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How to enter the game development industry?

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I really hope that I have chose the right section to post this, and if I didn't, I am really sorry and a moderator may move/close/delete my topic.

Ok, so I have C++ experience, more accurately one year in the embedded programming field ( still working there ), plus the experience from university, and some personal projects ( nothing mighty tough ). I love playing games, and also love writing code, therefore I would like a lot to write code for games. smile.png

The question is: What should a simple mortal like me do to get a job as a game programmer, be it gameplay programmer, graphics, AI, or whatever ( I am sure that I would fit in one of those fields ). How could I convince a possible interviewer that I am the right person for the task, when there are 5 more persons waiting to attend the interview, with more relevant experience? Please keep in mind that I am aiming for more complex games ( PC, Console ), and not mobile games, or browser games. ( I am aware that this might be a mistake, and I am willing to take any kind of feedback positively )

Should I temper myself and start developing small games on my own? Would this prove anything to a reviewer? I guess that yes, but the effort required to learn something about this industry from the inside is much smaller than the effort required to to it on my own ( I have read a few books on game development, but I really don't fine this helpfull, if they are not paired with some real experience ), and I would not expect the experience earned this way to be very helpfull.

Is there actually a place for newcommers too? All the serious studios seem to ask for a great experience, of a few years, in nothing else than game development, some of them asking even for at least one AAA title shipped, and this is rather scary, because it makes it seem as there is no place for beginners in this industry.

Should I just try my luck and send some CV's to some game development studios, with a nice cover letter, hoping that some of them might appreciate the enthusiasm more that the actual field experience?

I have played with some toys, including directX and OpenGL, but I really, really, wouldn't mention this ( especially in the context of an interview ) because in my opinion the only real experience is the one earned on the battlefield, not on the playground ( I.E: at home ).

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Yes, demonstrating your ability to finish a product, and/or show off your technical prowess with a finished game, or at least a demo, will very much assist you. There are a literally a few hundred people lining up from your position, and most studios try to hire people with prior industry experience, so any distinguishing factor you can grasp, GRASP IT.


That said, I don't know why you would really want to... the indie market is BOOMing, if you've got the talent, create your own game. Having gone from the game industry to just the programming industry ( to now self employment ), no friggin way I would go back. Horrifically run/managed, at the time, horrible pay ( at least compared ), stupid hours ( crunch time as a result of the horrible management ), a legion of doe-eyed kids lining up to replace you because they believe making games must be as fun as playing them ( again, putting a crunch on wages, at least initially ), oh and then there is job security... like, there is none. Almost every studio out there is two seconds away from being purchased by an EA or THQ and shut down 3 months later... Not to mention many game companies, hire on a boom/bust cycle anyways, knowing full well once a game is released, they will do a large round of lay-offs.

That said, it's been well over a decade, things may have improved... but from some of my friends I coorespond with that are still in the industry, it sure doesn't sound like it. Just opening the paper and seeing the number of successful studios getting shut down on a daily basis at least proves the business side of things hasn't changed much.


/ Ok, i'm done being a downer.


[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

[background=rgb(250, 251, 252)]I have played with some toys, including directX and OpenGL, but I really, really, wouldn't mention this ( especially in the context of an interview ) because in my opinion the only real experience is the one earned on the battlefield, not on the playground ( I.E: at home ). [/quote][/background]

[/font]

[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

[background=rgb(250, 251, 252)]Oh, and lose this mindset... short of outright lying, list as much relevant gaming experiences, regardless to how you got them.[/background]

[/font]


[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

[background=rgb(250, 251, 252)]In the end though, the easiest way to get into the gaming industry ( or frankly, almost any industry ), when you are one generic face in a sea of resumes is to make personal relationships. It's not entirely a matter of "who you know", but let's just say, knowing people sure does help![/background]

[/font]

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Having gone from the game industry to just the programming industry ( to now self employment ), no friggin way I would go back. Horrifically run/managed, at the time, horrible pay ( at least compared ), stupid hours ( crunch time as a result of the horrible management ), a legion of doe-eyed kids lining up to replace you because they believe making games must be as fun as playing them ( again, putting a crunch on wages, at least initially ), oh and then there is job security... like, there is none. Almost every studio out there is two seconds away from being purchased by an EA or THQ and shut down 3 months later... Not to mention many game companies, hire on a boom/bust cycle anyways, knowing full well once a game is released, they will do a large round of lay-offs.


x2. The game industry really isn't all it's cracked up to be .. I just read all these posts on 'how to break into the game industry' from these youngsters, when the sad truth is most people in it are trying to break out lol. rolleyes.gif

One of the few things working for a company tends to have over doing indie stuff though, is they take the risk. I.e. whatever happens, you take home a salary. You might / probably will get laid off when the company has financial troubles etc, but you are compensated for your time working. When you work as an indie, you take the financial risk.

And the fact is most games don't make money. By far the majority lose money, often spectacularly, which is why so many game companies spring up and go under. If you've been paid your salary, the loser is the investors (seriously, who invests in game companies???). If you are an indie, and it doesn't make money, you make nothing. Conversely, in the unlikely event it does do alright you can take a bigger slice of the profit, but that's so unlikely as to be considered a pleasant surprise rather than an expectation.

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I really hope that I have chose the right section to post this, and if I didn't, I am really sorry and a moderator may move/close/delete my topic.

Ok, so I have C++ experience, more accurately one year in the embedded programming field ( still working there ), plus the experience from university, and some personal projects ( nothing mighty tough ). I love playing games, and also love writing code, therefore I would like a lot to write code for games. smile.png

The question is: What should a simple mortal like me do to get a job as a game programmer, be it gameplay programmer, graphics, AI, or whatever ( I am sure that I would fit in one of those fields ). How could I convince a possible interviewer that I am the right person for the task, when there are 5 more persons waiting to attend the interview, with more relevant experience? Please keep in mind that I am aiming for more complex games ( PC, Console ), and not mobile games, or browser games. ( I am aware that this might be a mistake, and I am willing to take any kind of feedback positively )

Should I temper myself and start developing small games on my own? Would this prove anything to a reviewer? I guess that yes, but the effort required to learn something about this industry from the inside is much smaller than the effort required to to it on my own ( I have read a few books on game development, but I really don't fine this helpfull, if they are not paired with some real experience ), and I would not expect the experience earned this way to be very helpfull.

Is there actually a place for newcommers too? All the serious studios seem to ask for a great experience, of a few years, in nothing else than game development, some of them asking even for at least one AAA title shipped, and this is rather scary, because it makes it seem as there is no place for beginners in this industry.

Should I just try my luck and send some CV's to some game development studios, with a nice cover letter, hoping that some of them might appreciate the enthusiasm more that the actual field experience?

I have played with some toys, including directX and OpenGL, but I really, really, wouldn't mention this ( especially in the context of an interview ) because in my opinion the only real experience is the one earned on the battlefield, not on the playground ( I.E: at home ).


As serapth pointed out, that last paragraph couldn't be further from the truth. Doesn't matter where you learned your kung fu, playground or battlefield. It's easier to learn most types of kung fu in the playground (but some is easier in the battleground).

You don't have to be working at a company to learn stuff. Far from it, it's often harder to learn / experiment when you are working for someone else because you'll be following a task list, and not getting to work on what you want.

So in short, if you really want to get a job, as a coder (or level designer / artist), do some research, find out how different types of games work, the techniques involved. If you are an artist, make levels / characters for existing games. If you are a programmer, make little games, learn techniques, make some demos. You've got a huge amount of resources and info out there to learn from on the net.

Then when you are s*it hot, you can get some self respect, and you won't need to worry about getting a job, because companies will be gagging to hire you. You'll have to beat them off with a stick. dry.png

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1. Ok, so I have C++ experience, more accurately one year in the embedded programming field ( still working there ), plus the experience from university, and some personal projects ( nothing mighty tough ).
2. What should a simple mortal like me do to get a job as a game programmer... How could I convince a possible interviewer that I am the right person for the task, when there are 5 more persons waiting to attend the interview, with more relevant experience?
3. Should I ... start developing small games on my own? Would this prove anything to a reviewer? ... I would not expect the experience earned this way to be very helpfull.
4. Is there actually a place for newcommers too?
5. it seem as there is no place for beginners in this industry.
6. All the serious studios seem to ask for a great experience, of a few years, in nothing else than game development, some of them asking even for at least one AAA title shipped
7. Should I just try my luck and send some CV's to some game development studios, with a nice cover letter, hoping that some of them might appreciate the enthusiasm more that the actual field experience?


1. That is NOT "experience." Read http://www.igda.org/games-game-october-2006
2. Build a portfolio so you are NOT outshone by all the other entry-level applicants.
3. Yes. Write code. Write small programs that solve some game problem. Collaborate with others too. You don't need (necessarily) a complete game. But you do need demos. You need a portfolio.
4. Yes.
5. That's a false perception.
6. You're reading the wrong job ads. Stop reading ads for experienced programmers, and look for ads for entry-level people. And just send in applications. Read this forum's FAQ 24 and FAQ 27. Back out to the Breaking In forum main page and click Getting Started to read the FAQs.
7. No. I mean, it's POSSIBLE that might work, but only in the sense that ANYTHING is "possible." You need to make yourself a more desirable applicant. Build a portfolio.


8. I don't know why you would really want to... the indie market is BOOMing, if you've got the talent, create your own game. Having gone from the game industry to just the programming industry ( to now self employment ), no friggin way I would go back.
9. Horrifically run/managed, at the time, horrible pay ( at least compared ), stupid hours ( crunch time as a result of the horrible management ),
10. Almost every studio out there is two seconds away from being purchased by an EA or THQ and shut down 3 months later...
11. Just opening the paper and seeing the number of successful studios getting shut down on a daily basis...


8. Not everybody has that talent or ability, even after several years in a game job. I think it's important to go the job route first, because it's a valuable learning experience, and earns money, while building oneself up to the point of going independent afterwards.
9. Not every company is horrifically run/managed. The pay is a lot better than not being paid while trying to level oneself up to the necessary experience level to go independent. Not every company crunches constantly.
10. That is a bit of an exaggeration.
11. Yes, times are tough. I still recommend that a raw graduate strive for the job route first, before trying to go independent.

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Ok, so what I did understand so far:

1. Theoretical experience is nothing. This is something I was quite aware of. I have seen how true this sentence is when I got employed for the first time ( also last time ), and I realized that I actually knew nothing ( I might exagerate a bit )

2. Field experience is nothing unless is related to games. Somehow, I did not expect this. As I said, I work for a year as an embedded software developer, which I find related to games somehow, at least in the sense that both of them have real-time constraints, and the project I have been working on for the last year might be considered by many persons quite interesting. I thought that this experience might help me somehow and give me some sort of advantage. It's heart breaking :)

3. Doing little programs and demos at home helps a lot. I have a hard time accepting this, and while I do such thing quite often, I do them just for fun, and I never thought that they could actually mean something for an employer. In fact, most of the projects made at home have been deleted from my hard drive for a long time. I never actually considered them real projects.

4. A little bit of self confidence never hurts. :)

5. The game industry is not the best industry to work within. While this might be real, the desire to be there is too strong, at least in my case. Anyway, I got a lot of time ahead to convince myself if this holds true or not.

Bottom line: I should hold my horses for now, and improve myself for a while, before attempting to enter the industry. Thank you for sharing your opinions.

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8. Not everybody has that talent or ability, even after several years in a game job. I think it's important to go the job route first, because it's a valuable learning experience, and earns money, while building oneself up to the point of going independent afterwards.
9. Not every company is horrifically run/managed. The pay is a lot better than not being paid while trying to level oneself up to the necessary experience level to go independent. Not every company crunches constantly.
10. That is a bit of an exaggeration.
11. Yes, times are tough. I still recommend that a raw graduate strive for the job route first, before trying to go independent.


All fair points. A small rebutal though.

8. I wasn't necessarily suggesting going indie full time. Merely that you can, in this day and age, get involved in game development without going to work at a [big] company.
9. Of course not. Also, I was dealing with experiences > a decade old, I hope things have improved. I do still hear *many* horror stories about crunch/death march development still being very common. Of course, these things do exist in other fields as well, just seemingly nowhere near as common.
10. Yes, it was a huge exaggeration, but that doesn't take away from it's "truthiness." Just look at all the "successful" studios that have been shuttered recently, especially by THQ chasing a better share price in an attempt to not be delisted, but Activision and earlier Atari are no less guilty, and to a degree, neither is EA.
11. I generally recommend a raw graduate get a more lucrative programming job, and work on games as a hobby or indie developer. :) Want to know the most disturbing part... times are tough, but profits in the gaming segment haven't taken a hit, so what's with all the job insecurity, hmm?

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As Tom is explaining, times are tough, but it all depends on many factors and changes from situation to situation.

There's less job for more applicants but in many fields, not in videogaming only. By the way, contacts are important. More important than ever in such tough times.

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11. I generally recommend a raw graduate get a more lucrative programming job, and work on games as a hobby or indie developer. smile.png


A perfectly good approach, but again -- not necessarily for everyone. Not working in games professionally means it'll be hard to make contacts. When the programmer is not a Renaissance man, he'll need artists, audio, businesspeople, marketing help. Working in games means the individual (upon going indie) will at least know some of the right people he can call on.

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[quote name='Serapth' timestamp='1334610089' post='4931877']
11. I generally recommend a raw graduate get a more lucrative programming job, and work on games as a hobby or indie developer. smile.png


A perfectly good approach, but again -- not necessarily for everyone. Not working in games professionally means it'll be hard to make contacts. When the programmer is not a Renaissance man, he'll need artists, audio, businesspeople, marketing help. Working in games means the individual (upon going indie) will at least know some of the right people he can call on.
[/quote]

Fair point, and frankly indicative of how I went about things over all. The contacts I made were (are) very important to me for a variety of reasons.

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Ok, so what I did understand so far:

1. Theoretical experience is nothing. This is something I was quite aware of. I have seen how true this sentence is when I got employed for the first time ( also last time ), and I realized that I actually knew nothing ( I might exagerate a bit )

2. Field experience is nothing unless is related to games. Somehow, I did not expect this. As I said, I work for a year as an embedded software developer, which I find related to games somehow, at least in the sense that both of them have real-time constraints, and the project I have been working on for the last year might be considered by many persons quite interesting. I thought that this experience might help me somehow and give me some sort of advantage. It's heart breaking smile.png

3. Doing little programs and demos at home helps a lot. I have a hard time accepting this, and while I do such thing quite often, I do them just for fun, and I never thought that they could actually mean something for an employer. In fact, most of the projects made at home have been deleted from my hard drive for a long time. I never actually considered them real projects.

4. A little bit of self confidence never hurts. smile.png

5. The game industry is not the best industry to work within. While this might be real, the desire to be there is too strong, at least in my case. Anyway, I got a lot of time ahead to convince myself if this holds true or not.

Bottom line: I should hold my horses for now, and improve myself for a while, before attempting to enter the industry. Thank you for sharing your opinions.

1. It's the basis for practical knowledge. While it doesn't really "count" for studios when hiring, it does count for you personally to be able to develop your skills to a point where you can apply this knowledge to build your portfolio.

2. This is not entirely true. It just counts less. Previous work experience shows you're experienced in keeping a job and have more experience in actually "working" than a fresh graduate.

3. Projects help a ton, but do finish them. Many have dozens of small demos, very few have a polished finished project.
A single finished project is worth more than a dozen different tech demos.

4. Never hurts, but don't be over confident smile.png http://en.wikipedia....g–Kruger_effect is a trap many fall into.

5. Honestly, many paint it in horrible ways, but how many people can say they wake up in the morning and look forward to heading off to work? I know I can.
It's not an industry for everyone, but it's an amazing industry if it's for you. I'm surrounded by clever intelligent people who teach me something new every day.
And you don't even hear me complaining when I dive into our 12 year old legacy code base written in crunch time.


Finally, game programmers are in very heavy demand. Now is a pretty good time to jump the bandwagon smile.png.
Many studios have open programmer positions they just can't fill, many are willing to hire juniors to train instead.

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I have no idea what happened to some people to make them consider the game industry so horrible. I consider that I have yet to work a day in my life. Every day I happily commute 40 minutes to my place of work, and I hate commuting. But I don’t care because the job is so fun.
A coworker annoys me to no end and I can’t do anything because he is a senior compared to myself, but I keep a smile because I enjoy the job that much more than his level of annoyance can reach.

I awaken happily every day because I live in my dream city, Tokyo. It was my intention to live here since I was young. Why was I able to do it? Thanks to the game industry. Which by the way also took me to France and Thailand, with business trips to Malaysia, America (my home country, where I have never actually worked, except for the one business trip (go figure)), and 2 other countries.

My previous company wanted me to work overtime. According to Japanese style, although I am doing more and harder work than my coworkers, because I leave on-time I show less dedication to the company. To show my dedication I should work at least 4 extra hours daily. Hence you have all these stereotypes about Japanese who work work work. And they aren’t just stereotypes.
Funny thing is this was NTT DoCoMo, the phone company. Not making games.
In my case, not making games was more troublesome than making games (I have always exclusively made games except for 2 months at NTT DoCoMo and 1 day at Morgan Stanley).

So I left. Simple as that. At my new company, my salary is doubled, my self-respect for what I do/make (which includes Final Fantasy games) is higher, and I am not judged based on how long I stay at the office. 8 hours including a lunch break and everyone except a few leave. And this is Japan.

Your career is what you make it. You need to remember that your oyster is not just your country, not just America, but the world.
I have no threat of being bought out. Not by Zynga, Electronic Arts, anyone (and if you ask me the best example of a company buying other companies is Zynga, whom I really don’t like).

I found a relaxed work environment in Japan, a country known for its terrible labor system and 16-hour work days. So I am fairly sure you can very easily find one in America. Or Thailand or France. Do keep in mind that as an English speaker you do have the entire world at your fingertips, not just your own country.


L. Spiro

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Spiro, your post is wonderful. while reading it, I was thinking about a friend in Japan, who has problem finding work. But he has also the language problem, since he is Italian and doesn't know very well other languages. He tries to study japanese, but for an Italian I think it's very difficult to learn.

Anyway, you are right about stereotypes, and I always thought about the 16 hour work in Japan, (and I know people working for 16 hours, anyway, so it's a stereotype but also a little truth, hehe).

I know also about workers refusing holidays, to show dedication to the company.

But let's go back to your post, it's a wonderful Tokio diary page, you wrote with your heart and I'm very happy that you found your dream work.

About mine, my dream work is music and I'm proud of it. And strangely, while other artists relax themselves with music, as a musician, I relax myself with 3d art (and absolute silence, of course!).

Thanks for your post, it's been great to read you

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Spiro, your post is wonderful. while reading it, I was thinking about a friend in Japan, who has problem finding work. But he has also the language problem, since he is Italian and doesn't know very well other languages. He tries to study japanese, but for an Italian I think it's very difficult to learn.

Even language barriers have no meaning as long as you speak English (and I have no idea of your friend’s English level, but since it is easier for Italians to learn I would suggest learning it before learning Japanese, even if your goal is only to live in Japan).
As I mentioned I lived in Thailand, France, and Japan, and in every case I did not speak the language until living there for a while. So what did I speak in every case? English. Yes I do currently speak Thai, French, and Japanese, but not when I first started living in each of those countries.

From personal experience I recommend you suggest to your friend that learning English takes priority, even if he actually lives in Japan. Take this job offer for example:
http://www.tri-ace.co.jp/en/recruit/category/programer.html#programer_02
“Though Japanese skills are not necessary, English skills are required.”

This is a growing trend here, as Japanese companies are starting to realize the world does not revolve around Japan, especially when it comes to games. I can say from personal experience that English will take you everywhere you need to go if you do not have good Japanese skills. Japanese is necessary for some things, but not for getting a good job. As I mentioned before, English speakers (specifically) have the world open to them.


L. Spiro

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