How to search for a job in gamedev

One could think writing an article telling people how to search for stuff in the age of Google is ridiculous. Sure, if you are an advanced researcher, you probably will be able to search for gamedev vacancies using the most popular search engines, but I would argue it still won't be the most effective way to do it. 

First, a bit of a disclaimer. In this article I won't be covering skills required for any position in gamedev. Also, the article will only be informative for people who haven't worked in gamedev yet. Once you get your foot in the door, what follows is either obvious or intuitive, but most importantly - not necessary, because once you are in, you gain way more powerful tools than the "outsiders" have.

Well then... How do people search for jobs? They visit the most popular sites, like Monster or Careerbuilder. Yes, click on those links. Spend some time there, search for game designer or a producer or a concept artist or whoever you wanna be and get these few results actually matching your query. You have just looked for a job in gamedev in the worst possible way.

When looking for a job in gamedev, you have to understand something. People are still a rare resource in this industry. When a bank or a consulting agency posts a job offer for pretty much any position, they get hundreds of resumes within first 24 hours. They probably throw half of them away randomly before actually looking at them, because they can. These industries have been here for decades. They have an opinion of respectable and stable working environments and every year, universities spit out thousands of wannabe bankers and consultants. Society has managed to produce thousands of HR directors, brand managers, community managers and chief financial officers. At the same time, it failed to produce enough ZBrush artists. Therefore, unlike in any standard industry, an opening in gamedev is not so easily filled. This means a few things.

One: the vacancies in gamedev stay open way longer than in other industries. If you apply for a marketing manager anywhere, you pretty much have to do it within 24 hours from the moment the opening is posted or you don't stand a chance. In gamedev, you might apply a month after the job offer saw the cyberlight and still get invited to an interview. Obviously, it has disadvantages too. Offers that are over a week old get buried under hundreds of other offers. This is one of the reasons why gamedev companies often don't bother with searching for employees through most popular channels.

Two: some of the vacancies are not getting filled for so long that companies might be willing to shift responsibilities between existing members of the team and create a new job with a different profile. Therefore, if you meet most of the key requirements but lack in a field or two, for which you can make up in other useful areas, you still might have a shot. In traditional industries, not meeting one minor requirement almost certainly means a failure. There's just too many people out there that have all the skills (at least in their resume).

Three: almost every company in the world has an e-mail address where you can send your resume "in case they need someone with your skills". These resumes often don't get a second of HR's attention and the whole "we might want you even if there's no opening" is more a part of employer branding, not an actual recruitment effort. In gamedev it's quite different. Most companies are in need of specialists. Ubisoft alone now has over 400 openings across the globe. Don't get me wrong. These companies won't take just anyone to fill these spots, but reading randomly sent resumes is one of the ways they try to actually recruit. In many cases, gamedev companies are really getting these out-of-the-blue CV's and might actually call such applicants.

Having all this information in mind, how do you actually search for a job in gamedev?

First, find a good source of gamedev job offers. We have established, that the biggest jobsearch engines are rarely the way to go. Many gamedev companies advertise on smaller, but more targetted sites. Many bigger game-related sites have a "jobs" section. You can try gamedev.net or gamasutra, there might not be many offers there, but if you add sites like that up, you might get some results in staying up to date with job offers. There also exist small local sites, like polish skillshot, their only purpose being listing the gamedev job openings.

A much more powerful searching tool would be LinkedIN. This is where most of gamedev people are and where you should be too. You will also find, that "game developer" or "game designer" query spits out hundreds of results, as opposed to Monster's 0 to 10. I would still advise checking out the smaller sites too. LinkedIN may list the most job openings, but also most of them are in bigger gamedev companies, where you often need quite a lot of experience. Smaller companies tend to be easier to get to for beginners and these smaller companies rarely spend money on LinkedIN job ads. Also, these smaller job sites are visited by less people. Less people = less competition for the job = higher chance you can get it.

Second, reach out. Companies don't always advertise their vacancies on external sites. They only post them on their own website. Search for companies in your area. You will be surprised, how many there are. You don't have to start in AAA industry right away. Mobile teams are also lots of fun. Gamedev map is a really nice tool to start with. It might not be most up to date in all areas and it definitely doesn't list all the smaller studios, but it can still provide a nice database of your friendly neighborhood studios. If you don't fit the profile of any job offer they list on their website, still send your resume. You never know...

Third, network. If there is a company you would like to work for, get in touch with them. This will sound like I am advising you to stalk people, but really try to get in touch with employees of that company. Find someone active in the community and writes a blog (lol), comments on LinkedIN, tweets or whatever and follow him/her. Start being active in similar groups, show your knowledge / skill / friendliness / enthusiasm through your posts on forums and other means of indirect communication. Sooner or later you might get into some more direct contact. Also, check if someone you already know can't get you in touch with someone in the company you wish to work for. Ask them if they could forward your resume. There's a huge difference between "Hello, my name is Brian, I would like to work for you guys, here's my CV" and "Hey bro, my good friend Brian is very enthusiastic about working in gamedev and he really seems like he'd be fit for it. Here's his CV - please pass it on if you have a second."

When I was looking for a job in gamedev, I have successfully managed to get in touch with a man in one of the companies I applied for. We have exchanged dozens of e-mails and during this electronic conversation he hinted two jobs in his company that weren't even advertised and I got an interview this way. Ultimately, I didn't end up in that company, but the interview alone kept my enthusiasm up and taught me a lot.

Lastly, be up to date with the industry. It will give you hints, which studios might be more eager to hire. A company is opening a new studio? They will likely be prepared to include some juniors in their structure there. Capcom boasts about hiring 500 people in the next 5 years? You know where to send your resume first. I highly recommend Develop Online for getting info like this and also, a lot of general, but useful tips on getting a job in the industry.

I promise to cover some more "getting a job in gamedev" topics in the future too, so stay tuned.


What internet did to gamers

Hey everyone! I know some of you guys might be a bit too young to really remember how it used to be before every home had internet access. I often get jealous of people who were born in the 70's, because they got to experience all the great early games of the 80's as they were fresh. However, at least I was born in the 80's and that enabled me to observe the history of internet getting as common as PC's.

I remember the only DSL in our town was in our high school. The whopping 256 kbits per second were split between 30 or 40 computers. Downloading 1 MB of data was taking up to half an hour. Who would have thought that just a few years later I will have a phone with connectivity possibilities putting that snail of a DSL to shame.

And as soon as everyone started getting their private internet connection, mailing lists evolved into forums and then into social networks. Webpages evolved into vertical portals just to enable everyone to forget what a vertical portal is. Games evolved too.

The year was 1998. Remember it. I bet there hasn't been a year in game history when so many brilliant games were released: Xenogears, Metal Gear Solid, Ocarina of Time, Unreal, Fallout 2, Half-Life and Grim Fandango are merely opening the list. They are not relevant for us now though. The game that is relevant... is StarCraft. The very first video game in the world (unless I'm mistaken) that became a TV-broadcasted sport, giving birth to the whole online E-sports craze we have going on till now.

A year and a half later (respectively: November and December 1999), Unreal Tournament and Quake 3 Arena have been released to add to madness of online gaming. Everyone around me was either fragging or getting fragged. Half of the people I knew back then were in some sort of Q3 Clan, competing against each other on local or semi-local levels. It was when it ceased to be enough to sit on the sofa with friends and play Tekken. Bringing PC's over to your friends, internet cafes and LAN parties were the gamer's way of living.

In the meantime, internet kept getting cheaper and faster. Less and less people had to go to internet cafes to play an online StarCraft match. Less and less people had to drag their PCs to their friends. Instead, they could just play together online, from their own homes. Newer generations of consoles also finally got internet connectivity. Anyone who tried playing shooters on split screen knows how much more comfortable it is on separate machines.

A true age of MMO's and online multiplayer arrived. At last, playing with anyone in the world felt just as good as playing with your real life friends. At last, you didn't have to depend on the lame guys who were doing their homeworks when you wanted to play. You were, and up to this day are, a few clicks away from playing any game you like with anyone in the world. A true freedom in your own, closed room.

What internet gave us as gamers is truly remarkable. Battle.net eventually concentrated so many people that it was possible to make a gaming convention just for users of this one service (Blizzcon, if you were still wondering). Online multiplayer is now an essential feature of most of new games, giving us an opportunity to squeeze out so much more of them than just a single-player walkthrough.

But at the same time, somewhere on the way we have lost something. We have lost a good, old-fashioned couch gaming and everything it stood for. Games stopped being a medium to enjoy together with your friends, drinking juice or beer. Beating each other up in Virtua Fighter, squeezing 4 hands on one computer keyboard. Playing hot seat in Heroes III with up to 7 other people. Defeating waves of enemies together in Contra while sitting on the carpet, dangerously close to the TV screen.

Three console generations ago it was great if you had a N64 instead of a PlayStation or Saturn. Friends came over to your place to play Wave Race and Golden Eye together and then you went to your friends to play Twisted Metal or Virtua Cop. Nowadays, most games are all the same on three leading platforms (PC, PS, XBox), but you can only play within one system. It forces you to buy exactly what your friends have or you will end up playing with random guys over the internet.

And you can't really have your friends over to play games, because there is just so little titles you could play together! There's only a handful of couch-friendly titles worth mentioning that have been released in the past few years. No wonder I still have Heroes III installed on my laptop - it's one of very few games I am able to play with my friends when we get bored with killing each other in Mortal Kombat. I have even played Heroes III with random people on a train. Ten years after the game's release, I still had no problems finding guys who could play it!

Internet changed the whole dynamics of social interactions. Gamers used to gather in comic book stores and gaming arcades. They used to meet in person. Now online gaming communities give them not only a sense of belonging to some group, but also let them create themselves however they want. With all the great opportunities online gaming has given us, it has also produced hordes of teenage teabaggers talking shit to people they would never dare to disrespect in real life. Not to mention letting the naturally introverted and sunlight-deprived social group yet another reason to stay at home.

Lastly, the online multiplayer has changed the whole dynamics of skill-based gaming. The reason why single player in modern games is easy is because the difficulty level raises in the multiplayer. Single player is for telling a story and making the player used to the controls. When he wants a challenge, he goes online. The result? Nowadays, if a single player game delivers a skill-based gameplay, it's suddenly considered hardcore. Beating Dark Souls is way easier than beating Pac-Man, but nobody ever referred to the yellow round guy as "hardcore".

Luckily, there are still ways to have some fun with friends while being in the same room. Board games have done a great job keeping the casual co-op and multiplayer alive. Nintendo never really gave up on offline human interactions and kept designing new things in the field: casual gaming, asymmetric co-op or close-range minigames between DS users. Rhytm games have also had their share in bringing people back together to play on one console. 

Lately, we also see that the developers have woken up and came back to design more and more games with local co-op in mind. After retro games like Scott Pilgrim or Castle Crashers, also big studios have invested in the concept. Rayman Legends or console version of Diablo 3 are glorious examples of how the couch co-op function alone can greatly increase the number of sold copies. Honestly, when I got Rayman Legends, I stopped regretting buying two gamepads. 

The endless possibilities that internet connection gives us shouldn't make us forget about stuff that worked well for decades. It's a great thing that the industry seems to be coming round.


Game of the year: Journey

After long talks within the one-man-jury, the verdict is in! It was a close call between some of the titles, but then I though there should be some deciding factor that can let me choose this one and only. I decided that this factor should be the story and how it's delivered. The factor of narrative, what combines writing, gameplay, level design, music and all other elements of the game and how well they go together.

I believe really strongly that storytelling in games should be treated differently than in movies (as I already hinted in my narrative-related post). Therefore The last of us, even though it delivered an incredibly well-written, mature story, still would have been just as good as a long movie. Gameplay elements there are mostly to let the player shoot or punch something once in a while.

And the complete opposite of that would be Journey. Only one relevant word used during the entire game (not counting the completely unnecessary control hints) - the title. Whole story told with gameplay. And what a deep gameplay it is, using only the left stick and two buttons while giving a complete experience that lacks absolutely nothing. Everything that happens is beautifully intuitive. Whether you are walking, running, crawling, gliding, jumping or flying, you immediately feel like you were just born with the knowledge how to do that. Journey truly is a piece of art that you would not be able to channel through any other currently available medium.

It is impressive, how much has been packed into this short game. The whole experience lasts at most two hours and tells a deep tale of destiny, solitude, companionship, achieving goals, joy, friendship, cooperation, sorrow, mystery and reward. However, depending on you as a player and the variety of possible interpretations and experiences that can be linked to the story, the game can be singing a tale of many other things, like reaching for the stars, love, redemption, purification, sharing knowledge, communication and many, many more. It is simple, yet universal. Ascetic, yet broad. Truly incredible. If you are not afraid of spoilers, check out the http://journeystories.tumblr.com to see what a vast range of experiences people have while going through this linear game.

The whole game wouldn't be complete without the revolutionary art direction. The year was 2012. Eye-candies like Final Fantasy XIII-2, Mass Effect 3, The Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition or Max Payne 3 were released with their thousands of polygons and megapixels of textures, yet... None of them had visuals that would be worthy of cleaning the desert dust off the Journey's main character's pointy legs. Rarely can you encounter in the gaming world art direction so perfectly consistent. Seemingly empty, one-colored spaces all perfectly serve their purpose. The main character has no face and no name. A perfect vessel to carry any player's soul in this beautiful adventure. 

Another incredible element of the game is its online co-op feature. In the course of the game you are able to encounter other players, all on their own journey. This is the crucial part. No matter who you encounter. Whether it will be a White Cape that will lead you or a guy you drag along or some independent dude that just goes wherever he pleases and disappears as suddenly as he appeared... You never have any doubt it is indeed your journey. And what's best, everyone you encounter, has the exact same feeling about their journey. Not to mention the fact that the only way you can communicate is by running, jumping and chirping a single sound. Again, not a single word is involved. You would be amazed how unnecessary the words in Journey are, even in communication with others. And after you meet a White Cape that shows you all the secrets of the game, you get this urge to get that cape too and help others get it. 

To put a cherry on top of this, I made an experiment. I have played the entire game in front of my father. He's in his 50's, has never played a game in his whole life. Never watched any game for more than 10 minutes. I even doubt he's ever watched a full football match. He sat through the whole thing. He understood the mechanics, the story and after more or less 20 years of telling me games are a waste of time, he agreed, that games can be a work of art. 

If you haven't been on your own Journey yet, go. If your excuse is that you don't have a PS3, buy one. I'll be waiting in the deserts in my sexy White Cloak :)