How to get a job in the game industry.
Videogame development is one of the fastest growing areas in high-technology. It's creative. It's intellectually challenging. It's fun. It's outlandishly lucrative. And it can be incredibly hard to break into. So what's the best way to start climbing the ladder on your way to becoming the next Molyneux? Read on...
In the old days - we're talking IS years ago - it was easy. You thought up a game, typed it in to your Apple II, duplicated a few disks, dropped them in a zip-loc bag with some Xeroxed instructions and waited for the cash to roll in: That was the model for success in the game industry in the beginning. Companies like Activision, Infocom, Sierra On-Line, and Broderbund all started this way, quickly growing to multimillion dollar businesses based on games which were largely the creation of one person.
Then along came Trip Hawkins and Electronic Arts. As the former product manager for Apple's failed LISA project, Hawkins envisioned a new paradigm for software development that would bring together teams of artists, each focusing on their particular specialty (design, art, programming), leaving the marketing and sales to others.
Although it was, and still is, possible for one person (or a very small team) to create the next big thing "in the garage" (Jeff Minter's Tempest 2000, Geoff Crammond's Grand Prix 2, or - stretching it a little - Id Software's Doom), by the time EA arrived on the scene in 1982, the writing was already on the wall for the one-man operation. Games were getting increasingly complex, and the sheer volume of money at stake prohibited one person from handling all the functions of creating one. The maturation of the industry during the past 10 or so years has only entrenched this reality, especially when development budgets often run into millions, and games have become so complicated that were one person to try and finish a title solo, it inevitably would be out of date before it ever hit the shelves.
Specialization, the division of tasks, and a corporate ladder to climb before you nab that dream gig is the name of the game now, like it or not. Given that (somewhat depressing) reality, the videogame industry is still a great one to work in (and if you have to ask why, you should really stop reading this article right now). If the idea of actually creating games, working with new technologies, pushing the envelope - whether in game design, art, or programming - and working harder than you ever thought possible doesn't have an innate, almost inexpressable appeal, you'll find that working in videogames is about as exciting as resurfacing tennis courts.
This is one of the last industries where enthusiasm, a sound attitude, and a great portfolio can speak louder than a degree
There are two big secrets for getting a job in the game industry: The first is the secret that explains why Trip Hawkins will never have to shop a resume. Here it is: It's all about who you know. The person with a friend already in the business will know about (and apply for) the new artist opening long before it appears in the paper. And, if an employee can tell a supervisor "I know someone perfect for the job", it may never even get there.
The second big secret is best articulated by the writer Elbert Hubbard: "Do your work with your whole heart and you will succeed - there is so little competition." Without a devastating amount of drive and dedication, there's no place for you. If you're setting out to work in videogames, you better be sure you want to do it because it really isn't easy. There are probably as many unfinished projects and people "with a great idea for a game" on the fringe of the game business as there are wanna-bes with unfinished screenplays flouting around Hollywood.
OK, now that the deadwood has been frightened off, we're going to actually try and offer some constructive help. The above "secrets" certainly hold true, but they don't mean that breaking into the industry is impossible.
Luckily, the videogame industry is not as crippled by the vicious circle as the film industry (where to get a job you need an Actors' Equity card, which you can't get, of course, without already having had a job). First, this industry is expanding. The current talent pool isn't large enough to provide for all the projects under development. Second, it's still possible to get "discovered" by, say, working on a shareware game, or designing some cool characters. And third, there's the entry level job - working your way up from the videogame equivalent of the postal room.
Getting that first job is the tough part. Once there, you gain experience, make contacts, and learn what it's all about. From there, whether your next job is the result of a promotion, an inside tip, or a cold call, you'll have a body of work or experience that will increase your value to a potential employer immensely.
So what do you need for that first job? Most important is an extensive amount of experience with games. We're not just talking about having played Mario through a couple of times, we're talking about having been playing games since you were eight or younger. More than that, having a good working knowledge of the industry itself - how Acclaim is doing, what EA acquiring Bullfrog could mean - also gives you a good foundation to work from, and will impress at an interview. Sure, keeping an eye on the bigger picture may not help when you're trying to find bugs in a game as a tester, but it also has the added bonus of at least giving you a good idea of who's hiring, and who's sending out pink slips instead of paychecks.
Dave Perry, founder of Shiny Entertainment (who got into the industry by writing books of program listings, before the prepackaged software days) has some very simple advice for would-be game creators: Create. "You're going to have to find some money someplace," says Perry. "Then go buy a cheap PC. In the PC world, you can do art with a cheap package like Deluxe Paint or Deluxe Animator. It's only 70 or 80 bucks. And then that's that. You're able to draw art."
And for the less artistically inclined? "If you're a programmer, you can program on it. You can get languages for free, off the Internet. There's an assembler called A86. Download it. If you look harder you can find C compilers for free. Sure, it's not as good as a commercial one, but it's a lot better than anything I ever started with."
And how to learn? "Just buy a book on writing videogames. Those books are absolutely incredible resources that will teach you concepts you don't realize you need to know. Stuff like collision detection. Stuff that us old fogies had to figure out how to do from scratch, you now can just get the code off the shelf!"
Perry continues: "Buy a cheap PC, get everything else free off the Internet, and then get together. Find a friend who can draw and then try to do the thing. The reality is the first game you do is going to suck, but that's OK. All we - as people already in the industry, looking to hire fresh talent - need to see is that there's a spark of skill buried in there."
Figuring out exactly what you want to do is key. The industry is extremely segmented, and studying programming won't be too helpful if your real talents lie in art. If you love games, but have no desire to make them, maybe PR or marketing would be more your style -and you can learn these trades almost anywhere. Lateral moves such as these (tweaking the skills learned in one industry to fit a job in another) are a great way for people moving into the industry at any level (two marketing VPs at Sega came fresh from Hilton Hotels). Perry sees the segmentation helping people entering the industry. "It makes it easier. You should get very focused. A programmer programs. In the old days I used to do my own music and art." Now it would seem that you only have to master the one particular skill.
There are as many people "with a great idea for a game" as there are wanna-bes with unfinished screenplays floating around Hollywood
Many people consider designing games their dream job. The bad news is that it is almost impossible to land a designing job as your first position. The good news is that it can, eventually, be reached via almost any path. Getting your name in the credits of a design document is something within anyone's reach (a cynic offers proof: simply look at the number of wretchedly designed games out there).
Of course, in addition to all the qualifications specific to the game industry, you need to have all the needed organizational and "professional" skills. There are hundreds of books on getting a job that go into far more detail (and we suggest you get one), but here's a quick rundown of the basics:
• Make sure your resume is neat, compact, with no misspellings, and skillfully customized for each specific position for which you apply.
•Try and offer something fresh and new at each stage of the application process. Don't cloud your skills and qualifications, but go the extra yard - quality paper, some interesting illustrations, whatever - and you'll be amazed how often your application will be picked out from the bagful of 300 identical resumes for special notice.
•Dress up for your job interviews. Sure you may be wearing shorts and T-shirts for the next 20 years, but if nothing else, wearing a tie at your interview says that you respect the interviewer and are willing to go through the trouble of putting on the irritating cultural trappings to acquire the job.
•Even if you have them, don't send games you may have written along with a resume - they'll get thrown away unlooked at (to prevent liability on the company's part if it later releases a similar game). Make sure you note, however, that game, art, or music samples are available on request. If they want them, they'll ask.
•Most importantly, read up on the company you are interviewing with, play its games, and find out everything you can about it! There's no faster way to look like a moron than to be stumped by a simple question like "What do you think of our games?" in an interview.
•Follow up every letter with a phone call, every meeting with a letter. Be persistent, but don't be a pest. You'll have to use your judgment in discerning the difference. It can help to have an inside connection other than the human resource (HR) department, but flaunting it too much can miff the HR people and kill your chances as quickly as aiding them.
•Education, or lack thereof, can be a problem, but this is one of the last industries where enthusiasm, a sound attitude, and a great portfolio can speak louder than a degree. Be prepared, however, you may need one or the other. If you don't have a degree, your portfolio needs to be killer enough to convince the person who's doing the hiring that you don't need one.
•What's better, if you can afford it, is to have a great portfolio and a degree. Schools give you access to better computers than you can afford (especially for artists) and more importantly, career placement offices, which aid greatly.
•Be extremely flexible. You may have a better shot at getting into a smaller company than a larger one. If it's your first job in the industry, don't be too picky.
•Dave Perry's final advice? "Try and learn the ropes, piece by piece. Don't just suddenly go in thinking you're a big gun. There's so much to learn I would say it takes something like 10 or 20 years before you really know what's going on."
The bottom line, as Perry sees it, is dedication and commitment. "When you get into this industry, the people you compete against are people who are willing to sleep on the floor in the office for weeks to get the job done. So, if you're stepping into that arena, you've got to be determined to get in there and fight. It's by no means a 9-to-5 job or an easy job, but it's really rewarding."
Over the next eight pages profiles that include salary ranges, job responsibilities, and relevant qualifications of four entry level jobs in the game industry are listed. Each position is easily obtainable by someone with the prerequisites, and gunning for one of these jobs is probably the best bet for a newcomer aiming to break into the business. Afterward, we provide a complete list of schools and colleges, followed by all the contacts you'll ever need to bombard with resumes...
Responsibilities: Extensively playing pre-release software to discover bugs (errors), gameplay anomalies, and verifying manuals and hint books, following a test plan, and writing up detailed, concise reports of bugs.
Uppers: Well, you get to play all the new games, but that's usually only fun for most people the first couple of days, especially considering you'll generally start testing when the game is far from completion (i.e. before it's actually fun). "Chasing down the bugs is a lot more fun than actually playing the game, usually," says Marc Weaver, a lead tester at Turning Point Software. "It's fun trying to find the most esoteric bugs you can." Testing is also one of the best ways to learn basically everything that is going on at a company, where it is understaffed, where the company is going (based on the quality of the games you see, at least), etc.
Downers: "A lot of people think being a game tester would be great fun," says Dermot Lyons, director of "test" at Sega. "But it can be really be extremely tedious. You can sometimes be on a game 8 hours a day for two or three months." Also, testing, or quality assurance, while essential to the release of a product, is the least respected aspect of product development. It's an almost entirely thankless task: if you do your job poorly, bugs ship in the product. If you do it well, you hold up release schedules because they need more time to fix all the bugs. Don't expect a lot of pats on the back from programmers or anyone else when you test.
Salary Range: Salaries start at around $8 to $9 an hour.
Suitable Qualifications: "When hiring, we look for two things," says Lyons. "The first is a good gameplayer, because we need people who can play a game and get through it in a short amount of time. The other thing we look for is good English skills. We do a lot of bug writing, and you have to be able make your point, clearly, so that someone else can understand it, even when you're not sitting there in the room to explain what the problem is."
Suitable Experience: As long as you've got the qualifications, the experience doesn't matter all that much. Sega, for instance, hires kids as young as 16, although it prefers recent college graduates, 22 to 26, or so. It even has some testers pushing 50. Be able to prove you can play games and write, and you shouldn't have too much trouble.
Possible Career Progression: Testing is basically considered the back door way into the development side of the industry. "For the most part, if you look at the assistant producers [APs] here at Sega, the great majority of them came from test," says Lyons. "In test, you've got a lot of options open to you. It's not easy - in fact it's very competitive. But if you excel, you can get a job in marketing, in the tech area, or as an AP." In general, the route is to go from basic tester to assistant lead tester, to lead tester (at which point you will be working directly with the programmers and product manager, writing reports on the game's progress). From there, you could either stay in testing as a supervisor, or make a jump to another area of the company. It's important to note, though, that the industry needs a lot more testers than assistant producers, so if you aren't sharp, you can easily find yourself "stuck" in test for an extremely long time - we're talking years - before anything else opens up. Unless you want to make quality assurance your speciality, you'll find that if you stay a tester too long, you become somewhat "typecast" and it becomes hard to break out of it. Not as hard as that other "entry level" job, customer service (which can be such a dead end that it isn't profiled here), but still tough.
Inside Information: Although outsiders often find it hard to break into quality assurance (because the testers know about jobs early and tend to "get" them for their friends) the reality is that a major software house is going to be hiring testers on a fairly regular basis. Most companies have job hotlines as well, so don't wait for want ads to appear. Call the human resources department at the software developers in your area (this is where it pays to live just south of San Francisco, by the way) regularly, and you've got a good chance that something will turn up. The other great thing about testing is that it's often possible to do it part time: after school, or at weekends...
Key Responsibilities: Generating publicity for new products, writing press releases, dealing with the press on a daily basis, providing screen-shots, demo software, setting up and running trade show booths, press events, publicity stunts, etc.
Uppers: "I like it because people think it's very glamorous, you're on the front lines. It seems like there's always a TV crew around, you're traveling. If you like a fast-paced environment, with lots or pressure and stress then you'll really like this job," says Terry Tang, PR manager at Sega. Kevin Horn, PR manager at Sony Computer Entertainment, offers this example: "I went to a party and we started playing games, my girlfriend was like 'you take your work home with you.' She's an accountant, and you don't go to a party with a calculator. It's a fun, enthusiastic, high-energy and creative industry where we get to see cutting-edge technology and we're really pushing the envelope."
Downers: "All the tight deadlines," says Tang. "A press person will call you at the very last minute, and need 10 screens, a beta rev, and a story, and his deadline is in five hours and we have to really scramble over here. And it's not just one person at a time. You may be doing the same thing for three people at once." Adds Horn, "Beyond all of that, you have to find time to play games! That's the hardest part of the job."
Salary Range: Public relations pays $18,000 to $25,000 to start
Suitable Qualifications: A degree in communications, English, Public relations or a related field (like journalism) is essential. In other words, "Anything that facilitates the communicative process," says Horn. "You'll be dealing with people on a one-on-one basis, so if you're not a "people person," you won't go far in the world of PR. More than just being able to write good press releases, though, you need to communicate to everyone what you're doing " concepts, writing letters, proposals, you need to be persuasive and enthusiastic in your writing without it becoming a sales thing, you have to be able to get along with others in a stressful environment and you need to have good contacts. You have to know who the players are. You really have to know the industry and gaming history because the industry is so dynamic."
Suitable Experience: "Take a lot of writing courses," says Tang, "then pick up the industry magazines, get a grasp of the background of the industry." Most important, she adds, is to "be confident in making cold calls when you first start out. It's always hard when you first start out. You're going to be very nervous because you'll be making a lot of cold calls to the editors, and you have to be confident that you can deliver your pitch in a way that will excite them."
Possible Career Progression: From PR grunt-work, like sending out faxes and mass mailings, cold calling strangers, being a gofer at events, etc., you can move up to actually writing the press releases, organizing events, building a close relationship with editors (who you may also see socially), and managing other public relation reps.
Inside Information: "One of the best things," says Tang, "is that once you build a relationship, you can kind of hang loose. You don't have to keep up a PR front all the time. After a Sega Gamers" Day, a group of press people and 1 hung out in a hotel lobby bar drinking and shooting the breeze. And that's where you find out who the most interesting press people are..."
Responsibilities: Building 3D environments, models, and props. Designing texture-maps, creating 2D backgrounds and sprites. Creating storyboards, character sketches, and designs. Design of interface elements. 3D and 2D animation.
Uppers: "I get to work on the sweetest equipment possible," says Alex Tschetter, 3D computer artist at CyberFlix. His enthusiasm is typical. Computer art in general is a very young medium, and there is plenty of room for experimentation and trying new things. Want to create the look of the next Mario? Go ahead.
Downers: Long, long hours. ''It's impossible to get it done in an eight-hour day," says Tschetter. "Or, you can spend hours working on a lush piece of art and then when it gets dithered down to 8-bit, it just loses something."
Salary Range: $25,000 to $35,000 to start (plus royalties)
Suitable Qualifications: Obviously, you need talent at art - a lot of it, not to mention a good imagination. Just being able to draw space ships isn't going to cut it. An art degree is also a big plus. "You could get a job doing graphics in general without a degree," says Tschetter, "but people look to see if you've got the gumption to stay in school and learn a trade. Ultimately though, what they're looking for is to see what you've got on your demo reel. Lots of people will noodle around on a home system, but the actual quality of the package you can put together is always better if you've been to a school that really specializes. If you do it at home, the colors are always bad and the animation speed is always wrong. If you're looking for the best reel, you want a school with great equipment. Don't go to a school with PCs or just two SGIs for, say, 50 students."
Suitable Experience: To start out, you might not need much work experience, but you will need a strong portfolio, the more diverse the better. If you're specializing in 3D modeling and animation, you'll need to have a VHS demo tape available. 3D is no fad, so if you aren't up to speed on one of the predominant SGI 3D packages, it's time to take some refresher courses. Even if you don't have access to an SGI workstation, start working on 3D modeling and animation on your home or work PC, now.
Possible Career Progression: If you start at a large department, where your job consists of cleaning up other people's art, or similar grunge work, you can hope to move up to leading an art team. Eventually, you'll want to be the art director on an entire project, supervising your own team of artists and designers. If you start at a smaller company, you'll probably have a lot of freedom to exercise your vision from the start, but there will be fewer opportunities for advancement without switching companies. Eventually, you could end up as the head artistic person at an entire company.
Inside Information: "If the first thing you want to do is work at Industrial Light and Magic, prepare to be "animator 247," as opposed to who you are," says Tschetter. "If you're content to work in a big place and take orders all day, that's cool, but if you want control, go to a small company. You'll make less, but there's a hell of a lot more freedom." 3D art and animation is an extremely young field, so there's plenty of room for innovators. "There's no textbook you can look at to see how to be a successful computer animator," concludes Tschetter. "Just make sure you have the keys to building so you can stay there at night."
Responsibilities: At entry level, programming duties will entail lots of scripting, working from a design document, and assembling the actual game (high-level people do the engine creation)
Uppers: "You know other people will see it," says Laird Malamed, technical director for Zork Nemesis at Activision. "It's very tangible. You can hold the finished disc in your hand and say 'I did that.' You're not working on a graphical interface for a scanner that 15 people will buy." Not to mention that good programmers are considered prize employees for their companies.
Downers: Dealing with the limitations of the hardware. "You can beat yourself senseless trying to make something work" says Malamed. Games are a collaborative effort, so you can't always solve technical problems your way. And of course, the long hours.
Salary Range: $30,000 to $50,000 to start (plus royalties)
Suitable Qualifications: You have to know computer languages, particularly C and C++ very well. Knowing assembly is also a huge plus. "We see a huge number or resumes," says Malamed.
"A degree stands out, but equally important for a programmer is the personality - will I want to be here at 2 in the morning with them? We look for people who have worked in computer science, but their previous work doesn't have to be in games. The lead programmer on Mech Warrior II worked at TRW."
Suitable Experience: Particularly if you don't have a degree in computer science, you will need some strong evidence that you can code as well, or better, than someone who has a degree. "Most of the people we hire have a degree, but that's because most of the people who apply have a degree. Most people who are interested in programming before college major in it," says Malamed. More than that, though, "We look for initiative " people who, even at school, were working, doing projects. Someone well rounded. People who have ideas and are thinking for themselves really grab my attention. You have to be self-motivated. Every piece of code you do affects what other people are doing." Diligence to a design document is also essential. Even if you come up with a way of displaying graphics routines better, if no one else uses it, the end result can be inconsistent, and your efforts are basically a waste..
Possible Career Progression: From doing scut-work you can eventually move up to the exciting stuff - low level (assembly) programming of game engines, and routines where speed is essential.
This is where true programming skill can shine through; the ability to code elegantly and concisely, to produce the most results with the fewest amount of code, to make the hardware perform tricks it was never intended to. From there, you can work on the technical design document (planning what the scut workers do) and from there, you could move more into design, stay coding, or (gasp) end up in management.
Inside Information: Get ready for long hours, especially around "crunch time," the time just before the product is supposed to ship, when, invariably, bizarre new bugs crop up, higher-ups suddenly decide to add features, and there is always one more thing to do (and of course, compile times are at their longest). Except in retrospect (when it seems pretty romantic), crunch time sucks. Although, as Malamed notes "It's a very high-energy situation. Few other professions have that group energy. I don't see lawyers or accountants sitting around at 4 in the morning going "Yeah! We made a great spread sheet!"
Learning the Ropes
Nothing beats proper training, and staying in education has to be the best bet for would-be game creators.
Here's a rundown of what's available
It's slowly becoming possible for eager artists, designers, programmers and others to find schools that offer curricula and programs geared toward the specialized needs of game programming and design.
In North America there are two institutions that have built programs specifically around a degree in game design. The most well known is DigiPen (NG 6), located in Vancouver, B.C. With sponsorship from Nintendo of America and Wavefront Technologies, who provide both financial and technical support, DigiPen's intensive two-year program covers the entire spectrum of "The Art and Science of 2D and 3D Videogame Programming." The first year emphasizes mathematics, high-level computer programming (including C++ and game-specific algorithms and graphics applications), game concepts and storyboarding, and introductory low-level programming. The second year continues with more advanced low-level programming, using Super NES development kits donated by Nintendo, and ends with teams of students designing and implementing their own game designs (there are plans to shift the course emphasis to next-generation systems at some point in the future, but Nintendo and DigiPen have yet to set a timetable). Tuition is $9,500 Canadian dollars per year (about $6,100 US), however, the school only accepts 60 students annually, and has a waiting list through the year 2000.
In 1995, the slightly less well-known New Brunswick Community College in Miramichi, Canada, began offering an 80-week program in Electronic Game Design. The theory at N.B.C.C. differs slightly from that of DigiPen, and places some focus on management and marketing skills as well as technical courses. Therefore, in addition to C and C++ programming, computer graphics, digital audio, and game design, the program also includes course work in project management, software packaging, and laser disk production. The good news is that tuition is ludicrously cheap: $800 Canadian (about $550 US) a year.
In addition to those schools offering programs specific to game design, many art schools around the country have begun offering programs in 2D and 3D computer graphics, and other programs that can be generally lumped under the heading of "multimedia production," which can be invaluable to those looking for a career in game graphics, or, in some cases, can add useful artistic credentials to someone who already has experience in general computer programming. Course work varies from school to school, but good ones offer classes not only in 2D and 3D graphic design and animation, but also extend that to areas such as digital video, digital audio, MIDI sequencing, and project design.
A general rule of thumb when searching for a good program is to find out first what kind of hardware and software is being used to teach the courses - they should at least be able to provide high-end PCs or Macs, or better yet, Silicon Graphics workstations - and then determine what the workstation-to-student ratio is. If you can't use your own machine, you're not going to get the most out of the program.
Also, be sure to check the kind of companies the school's graduates have gone on to be employed by - if they seem to favor advertising or commercial design, the emphasis of the program may not be what you're looking for (although, keep in mind, a school can only teach you skills, what you do with them is entirely up to you).
It's clear that the game industry can take its pick of those looking to work in game design. There are a large number of people who want jobs, and only so many to go around. A distinguished education with the right institution can make a difference - but no school can teach you to have an imagination.
Advice From the Experts
Professional recruiters are hired to find employees for game companies looking to expand.
Who better to tell you what it takes to get noticed?
When a company needs new personnel yesterday, it hires a recruitment company. Recruiters do a lot of the time-consuming work for companies by prescreening candidates and matching their qualifications to the company's needs. This way, the company need only interview candidates who can at least hit the ground running.
The game industry is like any other, and there are a few recruitment firms that specialize in handling the needs of game companies. So what is the experts' advise?
The best way to get a job in the game industry is already to have had one, but in an odd way this has recently worked in favor of those with little or no game experience. "Game companies are realizing,'How long can we keep feeding on ourselves?'" says Patrick Newburn of the Brelon-Page Agency. "What's happening is that [as companies steal the best people from each other] the salaries for game programmers are skyrocketing almost beyond belief. We're beginning to see things loosening up. We used to see employers saying "No, you've got to have it [game design experience]," and a lot of them are still that way, but now we're beginning to see them say, "Well, if they've done [any sort of] 3D graphics, or if they've done any kind of realtime, low-level programming, we'll go ahead and take a look at their resume."
So, while companies still would prefer to hire people with game designs under their belt, in the last year they've become more willing to pick up someone with less, simply because they can pay them less.
Which doesn't mean they'll hire anyone off the street. Programmers still have to know how to program, and graphic artists still have to know which end of a pencil makes the marks. On the technical side, recruiters look for candidates with a strong background in low-level, 80x86 Assembly language, and C++ (1996's high-level language of choice). Those looking for a career in game graphics need strong artistic abilities, and at least some familiarity with the major computer graphics and animation software packages, especially in the field of 3D design.
The needs of the game industry are different, however, from those of business software or advertising companies. According to Jill Zinner of Premier Search, "If you're a 3D artist, you don't want to send them a demo full of flying logos. Flying logos are death, they don't want to see flying spaceships or rotating worlds either. They want to see organic forms, something creative; humans, animals, fantasy creatures..." This is the key. Beyond any technical qualifications, game companies need imaginative, creative, and dedicated people who, above all, love games.
Patrick Newburn puts it this way, "When we started working in the game area, we were telling the people we represented,"Now, I want you to dress appropriately for the interview," and we'd make them dress up and send them out to the game company, and then we'd get a call back from the producer and they'd say "Well, we liked him and all but he's just not our cup of tea." And I'd go "What do you mean? He's got all these great qualifications" and on and on. And [the producer] would say "Well, he's just too conservative for us." The fact is that once they know you can do the job, they're mostly interested in what's in a candidate's head, what's his creative slant, and they must have something that shows creativity."
Procedures are changing (we would certainly recommend wearing a suit), but the underlying principal behind Newburn's example holds true; It's your artistic flair and dedication that matters in the end.
For a programmer, this means making games on your own. Design and release shareware games, or at least let your interviewer know you've got a playable demo (one important note: do not send a demo with your resume on speck. Because many companies fear being sued over who had an idea first, all unsolicited game ideas get a one-way trip to the trash bin. Include a line that says "sample games available upon request" with your resume, then wait for them to ask). For an artist, it means having a portfolio that includes highly detailed work, whatever the medium, that shows imagination and an ability to conceptualize even the most bizarre ideas.
/ NEXT GENERATION, vol.2 16, April 1996 /