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Dumb answers to good interview questions

June 10, 2008

Three different developers at the Game Education Summit discussed dumb answers they get to interview questions. I figured it was worth expanding on here.

As presented from the brain of the developer, the interview goes something like this:

Interview Question: What games have you been playing recently?

I’m a student, so I really haven’t had much time to play games in between my classes and homework.

Seriously? Idiot child, I’m a game developer with a kid working on a triple A title, and I still have time to play games. Who the hell are you kidding? Do you think you’re going to have *more* time in the industry?

Good answer?

I was playing your latest game, and before that, [game 1], [game 2] and [game 3].

Interview question: What’s your favorite game and why?

Grand Theft Auto 4! It’s awesome and addictive.

That’s fantabulous. What the hell do you mean by that? What’s so “awesome” and “addictive” about it?

The graphics are amazing, and I totally love the [new feature]. The storyline rocks.

More fantabulous. This kid can’t properly discuss good gameplay when he sees it. If he can’t describe it to me in a good and already released game, how’s he possibly going to explain something that doesn’t even *exist* to others on the team? “Writer? Can you make me a storyline that rocks? Thank you. Get me some amazing graphics while you’re at it.”

Good answer?

The game makes me feel like my decisions matter, and it’s really receptive in that way. I think the designers too extra time to…

What are the last five games you’ve played? Evidently, according to the devs I talked with today, a lot of students can’t answer this. Can you?

Here’s what I’d say:

Digital or non-digital? On the digital side, it’s GTA 4, Civilization Revolution, Super Smash Bros, Harvest Moon (Wii Downloadable), Dumb Words. On the non-digital side, it’s Dragon Parade, Hey That’s My Fish, Samurai, Lost in the Desert and Settlers of Catan. I’ve also been doing a bunch of reading up on Reiner Knizia’s design process.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2008 8:06 am

    “What are the last five games you’ve played? Evidently, according to the devs I talked with today, a lot of students can’t answer this. Can you?”

    That is very surprising, in my opinion. I would have assumed that someone who likes games would not have trouble with that question.

  2. June 11, 2008 12:38 pm

    Wow. And here I was expecting that most applicants would easily be able to answer what their favorite game was (and why), but then blow the follow-up question: what are your favorite game’s weaknesses / what would you change to make it better?

    (Wrong answer: it’s a perfect game, nothing to change here, move along. In which case, I guess there’s no reason to ever make a sequel… or another game of any type, ever…)

  3. Casey Yates permalink
    June 11, 2008 6:07 pm

    I’ve also been doing a bunch of reading up on Reiner Knizia’s design process.

    Is this true? I would love to read more about Renier Knizia’s design process outside of the essay that was commissioned for Rules of Play about the design and testing of the Lord of the Rings board game. As a big fan of his designs, can you recommend any further resources for learning about his design process?

  4. Chris permalink
    June 11, 2008 9:49 pm

    Why can’t applicants answer those questions? If I was applying for a job, I’d just bring up the last 5 games I could remember.

  5. June 12, 2008 12:44 am

    It seems to me that the individual stating they don’t have time between classes and homework was probably nervous and attempting to sound like a dedicated worker/student/developer.

    Sometimes I’ll tell people that I don’t really play games as much as I used to. Technically that is a true statement, but I still play games daily. It is important that I refrain from using that statement in the future because it has great potential to be misinterpreted. The translation of said statement requires an assumption to be made from the party interpreting it. For instance, when you hear someone say “…I don’t play games as much anymore…” you have to guess how much time they used to spend playing games. It really is up in the air because “as much” could mean I don’t play video games all day and night anymore or perhaps I used to play video games for a few hours a day but now I only play a few hours a week. So I suppose what I’m getting at is; It is important to not give answers that require assumptions to be made as it will commonly lead to a poor translation. Communication is not achieved until those trying to communicate share a common meaning.

    But even considering the fact that I do not play games as much as I used to, I still do play them on a daily basis.(Though it doesn’t seem so to me as I used to game all day/night). God of War: Chains of Olympus, Civilization IV(At least once every two weeks), Super Mario Brothers 2(GBA), Pokemon Pearl, Magic: The Gathering, Wii Sports: Bowling, Chess, Curve Ball, Unreal Tournament 3, Worms: Open Warfare, Twisted Metal: Head On, or any random flash game I encounter on the net.

    As a student designer I take everything I study and create very seriously as I believe if I am to be successful I have to push myself to learn and achieve as much as possible. I usually only sleep between 2-5 hours a day and during midterms or finals I’ll go 48-72 hours without sleeping at all. Is this required? No and yes. I understand that many students don’t have children and aren’t working on big-name tripleA multi-million dollar projects. Dude you have to understand that you have over 2 decades of experience over every student so obviously you’ll be a lot more efficient. Do I think I’ll have more time in the industry? Nope, I’m pretty sure days will continue being 24 hours long. However, I do hope that as I gain more experience I’ll be able to produce higher quality results at a faster rate. That would allow me to use the 24 hours I have more efficiently and give me the capacity to handle more responsibilities. 😉 Mrs. Level 99 Game Designer teasing the newbs because of their newbie ways.

    Not playing games is still an issue. It is important to solve the problem as soon as humanly possible else I’d think it would be difficult to develop as a game designer.

    I’d recommend getting a handheld system. The PSP and DS allows me to inject a few hours of gaming into a busy day very easily. Also, if you are a student developer you will probably be using games to make mods. I play Unreal Tournament 3 while I go through the tutorials. Facebook has many different games for you to play if you are a member. The internet is absolutely flooded with flash games. It upsets me greatly that I can no longer go on frequent 14 hour Civilization binges. However, I can play with my DS/PSP while I take a break and schedule a Civ binge on a day off. I’m sure there are many solutions to this problem but that is the way I handled it when I noticed I wasn’t playing games as frequently.

    BTW, I’m extremely jealous that you get to play Civilization Revolution.

  6. June 12, 2008 6:51 am

    @Thomas – I’m pretty sure that when Civ Rev comes out, you’ll enjoy one of those 13 hour sessions again. It’s an amazing game, and though I’ve been a huge fan of all the Civs, this one made me feel the same way I felt when I was playing the original civ so long ago.

    The suggestion to play flash games or to get a DS is *such* a good suggestion. I’ll be getting DSs for my kids this year, in fact. Even my iPhone’s made net gaming much more accessible to me.

    Oh, hey, and no intent to pick on anyone at all (though I’m flattered by the Level 99). I was surprised by how often people said this at the conference, and thought the information needed to be conveyed. I think the Design Army is largely beyond this kind of stuff at this point.

    Now go get some sleep. Civ Rev is coming out the first week of July. 🙂

  7. June 12, 2008 9:55 pm

    Brenda says: “I’ll be getting DSs for my kids this year”

    Right. For the *kids*. Uh huh.
    You’re not fooling anyone. 🙂

  8. June 13, 2008 10:01 am

    I am fooling myself, and that’s all that matters.

  9. July 6, 2008 4:35 am

    Ooo! Where can I read about Reiner Knizia’s design process please?

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