Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Getting into Games: You need to play games!


So building on from last week’s article, there’s been a few comments which is ace…I’ll not address each and every one but I will just say that what I write here has to be non-specific advice and will not map onto every individual instance…history is full of people who succeeded without a solid core education and this will continue into the future…this series of articles is all about boosting your chances of getting your dream job and will focus on the key elements that give you the best chance of success…

So what I’m saying is, if you don’t have qualifications then it isn’t game over, you just need to find a way to positive spin what you have instead…

In the future I’ll talk about most of them but suffice to say for now that there are many ways into the industry, some more expedient than others…regardless of which route you’re gonna try, what you need to understand is that you are not alone…sadly, for you, there are literally hundreds of people just like you who also want to land that precious break-through job…so the key question is how do you get noticed?

If you’re trying to break into the industry then I’m assuming you’re going to be targeting a more junior position and will work your way up…think about this, you don’t need to be the best designer or coder or artist in the world right at the start of your career…instead you need to be able to make the person interviewing you believe that you have the potential to be a star in the future…the key word is potential…what you are selling is what you could become not what you are right now...cool?

The following will help you to a) understand if this kind of job is actually for you, b) give you some solid grounding upon which you can start demonstrating your potential and c) make you different, in a good way, from dozens of other applicants!

But be warned, once you start doing this, you will find it very hard to stop doing it and it may well spoil how you play games from now on! Curious?

Let's assume you wanna get into design (but this works for any discipline, you just need to tweak the questions to suit)…what you need to do is pick a gaming genre and become an “expert” in it…take first-person shooters for example…the fun bit, make sure you have played as many games of this type as possible, and not just the good ones either! 

This gives you breadth of knowledge, so when you’re in an interview and someone asks you what games you’re playing (and they will) then you can talk about all the FPS games you’ve and not just COD or BF3…

The next step takes our breadth and gives you depth of knowledge...you’ll be able to talk confidently about what you liked, didn’t like, felt could be improved, what changes you would make and why…how? Read on…

When you’re playing you need to stop playing as a gamer and start playing as an game analyst…I warn you again, once you start doing this it will fuck you up in terms of being able to enjoy games just for games sake in the future! You have been warned!



When you’re analysing a game you need to sit down with a pad of paper and a pencil and take lots of notes…pause the game often to take these notes don’t just play the game and hope to remember them later…think about every second, every minute, every hour of your experience and what factors are affecting how you feel, what you're doing, why you’re doing it etc. etc.

Every time you pause the game, think specifically about:

How the geometry/environment is set out and how that affects the gameplay…
How many enemy types are there…what makes this fun?
Where do the enemies spawn/appear from? Why?
How many waves are there? Why?
What is the composition of the waves…how does it affect gameplay?
How does the lighting affect the experience?
What is the mood/atmosphere? Why have they made it like that?
The music, what is that doing? Why?
How is the story told through the game? Why did they do it like that?
What are you feeling while playing it…why?
How would you improve it?


And so on…obviously these questions are neither exhaustive or universal…tweak them to suit your chosen genre and feel free to come up with more…

Do this over and over and over and over…and then start spreading to other genres...become a student of the industry...know games inside out...

Trust me, do this now while you're young and have the time and you'll use this knowledge base for the rest of your career...wait until you have kids and a mortgage and you'll never find the time to do i properly...

This habit I want you to get into will mean you can confidently and expertly talk about games of a specific genre with a view to an interviewer thinking ‘this guy know his stuff, he may well make me look awesome for hiring him so I’ll give him a chance as a junior designer’.

Especially if what you learn from your analysis can then be demonstrated in your own levels…but more on this next week…

As always, please comment…its great getting feedback…let me know if there’s any specific areas/topics I could cover…

And if you can, spread the word…tweet this, facebook it…sky-write it in the sky…cheers!

4 comments:

The Stomach said...

Its always great to see folks that are long time vets of the industry sharing their experience with folks trying to break in.

Quick questions, as you and your team are in the UK, do you perceive it to be more difficult for people outside the UK to get jobs over there? I only ask because I know many graduates from my school (Full Sail) have applied to UK/Euro companies and as far as I know no one has even had a response when they get plenty around the US and Canada.

It is very likely that they dont have the credentials a lot of the time, but I find that hard to believe all the time. Are there any tricks us American's should know when applying to studio's in the UK or Europe?

Thanks

Mark Davies said...

The problem with being an American trying to work in Europe is basically a Visa issue. You simply won't get a job in Europe without industry experience, because the government won't issue a visa for you. By the way, that problem is twice as bad going from Europe to America - the visa laws there are a hell of a lot tougher.

Also there are a lot more studios in US and Canada, which means you are in a better position than your European counterparts.

My advice is to just get in the door somewhere and build up some experience, once you have that then making the move to Europe will become a lot more likely.

robin said...

(im covering both topics with this)

what if your 30 and never had the chance to get even a good basic education. Yet you know your actually intelligent and capable of more, good problem solving, creative thingking & the like. yes i may be directly referancing myself here but im sure there are other who just had a large spot of bad luck in early life and didnt get to grow the way they should have.

Also as regards to you latest post, yes people have the ability to make themselves come across as the right person for the job but the hard part isnt doing that in person but getting someone to want to talk to you in person in the first place.

carper said...

Stomach - Mark pretty much hit it on the head...in the UK we have limited visas we can grant to overseas (non-EU) workers...generally these are easier to get for senior people than they are for trainee/junior positions...that being said, here at Ninja we have a multi-cultural team from all over the world so for the right person we will make things happen if we can

Robin - this is the whole idea of this exercise, you simply attach your best 'game analysis document' to your CV and application letter when you apply...this is what differentiates you from 100's of other applicants right out the gate...if your analysis is sound then i can almost guarantee you'll be noticed and at the very least your CV will be read thoroughly...