On Thursday I attended an event at the NYU Game Center about breaking into the game industry. The event featured a panel of talented individuals working at prominent game companies, including:
• Amanda Cosmos, QA Lead, Dots
• Shervin Ghazazani, Technical Designer, Digital Extremes
• Tom Rassweiler, VP of Games, Arkadium
• Maria Saint Martin, Systems Designer, Avalanche Studios
• Joe Tringali, Co-Founder, 5th Cell
All of them gave a lot of amazing advice during the 2 hour panel. Here’s the top 12 things I learned:
- Having a positive attitude is a must. Game companies don’t want someone who is going to bring negativity to a team, no matter how talented you are.
- While solo projects are a good way to showcase your skills, game companies really want to see team projects that you’ve worked on. How did you work together with your team to solve problems and challenges that you came across?
- Be able to give and receive feedback. How you say something is 100x more important than what you say; saying something in an attacking way will just make you come across as a jerk. After giving criticism, follow up with “What do you think?” This is the best line you can learn in a professional workspace.
- Don’t just say that you’re passionate about making games, show that you are. Show personal projects you’ve worked on, blog posts you’ve written, etc. Game jams are also a great way to show that you’re passionate. If you go out of your way to make games on your own time then that is impressive to a potential employer.
- Decouple your skills from the programs you use. Adaptability is extremely important in a technical environment and a rapidly changing game industry.
- If you’re applying to a company, be familiar with their work and their company philosophy. If you haven’t bothered to play a company’s games, you may not get hired.
- Having a hard skill that’s applicable to games is always useful and can open up more doors. Being able to make art, code, or write for example is preferable to solely being a game designer.
- Have a LinkedIn profile with a good picture, a unique cover letter written specifically for the company you’re applying for, and a great portfolio. If a hiring manager sees something on your portfolio that is mediocre, then they may not look at anything else. Your portfolio is only as good as your worst work.
- It’s important to have a life outside of games. Not only is this important to employers, but being well rounded and trying different things can make you a better game designer as well.
- Network! Make friends with people who make games professionally. Also, don’t be afraid to make friends who aren’t professional developers yet because they may be good connections to have in the future.
- By the time you get to an interview, you’ve already impressed the company with your work. Now they want to see how well you communicate and how you think about problems. Also, be honest about who you are and what you want. Don’t lie about past experiences, even if they were negative.
- When interviewing with a potential employer, be sure to ask about their policy on side projects. Every company has a different policy; some don’t allow them, some encourage it, and most fall somewhere in the middle. Most companies make you sign a non-compete clause, but you can come to an agreement in most cases about what you can or cannot make while working for the company.