Advice for aspiring game developers

I expanded a bit more upon the questions I was asked by Monster.com and had a few more bits of helpful advice to entry level game developers. Check it out:

What are some of the qualities it takes to succeed and thrive in the games industry?

Passion, persistence, and adaptability.

Passion is a given. You have to love making games or you will never make it. Part of the reason the game industry is this popular is because if it ever comes down to choosing a candidate based on his degree or his level of passion, passion wins. Passion shows itself through the quality of your work and your attitude, and games are a great way of bringing that out of people.

Persistence is just as important because the game industry is definitely a place you can succeed in if you can bring the quality of your work up to par and simply “show up” consistently. Just be there, keep trying, and you’ll make it. The game industry really isn’t for everyone and a lot of people end up leaving it because they just can’t maintain that passion for it. If you can keep showing up, keep trying and hang in there, you’ll succeed.

Adaptability. Game developers often switch companies every two to three years, and it’s normal to do. Technology also develops at an incredible rate so you have to reinvent your skillset constantly. It’s very much a survival of the fittest type of environment. Studios open, studios close, and the industry moves at a nearly breakneck pace. You have to adapt constantly and be willing to ride the waves of change or you’ll get left behind. But hey… if you’ve got passion and persistence, adaptability takes care of itself.

The industry has a reputation for requiring long hours from coders, designers, and others. Do you think that reputation is deserved? And if so, why is that?

It’s absolutely deserved. Crunch time is a reality in many studios and I have done it. Technology is advancing at an unbelievable rate and the complexity of video games increases every year, and the sole purpose of a game is to deliver fun — but how do you schedule fun? Game developers have traditionally been exempt from being paid overtime, although in some studios run by Electronic Arts and THQ, this is starting to change for some of their employees. I’m hopeful that this will inspire developers to have a financial incentive to schedule more effectively instead of throwing bodies at scheduling
problems.

Given the demands, what are the rewards of working in the games industry?

Fun. If you can find the right company and the right team, you will be in heaven. Awesome coworkers, good money, company outings, practical jokes, free video games, beer Fridays, Nerf fights, no dress code, and a totally fun, lighthearted environment you can be completely relaxed in. You don’t need an education, either, which is terrific. You are as good as the quality of your work, not the school you went to.

We’re all a bunch of big kids that LOVE what we do, and we try to harness that passion and excitement for our craft and give gamers the games they want to play.

What are the top two or three tips or pieces of advice you would offer to someone interested in getting into the industry?

  1. Specialize. Decide what you want to do, be it art, programming or design, and focus solely on that. Once you decide specifically what you want to do, it’s a much easier target to hit both in terms of focusing your goals as well as in marketing yourself.
  2. Live games. When you’re not at work, live, eat, breathe and play games. Make stuff for games. Buy Doom 3 or Half-Life 2 and make user modifications for it. Make your own new weapons, or levels, or program a mod, or design a new singleplayer campaign. Pretend you’re actually working on the game yourself professionally to get yourself into the game developer mindset. These are learning experiences as well as valuable portfolio pieces!
  3. Socialize. Find game developer groups online, like the International Game Developer’s Association (www.igda.org), Gamedev.net (www.gamedev.net), and GamaSutra (www.gamasutra.com). Make friends there that also aspire to be game developers! Befriend real professional game developers and learn what you can from them. Getting into the industry is very much about who you know, and there’s a goldmine of online resources for helping make that happen.

What are your guys’ thoughts on that? 🙂

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