[In this week's Ask the Experts column from educational site Game Career Guide, contributing editor Jill Duffy consults industry veterans Ben Serviss and Bijan Forutanpour to address a question regarding career possibilities in the game industry for architecture students.
We're also running this useful breaking-in column on Gamasutra - please consult the Game Career Guide 'Getting Started' page for more advice on entering and progressing your career in the game biz.]
I’m an architect student (near to graduating), as well as a science fiction and fantasy writer and comic drawer. I want to enter in video game design and I don’t know how to start. How and where can I show my ideas and concepts for video games? Is it possible for me to find a job with my current abilities?
V.L. from Argentina"
It sounds like you already have a lot of great experience to work from. As a student of architecture, hopefully you’ve had at least a little exposure to 3D modeling, with programs such as 3ds Max or AutoCAD. You also sound like a creative person from your other hobbies and talents.
Creative? Artist? Experience with 3D modeling? I don’t see any reason you wouldn’t try to get your foot in the door through the art department.
Remember, game designers aren’t usually hired at the entry-level, but artists and modelers are. There are entire sections of game development dedicated to building cityscapes, buildings, and other architectural feats, and since this is the stuff you already know and have experience doing, it sounds like this is your ticket in. Does that mean you’ll never be a designer? No. It just means you have to put your time in elsewhere first while you learn what the process of making a video game is all about.
Ben Serviss, an associate producer and designer at Saber Interactive, might be able to better explain the designer quandary: “You want to be a game designer? Great! The one thing about designers, though, is that everybody wants to be one, and not everybody can.
“In a traditional development environment, game designers start out in more entry-level positions, such as Q/A testers, assistant producers, junior artists, or junior programmers. Once a new hire has had the time to mesh with the team and prove him/herself a capable, responsible person in the existing capacities, then it becomes possible for that person to progress into a designer role (if that’s what they want).”
Bijan Forutanpour, a veteran of the game industry with more than 10 years experience, says that just being in a video game company, in any capacity, enhances your ability to pitch game ideas. “To be honest,” he says, “some companies send a mass email out to all their employees, soliciting game ideas. Game ideas can come from anywhere—programmers, artists, janitors, security, or the human resources department. My advice to V.L. is to get your foot in the door of a company using your strongest skill set, whether artistic or engineering, and work your way into your dream job.”
Serviss and Foruntanpour noticed that you’ve already got some skills, V.L. You just have to figure out how you’re going to apply them. “From what you listed, you’ve got a few choices in breaking in. Your knowledge of architecture will certainly help you on the way to becoming a level designer, and your background drawing comics could very well lead to an artist position,” says Serviss. “Your best bet is to decide now which track you want to take, and focus on mastering that discipline. Being the master of one trade and fairly respectable in another is always preferable to being merely competent in both.”
As for whether those skills are the same ones hiring companies are seeking, Forutanpour suggests taking some time to browse job ads. “The exact answer to your questions come from reading the job requirements of the many designer jobs posted on web sites like Gamasutra.com or highend3d.com, or talking to placement agencies, like Digital Artist Management. That’s were you will find the list of the exact skill set you need to be considered for the position. You’ll notice that much of the requirements revolve around the ability to express your ideas artistically or programmatically via scripts. So you’ll see that knowledge of 2D and 3D art programs are a big plus, as well some programming skills in some cases.
“Like any creative job,” says Forutanpour, “your resume should include a portfolio. A disc of your artwork stills, video, storyboards, written ideas, software games you’ve written, etc., are all welcome additions to help display your talent.”
[Jill Duffy is contributing editor of GameCareerGuide.com and managing editor of Game Developer magazine. She has been a professional writer and editor for more than six years. Send her your questions about the getting into the game industry by emailing [email protected].]