it. It's not strictly game development, though.

For my actual game dev job, I work from home via the Internet. I have a nice desk and chair, a great sofa, and an 84-inch monitor courtesy of my LCD projector. The staff keeps the fridge nicely stocked and I've got a great bed to crash in whenever I feel like it. Highly recommended if you can manage it [wink]


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What kind of advancement does this field present?


I'm assuming you mean career advancement, in which case the answer is something you're probably sick of hearing by now: depends on the position and employer. Generally speaking, though, it's like any other job: do your work well, go above and beyond, and you can look forward to a decent raise and a good Christmas bonus. In my experience people generally aren't promoted in the middle of projects, but if they do very well on one project, and there is an open position, they've got a decent chance of getting promoted for the next round. Of course this depends a lot on the company you work for; the size, monetary resources, and number of projects at a company will affect the potential for advancement. I guess the pinnacle of the industry is a lead developer/management type position, if you go in for that sort of thing. Personally, I'd be content being a grunt coder for the rest of my career - it's what I love to do. As long as the pay is right, and the projects are good, I don't pay much attention to my title.

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Thank you so much! I found your answers most enlightening. You have greatly helped me. Thank you for your time and effort in helping me with this. It is greatly appreciated.

You are right... your actual game dev job "office" sounds wonderful. hehehe

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