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Using Small Studios As Stepping Stones In Your Career

Many students have a favorite game or a favorite game studio: Nintendo, Infinity Ward, Rockstar. However when I advise students and parents, I always make sure to tell them not to limit themselves. You should look at small studios as stepping stones.




Photo Credit: 
Steve B Chamberlain

This article is cross-posted from The Game Prodigy, a site for students and parents interested in careers in games. Visit today to download the free 29-page Complete Game Development Toolkit!

Many students have a favorite game or a favorite game studio: World of Warcraft and Blizzard, Super Mario and Nintendo, Call of Duty and Infinity Ward, Grand Theft Auto and Rockstar. These are all great companies that churn out mega-hit titles with millions of diehard fans. And if you’re a fan of any of these games or a fan of any other particular studio, then when you start thinking about a job in games your inclination will be to jump to these guys. That’s a great starting point. When you’re looking for an internship or job in the games industry, then it’s perfectly fine to begin your search by listing big studios that you respect and admire.

However when I advise students and parents, I always make sure to tell them not to limit themselves. You can look at your favorite game studio, but you should also look at lots of other studios as well. I’ve seen students get stuck because they “absolutely had to work for Blizzard,” all of their projects and art were based on Blizzard titles, and they severely limited their growth and their prospects because of their obsession with one particular company. This is unwise for a few reasons:

First, it is often very, very difficult to get in to these studios as an entry level job. Companies like these are popular because they make the best games, and they are able to make the best games because they have some of the top talent in the industry. Top talent doesn’t translate to new college graduates. The people who get hired into these studios are often industry veterans with years of experience, which can make even getting a phone screening with top companies very hard.

This leads me to my next point: you can use other studios as a stepping stone to build your career towards your favorite game company. Now don’t get me wrong, lots of what is worth doing in life is difficult. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t aspire to work for your favorite company one day. But what I am saying is that if your dream is to work for Nintendo, you might have no chance of getting hired there out of school. But if you went to work at a smaller, lesser known studio for a year or two and did a great job to put experience on your resume, Nintendo would probably be very interested in hiring you. Don’t let go of your dream – this whole blog is about just that! But do realize that if you have a bit of patience, you can often build up your resume at smaller companies to help your dream come true in the mid term.

Finally, you don’t want to lock yourself into one company because you’ll miss out on some experiences or games that you may have enjoyed. There’s a huge difference between the activity of making a game and playing a game. And oftentimes it’s actually fun to develop a game even if it’s not in your favorite genre. I was never a big fan of Sims games when I was growing up, but when I graduated college I was able to work in the Sims Division and it was a great experience for me. I learned so much about creating emotional attachment to characters, building an open world, camera movement, and other challenges that show up in Sims games but not in genres I would have picked. And those lessons have made me a better game designer today.

It’s OK to have your all time favorite game studio and dream of working for them one day. That’s great. But don’t limit yourself. Recognize that there can be other studios you can learn from and use as stepping stones, and also recognize that one day you may have a dream that even goes beyond your favorite studio.

Best of luck!

This article is cross-posted from The Game Prodigy, a site for students and parents interested in careers in games. Visit today to download the free 29-page Complete Game Development Toolkit!

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