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longshorts

Stuck in a rut, need some advice!

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Hi forum, I've spent a lot of time here reading FAQs and old threads, but still cannot seem to find an answer to my current dilema. I am a programmer, looking to take my skills into the gaming industry. I graduated with a Masters in Software Engineering in 2012, and a BSc in Computer Science in 2009. The town I work in has very little programming opportunities, and I currently work as a retail consultant in a phone shop.

 

My current occupation I know is odd, its a job to pay the bills which Ive been stuck in for several reasons (mostly due to refusing to travel long distances, which I realise is crippling me). That aside, I've been stuck to not applying for game industry jobs even if I find some available. Why? Take for example a position as a Server Application Engineer. They require the applicant to know SQL, PHP and Node.js. Brilliant, I know SQL and PHP, but I have never touched Node.js in my life. I suddenly feel Ive fallen short of the job's requirements, and dont apply for fear of wasting the employer's time.

 

So my first question is, how often do people get into jobs where they are hitting around half of the position's requirements? The few that I have replied for I tend to not get a reply. But as a programmer, and with so many different languages out there, I find it very difficult to hit 100% of an employer's requirements.

 

My next question is, what path should I take towards hitting these requirements to break into the industry? I currently have a few options.

  1. Do a Masters in Game Development. I'm extreemly reluctant to do this, because I feel having three degrees is overkill. I do realise however it would alow me to network well with other people in gaming and teach me some good specialist skills.
  2. Continue building my portfolio. I enjoy doing this, but don't think its giving me the necessary skills. I'm currently working on a strategy/survival android game which is built in Java with LibGDX, and I would like to finish the project. But hardly any employers seem to be looking for Java game developers, so perhaps I should make better use of my time?
  3. Widen my skillset. Probably the hardest path as I would have to self motivate myself with only the small amount of time available to learn technology like Node.js; something I feel nessesary to meet the requirements for a job, but other than that have little interest in knowing.

All of these paths I know are benificial to break into the industry, I'm just looking for the best place to focus my spare time at the moment. I seem to find so few graduate jobs available in the gaming industry, so it seems I need to work that much harder in order to compete with experienced game developers. Any advice is appreciated, and thanks in advance :)

 

 

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Thanks very much for the replies guys, all of it is usefull. Lithander, Ive always wondered if that was true, or if I should just focus on gaming jobs, but yeah, will act on your advice for definite.

 

On the subject of portfolios, is it a bad idea to include projects from game jams such as ludum dare? Providing they are finished of course. Thought it is good to show what you can acomplish within a short amount of time, but god forbid if someone looks at the source code lol.

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On the subject of portfolios, is it a bad idea to include projects from game jams such as ludum dare?

 

What? These would be perfect. blink.png  Of course, given they have a certain minimum amount of quality.

 

Also, and I know this is a hard decision, have you thought about moving? You write that there are very little job opportunities where you live.

I don't know your family situation but maybe it would be worthwhile to apply for jobs elsewhere and consider relocation.

 

Maybe you don't even have to move very far away.

Edited by Madhed
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I agree with Lithander. Drop the current job and look for something in programming. If you don't want to travel far look for remote work. There are plenty of companies that will take on a programmer remotely with the occasional office visit for a few days.

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When I find myself in a rut. I sit down and think of something small. It does not even have to be a game it could be something like a unique way to create a webpage. Ruts are broken by doing things outside the norm.

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So first:  Most positions, they list way more than they need.  You are like their perfect candidate if you have everything.  Also, sometimes they are not written by people who do the actual work.  I recall seeing an ad for a C# developer with min 5 years experience back in 2004.  Also, who cares if you waste a company's time?  The risk-reward there is pretty small for applying to a company.  It's not like they'll blacklist you for applying.

 

And I agree, you are overeducated, you don't need another masters, and having a job that isn't an actual programming job isn't helping you.

 

Game jam games are totally fine to show as example work, provided you let people know they are from a game jam.  You don't need to show code for them.  However, you should have some project that has code clean enough to show -- though it's pretty rare that someone has actually asked for source code to look at.  Usually it's part of some programming task that you are given as part of the interview process, as then it's much less work for the interviewers to grok.

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* As your question solicits feedback and not necessarily discussion, I have read the OP and nothing more.

 

First, I always feel a little sad when I hear people talk about employment as the [only/primary] path forward.  In truth, what you want is a way to support and hopefully enjoy yourself.  For example, one possibility for you, with your background, would be to make and sell mobile apps.  While you are highly unlikely to be successful (just based on the statistics of the Android and iOS markets), you yet may, and in either case you will build new skills.

 

As for employment, empathize with employers.  All people are different, but employers fall into two general categories:

 

Those who want contractors

As someone who has worked as a consultant most of my life, I can tell you these folks really want to hire someone who JUST finished doing for someone else what they need them to do. They really want the shortest path to getting a problem solved, and that typically revolves entirely around experience. Education rarely matters.

Those who want employees

These folks have a longer vision and value capability as much as experience.  Although the 90's boom taught employers that heavy investment in employees can be a waste (people jumped ship fast and often in search of higher pay), many still see new-hires as an investment that they hope to nurture. Education also matters more for these folks because it makes you appear to be a more valuable asset, and also makes you elligible for leadership (many companies will not promote beyond some level without some level of college).

In the end, when I look for a gig, I never worry what percentage of the bulletts I match in their ad, but only about whether I would enjoy the work and be able to do a respectible job at it.  If necessary, before I send off a resume I will research and play with some technology that I don't know (such as node.js), just so that I have at least a passing familiarity with it by the time I get to an interview.  Of course you need to have enough relevant skill to get them to call you back, but rarely will you have 100% of what they are asking for.

 

So...

I have been lucky enough to never need a gig so bad that I had to take one I didn't want.  This puts me in the terrific position of being able to enjoy my work, and also gives my clients a big bonus in someone who will accel at it (we are always best at what we love).

 

If you are excited about games, find some way to get into games--or at least related technology.  I agree that you should avoid the game-centric degree; you have more than enough schooling--what you need now is experience.

 

Oh, and one last thing: some people will tell you that you cannot count stuff you do on your own (i.e., not paid) as "experience."  That's false.  As I said above, all types of employers care mostly about what you can do for them, and nobody cares where you learned to do it.  I have no college degree, and although I have a long history of professional work, the things I am most proud of and talk about most at interviews are all things I did on my own.

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Oh, and one last thing: some people will tell you that you cannot count stuff you do on your own (i.e., not paid) as "experience." That's false.

 

This is especially true.  Its impossible to judge how much somebody has actually contributed to a comercial project.  They could have a AAA game under their belt but that doesn't mean they put any effort in.  Every team has developers who just coast by.  If you have your own projects its easy to prove that you did the work.  I've found the same that at inteviews they are more likely to ask about my own stuff than things I have done for other people.

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I agree with Lithander. Drop the current job and look for something in programming. If you don't want to travel far look for remote work. There are plenty of companies that will take on a programmer remotely with the occasional office visit for a few days.

 

What companies?  I would have much rather not moved to California to work.  There is a difference between hiring a 20 year veteran as a consultant to hand hold you over Skype and college graduates first job.

 

 


 

This is especially true.  Its impossible to judge how much somebody has actually contributed to a comercial project.  They could have a AAA game under their belt but that doesn't mean they put any effort in.  Every team has developers who just coast by.

 

 

Isn't this the truth.  I'm going to get a "special thanks" credit for one of our companies upcoming games because I suggested a better way of handling game updates.

 

I agree with everybody else here.  The bullet points are just what they would like to have, not who they will hire.  If you can meet most of them, have a track record of completing projects and most importantly, not come off as an anti social nerd you have as fair shot as anybody else for the job.  And don't worry that companies aren't looking for Android Java programmers.  If you do mobile games knowing Java and Objective-C (and C++) comes with the territory.  When my work was still using Adobe AIR for mobile games there was a fair amount of Java/Objective-C for integrating third party native code into our games.  They are more looking for people with experience executing completed mobile games and dealing with with the bottlenecks of mobile devices.  Finish your game, the language doesn't matter.

 

Get your resume out there and keep working on games to pad your portfolio.  You miss 100% of the shots you don't take (or some such feel good nonsense).

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