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averisk

The importance of location for game industry applicants

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I'm a college grad with ambitions of joining the game industry (as a programmer). I've been reading everything I can find lately about it, including everything on Tom Slopers site. I live in a 'coldbed' right now (saskatchewan, canada) and am not in the best situation financially, so a move to one of the 'hotbeds' may not be entirely feasible. But Mr.Sloper frequently mentions on his site that moving is absolutely necessary. Hence my problem. I was hoping to get some other opinions on this. Not that I don't believe him, but honestly, I don't understand why this is apparently so important. If I got the job, I'd pack up and move in a second, and am more than willing to cover any travel expenses to make it to any interviews, so why would potential employers have a problem? Plus, by focusing just on one area I would be missing out on other job opportunities in other 'hotbeds' around the country. Any input here would be appreciated.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Just about any game job that gives you an interview would pay for the trip out (either through reimbursement or direct bill to them), and any job you get offered from an out of town company should give you some amount of money for moving, or handle it themselves. In addition to that in general, at least the big two (EA/Activision) publishers have a University Relations department, so they expect the kind of situation you're in.

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AP is correct, though most of his points are more for experienced hirees than for fresh grads. Before I'd pay for relocation (or even flying you in for an interview), I'd need to be certain it was worth the extra hassle/cost/risk, versus a local applicant. In the case of fresh-graduates, in 99.9% of the cases, it just ain't worth it for the company.

The exemption would be where you had cutting edge skills that would make you immediately usefull, as well as illustrate your position as a superior candidate. Some people have gotten jobs like that through high-quality work on game mods, in the open source community, or by building tools for specific game engines.

There are several high-intensity communities in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal, plus some smaller loci, like Bioware's Edmonton office). Getting a job there shouldn't be TOO hard, since you're not looking at actual immigration (as soon as the employer is having to apply for visum for you, you go to the bottom of the applicant list).

My approach would probably be to set up some interviews over email/telephone, with the stated plan of going to vancouver/montreal for a week, paid for by yourself. Then you'd try to fit several different company interviews into that time (you wouldn't tell them that they're not the only ones on your list, of course). At that point, you're not batting at a massive disadvantage compared to other locals.

Good luck,

Allan

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aver wrote:
>I was hoping to get some other opinions on this. Not that I don't believe him, but honestly, I don't understand why this is apparently so important.

It's not that important to understand why. What's important is to figure out some ways to overcome the problem. (There's a barrier in front of you - it doesn't matter who built it or when. Are you going to go under it? Over it? Bore through it? Trek a long way along it to see if it stops somewhere?)

>If I got the job, I'd pack up and move in a second

Of course!

>Plus, by focusing just on one area I would be missing out on other job opportunities in other 'hotbeds' around the country.

Yes, sure. There's always another problem after one gets solved! (^_^)

If you can't afford to relocate now, and you can't get a job long distance, then find work where you are and save your money. If you can afford to relocate but can't afford any down time before a game company will hire you, get the newspaper from that city, and see what other jobs you can take to tide you over once you get there.

See what I mean? If you can't go through the barrier, see if you can go under, over, or around it...

Good luck!
Tom

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Thanks everyone for your replies.

Quote:
Original post by tsloper
If you can afford to relocate but can't afford any down time before a game company will hire you, get the newspaper from that city, and see what other jobs you can take to tide you over once you get there.


This is an option I hadn't considered, and the more I think about it, the more sense this makes to me. If I were to look for a different programming job though, I'd still suffer from the same problem, won't I? That is, that employers would be less likely to hire me in favour of local applicants.

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ave wrote:

>If I were to look for a different programming job though, I'd still suffer from the same problem, won't I?

My suggestion is that you be willing to take ANY kind of job - even a McJob, if need be - not necessarily a programming job - to survive the down time before getting your game job - as one of several possible ways to deal with the long-distance location problem.

>That is, that employers would be less likely to hire me in favour of local applicants.

:-O ... OK, I guess I was wrong when I said "you don't need to understand why" before. People aren't reluctant to hire you (you, the one who uses the nick "averisk") because you're FROM Saskatchewan!!! They are reluctant to hire you because you're... IN... Saskatchewan. If you're located (residing) in Vancouver (for instance), then a Vancouver hirer has no problem with hiring you - "locals" have no advantage over you, once you've relocated!!!

Good luck

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Quote:
Original post by tsloper
My suggestion is that you be willing to take ANY kind of job - even a McJob, if need be - not necessarily a programming job - to survive the down time before getting your game job - as one of several possible ways to deal with the long-distance location problem.


There is no way I could support myself with a McJob. And there's no way I'm going back to doing a job like that either.

Quote:

People aren't reluctant to hire you (you, the one who uses the nick "averisk") because you're FROM Saskatchewan!!! They are reluctant to hire you because you're... IN... Saskatchewan.


Yes, I know. Sorry, what I meant was that I'd want to actually have the non-game job before making the commitment to move.

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>there's no way I'm going back to doing a job like that either.

There are cards you're dealt, and then there's the way you choose to play them. As for me, when I struck off on my own after grad school, I did McJobs for several years before finally landing in a profession. How you play your cards is entirely your choice. Good luck.

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Get a job as a waiter. Good money, and most importantly, it will teach you real-world people skills, which, in my experience, many CG/CS college students/grads seem to lack. Its not likely you'll set up many contacts, but its a good short-term job.
You can also try doing freelance programming work. Its unlikely you'll get a good non-game programming job, since you're only looking for the short-term.

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Thanks again everyone
I've decided to take Tom's advice and stick it out here for a year until I have enough financial security.

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Quote:
Original post by __ODIN__
as soon as the employer is having to apply for visum for you, you go to the bottom of the applicant list

Any idea about how long does the Visa process take these days ? Last I heard they said it was 6-9 months to get a Visa in Canada if one is from European Union. Is that still true ?

Also, assuming I have skills for a Senior Programmer, if I applied for Beginner position, would i still have great disadvantage since I need visa (assuming company could wait few months for visa to clear) ?

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Vlad wrote:

>assuming I have skills for a Senior Programmer, if I applied for Beginner position, would i still have great disadvantage since I need visa?

Yes. But another part of your question deserves a response. If you have senior-level professional game programming experience, you should not apply for entry-level positions anyway.

If you have professional senior-level programming experience but no game industry experience, then you should get game industry experience in Europe - preferably with a company that also has operations in North America (that would make it much easier to relocate eventually - you could make it a company-internal transfer).

Good luck

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Quote:
Original post by tsloper
Yes. But another part of your question deserves a response. If you have senior-level professional game programming experience, you should not apply for entry-level positions anyway.

I would apply to those lower positions just because I`d like to reduce the risk of putting my resume down below other (local senior programmers) due to me needing Visa. But in my opinion, the company that isn`t in an immediate hurry for an entry-level position would be willing to wait few months for visas knowing that my qualifications are more than adequate.

Quote:
Original post by tsloper
If you have professional senior-level programming experience but no game industry experience, then you should get game industry experience in Europe - preferably with a company that also has operations in North America (that would make it much easier to relocate eventually - you could make it a company-internal transfer).

Sorry, I forgot to mention it`s in games industry - I have my own company producing budget PC games and doing some contract work. I just always want to have some back door open should everything screw up and have a back-up plan for next 6 months. You know, this is a tough business ;)

Thanks for your answers.
Best Regards
VladR

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Vlad wrote:
>I would apply to those lower positions just because I`d like to reduce the risk of putting my resume down below other (local senior programmers) due to me needing Visa.

I don't think this is a workable way of overcoming the visa problem. I still think it'd be better to get a job at a company in Europe that has offices in North America, then ask to transfer after a couple of years.

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Hm, that`s bad then.

Well, can`t think of any company other than EA that has offices in Vancouver AND Europe. Maybe there`s one that I missed ? (Radical,Relic, THQ,...)
Anyway, 100-hrs week doesn`t sound too bad either...

Still, thanks for your insight into this situation. Something to consider...

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Quote:
Also, assuming I have skills for a Senior Programmer, if I applied for Beginner position, would i still have great disadvantage since I need visa (assuming company could wait few months for visa to clear) ?

An employer needs to fill in a lot of paperwork to justify bringing in someone from outside Canada, and why that position could not possibly be filled by a canadian. And then you have to fill in paperwork every year in order to maintain that employee's status. It's a costly red tape mess companies tend to avoid whenever possible. It is, however, easier to justify personnel movement within the same company than recruit abroad.

Hope this helps.

-cb

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Quote:
Original post by cbenoi1
Quote:
Also, assuming I have skills for a Senior Programmer, if I applied for Beginner position, would i still have great disadvantage since I need visa (assuming company could wait few months for visa to clear) ?

An employer needs to fill in a lot of paperwork to justify bringing in someone from outside Canada, and why that position could not possibly be filled by a canadian. And then you have to fill in paperwork every year in order to maintain that employee's status. It's a costly red tape mess companies tend to avoid whenever possible. It is, however, easier to justify personnel movement within the same company than recruit abroad.
-cb


As cbenoi1 said; in many countries, you have to prove you couldn't get a local to fill the same position . For a junior programmer, that's pretty damn hard... colleges are producing them at a rate Henry Ford would have been proud of. For experienced lead programmers, it's a lot easier; it's a senior level position with a limited supply.

It should also be mentioned, as part of the EC, you can easily move around in europe. There's pretty kick-ass dev-teams in most of the big european countries, and the salary level shouldn't be that different to Vancouver level. You're not going to hit San Fran style salary, but then neither will you in Canada.

There are some countries that make labour immigration really easy (Singapore is one of them, where getting an employment visa takes 1-3 weeks, as long as you stay under 50% foreigners in your employment pool), but most countries are by and large protectionist.

Allan

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Quote:
Original post by __ODIN__
It should also be mentioned, as part of the EC, you can easily move around in europe. There's pretty kick-ass dev-teams in most of the big european countries, and the salary level shouldn't be that different to Vancouver level. You're not going to hit San Fran style salary, but then neither will you in Canada.
I`ve made some research regarding costs of living in various areas and if you`ve got a family, Vancouver wins.

1. The fact that you get less in dollar value is less important compared to what you get for same work - especially properties. It`s unbelievable that you can get a 2-room flat for rent for same price as in our small country in main city whereas here you earn for same work about 7 times less. The rest of costs is very similar - car costing the same, insurances/loans costing the same, basic food/dresses costing almost the same.

2. Climate. In Van, there are no harsh winters (-25 `C) and hot summers (40 `C). This alone almost made me go there 3 yrs ago when I checked that information.

3. Language - 90% of Canadian speak English. And in Europe there`s no country with big gamedev company (except UK) that has English as main language. So even though there`s EC, there are and always will be language barriers that no Union or whatever can fix. And that`s a pretty big barrier.
EDIT: I just want to add that this barrier is just for my family, not myself. I consider myself a very fast language learner and speak 3 foreign languages fluently and 2 moderately. I have no problem in learning 500 words (necessary for basic talking) of new language and basic grammar within 2 weeks with 1 hr per day (tried with 2 languages so far) - I`ve developed a system for this 15 yrs ago at elementary school and it still works.

4. Xenophobism - most of rich European countries (except UK) have a pretty high level of disregard to Eastern European people. The best you can get is an official "Hello" and just keep hearing comments in their natural language. And Van has a pretty diverse population compared to most of the gamedev cities that are here in Europe (other than London of course). So there`s inherently less hatred towards other races/nations. And if you`ve got 3 kids you gotta take that into account VERY seriously.

[Edited by - VladR on May 2, 2006 9:56:23 AM]

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