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April 25, 2008

Looking for jobs in the game industry is a massively multiplayer turn-based strategy game with fog-of-war.

It’s you vs. other people in the industry vs. other people graduating from other schools vs. other random people who just want in. All of you are camping outside the doors of a few well known companies and somehow, you’re hoping to get the same job that 2,000 other people are trying for. Hopefully, you are not thinking such things as:

  • Sure, they say that they want 3 years industry experience, but wait until they see my demo reel!
  • I’ll send out reels mid-May. After all, I don’t want to start until June!
  • There’s so many jobs, they’re practically giving them away!

I like to show the students I teach resumes of my peers – colleagues in the industry – who are presently looking for work or in transition. When they see what they’re up against, it can be humbling.

I mentioned fog-of-war, and I did so for a very specific reason – the great, great, great majority of jobs available in the industry aren’t advertised on Gamasutra or on You won’t get them through recruiters or agents. Rather, you’ll get them by going to the individual site of the company and seeing what jobs they have available. There are a lot more game companies than you think out there, and many of them are hiring: Go and look.

I encourage you to push your boundaries beyond the AAA polygon festivals, and to look at the indie, mobile and serious game companies, too. When I left Sir-tech Canada back in 2001, I had an excel spreadsheet (I’m a designer, so it’s only natural) full of company information. I knew whom I contacted and when. I knew the last time I visited their site. I was nervous about getting a job, and it was priority number 1 in my life.

As a final note, please be sure to proof your cover letters and resumes, and to personalize the cover letter. Think of it as a $45K letter, because it just might be.

It becomes turn-based when someone gives you an interview. That’s where a whole lot more of the strategy comes in, too.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2008 6:52 pm

    You forgot, ‘vs. The Economy.’ If you’re down on your luck, and you know you’re trying really hard, don’t sit and blame yourself. Keep trying, stay motivated, and the cards will be dealt some day.

    I really like that – “… massively multiplayer turn-based strategy game with fog-of-war.” *thumbs up*

  2. April 25, 2008 11:47 pm

    “Looking for jobs in the game industry is a massively multiplayer turn-based strategy game with fog-of-war.”

    The next time someone asks me to send a resume or transcript or something through snail-mail, I reserve the right to call it a Fedex Quest.

  3. April 26, 2008 1:39 am

    I agree wholeheartedly that it’s important for people to realize that there are other options than just sending resumes to the big-name game developers/publishers. As an indie myself, there really are a lot of other options out there that people just don’t know about. And, there are more formed every day as people have gotten disillusioned with what the large companies have come to represent.

    Given the nature of the game industry, the smaller companies aren’t necessarily a poorer choice. Even the larger game companies go through hire/fire cycles, so there’s not really the concept of “job security” no matter what the size. If you want a well-paying, secure job than the game industry should not be an option at all.

    Working at a smaller place can also have a lot of non-financial effects. Being part of a smaller team means you get more input on the game, for example. Of course, it’s also harder to hide poor performance in a smaller company as well.

    Another option is to go the non-career path. Although the “game design” degrees are in vogue now, there’s something to be said for getting a ‘regular” degree and getting a non-gaming job then doing personal (or small team) game development on the evenings and weekends. Not as glamorous as hoping to become the industry’s next Shigeru Miyamoto, but several of the classic games came from people doing exactly that.

  4. April 26, 2008 6:12 am

    @Brian – that’s a great point about having more input. There’s also a greater chance for advancement and innovation at a smaller game company, too.

    The only point I disagree with is the concept of game design degrees being in vogue. Degrees in computer programming were once in vogue, too. The other day in class, I told my students something in 5 minutes that it took me 15 years to learn. 15 years ago, I would have given more than $2700 and 10 weeks in class to learn it. I also get that no everyone is being taught by someone with industry experience.

    On yet another note, thanks for your regular as a professional developer here. Much appreciated.

  5. JCaskey permalink
    April 27, 2008 1:28 am

    That map is pretty useful. I always knew Bethesda Softworks was right in my backyard, but I didn’t know about some of the others.

    Also, holy crap Washington State.

  6. April 27, 2008 5:42 am

    Brenda wrote:
    The only point I disagree with is the concept of game design degrees being in vogue.

    From my “outside-looking-in” point of view, there’s a lot more talk about “game design” degrees now than there were a few years ago. Not that this is a bad thing, or that there’s any problem with the degrees; I mostly worry that someone who likes games, or even game development, might not know exactly what they’re getting into with a focused degree. I will admit that even I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into when I got into the industry. This is one reason why I like to mention the “non-career” option for people. Getting a related degree can help someone still enjoy games while not having to base their entire livelihood on a rather fickle industry.

    And, yes, I think you can say the same thing about computer science degrees. People really didn’t understand what they were getting into other than, “Hey, I heard that I can make a lot of money!” Personally, I knew more about what I was getting into when I got my degree. 🙂

    I also get that not everyone is being taught by someone with industry experience.

    I think that’s an extremely important point. As you point out, it’s nice to have an instructor who knows what’s important to know. I’ve said repeatedly that a good game developer should never stop learning.

    On yet another note, thanks for your regular as a professional developer here. Much appreciated.

    Not a problem! When I found a link to your blog from someone else’s blog, I was overjoyed. We’ve spoken a few times at conferences, and I really appreciate your insight, especially your sex in games talks. I’m happy you’ve finally been writing a blog so that I can continue to learn! Just don’t get too burnt out by writing too much, otherwise your blog will start to look too sparse like many game developers (and even my own blog on occasion!)

  7. April 27, 2008 9:52 am

    Wow, I just had to favorite this entry for future reference =)

  8. April 27, 2008 2:44 pm

    BTW, found the post on my own blog from a few years ago where I talked about non-career game development.

    Might be interesting for some people reading this topic.

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