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RANT { how to get a job making video games. }

or "How I survived the Unemployment Apocalypse of 2010"

you mad?

you mad?

Be advised;  

This is a RANT.



Notice that I didn't make this with the title "how to get a job in the video game industry".

That purposefully excludes certain parts of this industry that aren't the Makers.

You should read this post if you are a new graduate in the game design space and want a job in a production role.  Consultants and certain academics can skip to another post.  If you aren't a team manager, designer, producer, engine hacker, nor artist, this post is not for you.

2010 was a horrible year to be an entry level game design acolyte.  The lowest point of the economy was around Summer.  The US Gulf Coast was being clogged with an oil spill, and sure as hell didn't want any jobs in that area.  The Bloodsuckers were stealing money from our government.

The US was being besieged by The Suits and people were looking for jobs.  I was also looking for a job.  

I survived.  I found a job; making video games, and getting paid for it.  This is part of my story, surviving unemployment for at least 9 months.

I will not name the firm, nor the circumstances of getting hired.  All I can tell you is that this company is extremely generous and I felt lucky. They deserve me, and they will have my arsenal of skills.

But there's a method to my madness.  And I'll be generous enough to share it too, since such generosity given to me deserves reciprocation.  I will share my secrets, so that you don't end up being a "consultant" in an industry that doesn't need a consultancy.


1.  Have an opinion and have a clue.

I remember some advice being passed around, stating that one should "self censor" and keep your facebook page clean, filter out and edit blogs, and try not to stand out with outlandish opinions, nor having incriminating photos.  

One should show a proper image, clean cut and all of that.  

This advice was being passed around my senior cohort while I was an undergraduate, most of my crew are eager to hear from industry veterans.  

However, I could not stand the Douchebag who was giving this advice, even if he was in a 'baller' job title. The Douchebag will be unnamed, because his name is utterly irrelevant, (most of his 'design advice' was also irrelevant.)  

I call bullshit on self censorship.

100% Imperialistic Doublethink.  

It's not even a decent hack at social engineering.

Part of Silicon Valley culture is the "good fit" buzzword.  It's their metric for "someone that belongs".  Other parts of the industry across the globe may share the same notion.  

But here's the magical part.  It's bullshit from people who want you to tow the line, at the cost of sacrificing your personal outlook.  Being a "good fit" is such a relative term.  What was a good fit for one company is not automagically a good fit for the industry.

If you're going to tailor your skills and looks to fit a culture, to have an image, just to get a job making video games, GTFO.  

 Seriously, just GTFO.

The last thing we need are more people being poseurs for the sake of a paycheck. It's living a lie. Whoever you want to work for, whatever the company, engage them in debate, engage them in a reasonable discussion.  Don't be afraid to say that "Game X.  Really sucked for me."  Do not be afraid to spark intrigue.   Do it for the sake of the craft.

Don't be a fanboi/fangurl.  Hunting for a job is not the same as a blog circlejerk.  

Instead of forging an image, form a critical opinion, carry it around as a principle. Criticism is never destructive.  It's only destructive for people who are not creative. You will be tested on your critical opinion.  Be prepared to revise and learn.

A company that you cannot criticize is a company that is doomed to sell you out. A company that you cannot criticize does not deserve your opinion, nor your time, nor your talents. A company that cannot take criticism is a company that will not evolve.

By all means be agreeable, but never compromise that ability to speak your mind.

Any company that dips its nose into your personal opinion space and lifestyle is doomed, such behavior is a target indicator; this is a company that doesn't know how to separate someones professional outlook from their personal lifestyle.  And they probably aren't the people you would like to work for in the first place.

Being a creative mind requires unfiltered passion and a feverish defense of gaming culture, no matter what form, no matter what art.  Anything that attempts to dilute a creative mind deserves none of your attention.

Anyone else that wants to shift your opinions, or suggest that you tailor an image is trying to hack you at the expense of your integrity.  These kinds of people will throw you under the bus.  Be Advised.

SPEAK UP!  Someone will listen.  Someone will hear you, and hire you for it.


2.  Have friends.

So when you are out of the lab, dungeon, or your parents basement, and you find out that indie-hit project you had in mind was not so indie, not so hit, or not even a project, that's when you realize "Welp.  Time to get a job!"

And then, that sinking feeling will come to you!  You need to call your friends who have a job in Studio X, starting month Y.  Hopefully with a salary of at least Z.

But sadly you chose to berate them, insult them behind their backs, and exclude them from your social circle.  Oh noes.

That kid with ADD with awesome programming skills, dang, we should have hung out!

All of the above are ridiculous situations.  If you have friends in the industry, they will bust their ass with you to land that baller job.  They will even hound you to submit resumes.  They will do this to you.  Daily.  This was the case with how I got hired.

I would not have a job offer if it wasn't for a few awesome friends.  If you are reading this; You know who you are, I'd still be part of the sanctimoniously unemployed if it wasn't for you guys watching my back.

If you are finding yourself having to call people, but they never really talk back, they are probably not your friend.

So make friends now.


3.  Resumes Suck.  Instead, make a game.  Just one.

A completed project is a mark of achievement, even if it never sells.  Even if people don't play it.

Under my belt are numerous glories and swarms of failures.  I showed them all, and I knew which ones have the stories that make my repertoire.

You will notice that resume building, interview hacking, and creating first impressions populate the landscape of HR literature.  Forget all of it.

As a Maker, nothing defines your abilities more clearly than all your work, even the ones that fail.  Especially the ones that fail.

Don't feel uncomfortable showing off the most unpolished disasters in your portfolio.  Include them with the best of your work, and be prepared to show a recruiter the ups-and-downs of your experience.

Also, make a game.  It doesn't even have to be innovative, just show that you are capable of making one.  

Else, you'll end up creating reviews for some game (that you couldn't make), in some esoteric blog. You'll end up being a consultant, you will not be a Maker.

So prove yourself, even if it's only one game.


4.  The Economy Sucks. HR scene is swamped. Don't blame yourself.

A few of my peers started doubting their talents, day in and day out.  After graduating in Spring 2010, we all immediately started the hunt.

The industry, at that time, hell, even now, is suffering from Senioritis.

Every single shop is trying to cannibalize from other shops.

Here's a typical scenario; after 3 months of intense interviews, a friend of mine landed a QA software gig in EA.  During his first week of employment, he immediately received "hiring" notifications from other firms.

No one wanted fresh graduate talent.  Everyone was trying to hire talent away from established firms.  I think the HR scene has some maneuver warfare aspects, hire away the competition.

So don't blame yourself.  This scene sucks.  Suck it up, get a townie job, live with your folks, couch surf, do everything.

But do not, NEVER give up that hope.


5.  Live like a Monk.  Learn to love Safeway, Ramen, Rice, Beans, and Powdered Iced Tea.  Don't buy new games, its time to go nostalgia!

This should be fairly obvious for people who no longer live with their parents.  If you do, you can still keep these household tips.

Survival requires resource management that goes above and beyond the call of sanity.  Yes I truly mean that.  This will be easy for readers who are currently/former graduate students.

Not so much if you are the typical trustafarian.

I learned the hard way, draining my reserves in 6 months instead of 9.  I went through a beggars Christmas holiday.  Well, I had lots of friends, who knew I was broke as all hell.  (see, friends are a good thing!)  

But being a game maker requires a constant involvement in the craft.

The Steam sale was a gift from Root.  I also visited many old games I haven't touched in years.  I cried when I replayed Chrono Trigger.

I also picked up numerous flash games, instead of buying.

The point is to stay happy.  No matter what.  Being a game maker requires an ability to have fun.  So keep having fun, even in the direst of times.

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