So you want to break into the video game industry (you want a game biz job). First, you have to know which type of job you want -- if you don't know which you want, you need to read about the game industry and the types of jobs in it. Then you might need to make a decision. Third, you need to be qualified for the job. Fourth, you need to know how to find information and how to ask good questions (you need to not ask bad questions). Finally, we have tips for getting the job.
let me start of by saying im a student studying computer science at university and looking to get into the game development business.
im taking a couple of game development related courses at my college and my experience in them has been great - i enjoy doing it.
At the same time i have read many negative things about the industry which i wanted to clarify.
1. salary is less - ive read this on many places online and it seems true enough. according to the recent game dev survey its written that programmers make about $60 k a year.
Now i wanted to know how accurate this info is becuase as far as i know non game programmers make 70 k a year after college. so to me the difference does not seem that much. im not sure if im just naive or am i missing some point. id greatly appreciate it if someone whos working in the industry could answer this question.
2. work hours are long - this is another thing ive read a lot about. while ive come to realize tht game dev hours are long what i want to know is whether the work hours in a game development company eat away at an employee's personal life?? I've read at some places online that due to the work load/hours people in the game industry do not get to have much of a social life outside work. i was wondering how true was this.
basically i feel that ive like programming on games at my college but at the same time i want to know whether that satisfaction outweighs the negatives of the industry.
All I have is personal anecdotes from Texas so it probably doesn't relate well to you in LA. Hopefully it will A) give you an idea and B) help someone else. People I know who got game jobs straight out of school all made around 40K. People who got non game jobs all got around 50K range. So yeah a 10 to 15K gap in pay sounds about right.
As far as salaries go, it's very important to compare salaries in the same location. A high salary where I live (Atlanta) is barely enough to live on in, say, Silicon Valley. This is especially important if you're looking around in different countries.
That said, there is a pretty consistent gap between game programming salaries and other programming positions. The exact values of course depend on location, but a gap of around $15-20K is fairly normal. Note again though that you can often negotiate a higher salary - don't just assume that you'll make less. It really comes down to your bargaining skills and qualifications. For instance, if you have a background in a high-paying, demanding non-games programming job, you can leverage that to get a much better salary within the games industry (at least it worked for me [wink]).
As far as working hours... this is getting better slowly over time. For our studio, we work pretty standard hours about 90% of the time, and only if something goes catastrophically wrong do we need to go to crunch mode. Occasionally you may need to come in on a weekend or something like that, but it's pretty fair overall. I certainly don't feel like I have a lack of free time/social life.
But, once again, this depends a lot on the culture of the company where you work.
So I guess my main advice would be to look carefully, shop around, and make sure you really like a place (and the people that work there like it too!) before accepting a position.
1. Salary varies by location. It'll also vary by the company. But in general, it's true. Gamedevs make maybe 10-20% less than their bizdev bretheren.
2. This depends more on the company. Even in bizdev, the push to release can lead to longer hours near release. The better managed a project, the less push to deadline. Gamedev tends to be a bit worse because there's less room to push back since there's so many 'replacements' tending to be available and because the companies tend to be less mature (and thus projects are managed worse).
In the end, it varies. Some companies are bad. Some companies are better. On average they're worse than bizdev.