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How to Interview a Game Developer: Student Edition

March 4, 2009

If you have to interview a game developer for a college project, please follow these unspoken rules of engagement. If you do, you will dramatically increase the likelihood of a response and decrease the likelihood of delete:

1. Never ask more than six questions. Time is money, and developer time is expensive. Four or five questions are optimal.

2. Do you research and don’t ask questions that have already been asked a million times. Google your prospective game developer + interview. Don’t waste your questions. Also, it can sometimes be seen as a sign of disrespect. If you ask someone a question they’ve been asked a dozen times in print, by not even doing your research, you are saying that the time they spend typing is less than the time you could have spent researching. Read a few interviews with your subject first. Think about the questions you wished the interviewers had asked.

3. Never ask bulk form questions. For instance, “What do you do in the industry? How did you get your start? What’s your favorite part of it?” These are the most bothersome, particularly when the interviewer says, “I have only 5 questions,” but each question contains two or three.

4. Do not tell the developer that he or she has lots of time to answer the questions followed by the words “1 or 2 weeks.” That’s not lots of time when you’re on $25 million dollar deadlines. If you have to interview a developer, start on it in class 1 or 2 (or go to GDC, and ask for yourself).

5. Think about your questions. If you could ask [insert developer name here] what would you really want to know? There are questions I would very much like to ask Reiner Knizia, and if I get that audience, I will not start with “do you love your job?”

6. Write the developer first and ask her if she will agree to your interview first. State the number of questions and the time that you need them in. Then, actually deliver that number of questions and give them that time. I own a BMW because I got a dime for every time someone said, “A few questions” and delivered twenty.

7. Have a plan B. It’s possible that your game developer may have a crisis fall on her shoulders at the last second. It happens. That crisis is going to rank higher than any interview.

8. Offer other options. I have actually done a lot of interviews by phone, because it’s easier for me. I drive a lot.

9. Do not fanboy, and do not divert. If you get that interview, it’s fine to compliment the developer, but don’t fanboy (OMG!!!), ask other random questions or provide personal information that’s not pertinent. It seems more professional, and you will be remembered better.

Brenda Brathwaite

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