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AAA Game Jobs - How to Prepare Yourself To Get Hired

Describes how to properly prepare oneself for acquiring that dream job at your AAA Gaming Studio

James Gonzalez, Blogger

August 27, 2009

11 Min Read

First thought is ... "AGHHHHHHGFHGH OMFG THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE!" but after countless hours of rocking back and forth in a fetal position, I realize what it really takes to "break into the industry."


If you're coming out of college/university/school/whatever with an incentive to work for a big name company as something more than a QA guy, you're gonna need to know a few things.


Your portfolio

Your portfolio sells you in the first 15 seconds. This needs to be your BEST work and when I mean best, I mean something you would cry about if it ever got deleted because of how f#$% AMAZING it was. Some tips for artist that I've come across on are : show your strengths. If you are good at characters and not environments, show your BEST characters. If you do animations , show that.


Another good tip was to know what kind of style the company does more or less. For example : Rockstar Games make realistic looking worlds and if your art is stylized and cutesy then it just isn't gonna fly! You need to tailor your portfolio to the studio's best interest and style. So if you think the work you did in school is gonna cut it, you're highly mistaken! If you are looking for that dream job then prepare some time to create new content for your portfolio that will awe and bedazzle your employer!


As for programming portfolios, the big thing is clean, cohesive, and disciplined code, so follow good coding standards and be consistent. AND COMMENT YOUR CODE RAWR RAWR RAWR ! Dont forget to comment your code well so that the people reading it don't get frustrated trying to figure out what the hell you just wrote and then toss it aside as some amateur attempt at wasting their time.


The demo/project you show off does not have to do anything with what the company does so don't worry too much on that. But do show off your best work, whatever that may be, it most likely should be a side project that you have worked on with your friends or by yourself or a school project that you have extended to do much more than what it was intended for - still following cohesion. You dont want to show a tile editor that can also play pong for it doesn't make sense whatsoever. If you did work in a team make sure you HONESTLY detail what you did work on and  reflect that in your header comments.


For designers... it's a bit more difficult.Why the hell did I want to be a designer... So to prepare for a game design portfolio, you should have a few things : The Design Doc - basically a run down of EVERYTHING that will be in your game, from story to gameplay and art style to marketing. This is going to be a lot of writing but you should enjoy it for the most part because it is in fact your game.


This needs to be as detailed as possible and really convey to the reader what your core gameplay, how to play it, and ultimately how to beat it. Every nook and cranny needs to be explored. Things like component interaction matrix or CIM - which detail all the objects in the game and how they would interact with one another - are vital to a good document. Weapon breakdowns such as: range, rate of fire, damage, piercing value, weight, how many inventory slots it takes up, and ammo are also good to have (if you have weapons of course).


Basically everything, and I do mean everything, needs to be broken down and described in as many ways as possible. Numbers and Statistics on the other hand do not need to be final at all , but need to at least be reasonable within the scope of the game and to what you detail in the descriptions. If you say that the pistol is stronger than the Uzi in damage, then show it in the numbers as well. 


STEP TWO! this step usually all designers falter in and I can see why, it is to actually prototype your game idea. Pen & paper, some quick C# , or even dice and index cards will work. So long as you follow the rules to the best of your ability and stick to the design you laid out. Once you prototype the damn thing and you will find out that maybe making the dragon have this cool acid spray AOE was actually too difficulty for a LVL 1 paper boy to take on with his +1 bicycle of haste and +2 rolled up paper tube of dismay.


Now's your chance to fiddle with the numbers and find out if your game works and is ultimately fun to play. Don't think your design doc is a solid piece of concrete, think of it as a malleable piece of gold that will be polished as you work on it and chiseled into something grand... like say a sculpture of me....*ehem*... just note that this is a live thing and you will be making changes cause if you are not then you are either brilliant or a bloody idiot (always wanted to say that).


Once you think you have prototyped your game to a point where you enjoy it, test it with a friend, and if it's multilayer then get more people on it and get feedback. Test your market audience as well. See if your 17-33 year old male category can actually attract 12-45 year old males and females. Do some basic statistics: write a survey with a few questions on the quality of your game and a simple scoring system say 1-10 , 10 being extremely extreme and 1 being not so extreme, you just might get a 9.5 and eat that extreme cheddar doritos you've been craving...wait what the hell am I saying?


Aside from the Harold and Kumar references... these statistics will help aid you in the long term development cycle and perhaps focus your design and to eventually learn your audience. Throughout your prototype development, remember to write down the things that went right, and things that went wrong so you know what to repeat and what not to. It seems obvious but you'll be surprised how often history's mistakes repeat themselves. 


Once you have your portfolio set up , glimmering nicely and proudly, you must find a place to host your work. Spend some time on spiffing up an online blog or webpage. Google offers free hosting and so does many other sites like Blogspot and other blogging webpages. Sites like Wix offer amazing flash designs and even let you customize your own flash page to spiff up your portfolio a bit and make it stand out. Just don't get to wild, too many buttons and levers can confuse anyone. Make it simple and to the point. And make more than just one depending on what kind of job you are marketing for.


Your Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)*

don't If you are a noob, this is going to prove it... but  be ashamed to put in what you worked on over the years in school. You did in fact work hard on them and should feel comfortable in detailing the things you did in your school projects.


Problem is, this is a AAA job. So if all you have is school projects you don't show passion for what you're doing. So send off what you have now so as to make contact with your employer but make sure to keep doing what you love and write down all your side projects on your resume. Even if you have things in the works , just write them down and remember to date them.


Note : Do finish your projects, nothing frightens an employer more than a lack of commitment to work and a half finished project is just that. So don't jump from project to project tell yourself "I'll get to that when I have more time" and convincing yourself that you have a new better idea you want to flesh out.. it's going to be a terrible cycle that will never end. In situations like that, just write down an idea and where you want to go with it and resume the project you were working on.


Research your job. See what you are going to be working on and try to formulate your resume in such a way to reflect that. The more you research the easier the interview will be and the faster you will connect to the employer, elevating your chances of getting hired.



Do not take it personal when your AAA dream job says NO. They might not even tell you that they wont hire you or why they didn't, and if that's the case then do not be spammy about it. Don't go squaking tons of emails asking if you were hired or not, that's an easy way to get black listed in this industry where everyone knows one another. So just take it slow and in a few weeks post a message that you are still interested and keep that distance.


Stay invloved in the forums and be active. Keep updating your portfolio and never stop learning! Eventually a spot will in fact open and you have been spending your time refining your skills to a point where you are a candidate and may even get the job next time around. Dont think that your emails get deleted right away, employers keep track of this stuff, and in the future you probably will be on their list to see if you are still interested and see how you have improved.


I REPEAT: NEVER STOP LEARNING!! Always stay in the loop and up to date. Keep researching new topics and learn what the industry is doing.



In an industry where everyone knows each other, it's best to be nice. So be on your best behavior and be cool. Play it straight. Don't be the prick who stinks (literally). You will find yourself climbing the food chain faster and faster by getting recommendations and offers from people who like you. Keep phone numbers of colleagues who have potential in getting hired and stay keep in touch regularly by sending an email or two or a facebook poke... whatever your fancy is.


Social sites help this process by making it easy to stay connected and respectable sites such as LinkedIN allow an even more professional networking experience. Just watch out for those drunk images of you passing out in the corner holding a bottle of Jaeger in one hand and a pink flaming lawn ornament in the other getting out on the internet. Keep those things on the DL (that's down low for you less hip folk).


Network the $#% out of yourself...seriously its the best thing you can do. Random stuff happens in life and what better than your best buddy getting hired as the lead of a team and needing teammates to hire. Network, Network**, NETWORK RAWR RAWR!

So in conclusion,  I realize these "few things" really meant lots of little details and determination. Once you follow these steps, you should be on your way in working on a AAA title making mega money and having a somewhat secure job... at least if you get laid off you have something to put on your resume!

*(CV) - this is basically a long winded resume with more details about your background, certifications, education, and jib jab like that.

**NETWORK NETWORK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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