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January, 2006

NOTE: these articles are primarily aimed at aspiring game designers, but many of the concepts described herein also apply to those who aspire to other types of jobs in the game industry. This article is subject to changes and improvements; reader comments are welcome.

The "usual" advice you hear is fine for most people, but the advice I write in my articles applies to people in "the usual" situation. Usually young men, in late high school, in North America or the U.K. My articles answer requently sked uestions - but what if YOUR question is INfrequently asked? What if YOUR situation isn't "the usual"? So that's what this month's article is about - people who are exceptions to the normal rules, or people whose situations are exceptions to the normal situation. Disclaimer: This is only the most Frequently-Asked "But I'm an exception" Questions... I got my limits!

Click the question to jump to its answer.

What if I live in a country where there isn't a game industry?
Then you have to start the industry in your country. My usual advice "get an industry job after college" doesn't apply to your situation. In your studies, make sure you include a business degree, because you're going to have to start your own company (either by yourself or in partnership with others). It's going to be a long road - so get good shoes, and prepare yourself for a challenge. And read my August 2004 "The Games Game" column at
the IGDA website (click Archives).

What if I didn't go to college?
Then it'll be harder for you, but you can still get a game career if you work extra hard at building an awesome portfolio. As a rule of thumb, the four years you didn't spend in school will need to be spent in developing your talents and building a portfolio. But because you're not a professional teacher, the education you give yourself isn't quite as good as the one you'd get in an accredited school. And if you're older and have been working for several years already, your work experience strengthens your resume.

What if I can't go to college?
If you can't, you can't. You can only play the cards you are dealt. You will have to work harder, and longer, to get where you want to go. But you can still get there. You'll have to figure out a way. And don't expect others to tell you how.

What if my degree is in something totally unrelated?
So what? Your degree still shows that you stick with something for the long haul - and that's exactly what hirers need in a project-oriented business like games. A surprisingly high number of people in the industry have unrelated degrees. My degree was in theater!

What if I dropped out?
Then you need to overcome two things - no, three. The fact that you dropped out looks bad to potential hirers, and you'll have to deal with that. The fact that you didn't complete your education means you have to work extra hard to compensate, to build your portfolio and learn how to learn properly. And if you dropped out because you were impatient or not hardworking, then you have to work to improve yourself, to fix these shortcomings of your character. If you haven't already changed and grown.

What if I'm not a team player?
Not everybody is. For you, the Lone Wolf path. Don't ask me how to do it, though. You'll have to figure it all out for yourself.

What if I'm not good at programming or art or writing?
You can still get work in the game industry - in customer support, maybe. If you can't write well, then you won't be a designer, tester, producer, or marketer - but there are still jobs you can get in the industry and be around the creative team.

What if I'm handicapped?
You can get a career in games. If you can't see, you can still hear and touch and walk. If you can't hear, you can still see, touch, and walk. If you can't walk, you can still see, hear, and touch - and you can get a wheelchair and drive a car. I even know a game designer/programmer who's quadriplegic. If you have the passions and the drive, you can overcome.

What if I'm not young, male, and/or white?
So what? If you're older, you have experience - your resume doesn't only have an education line on it. If you're female, so what? If you're not Caucasian, so what??

What if I'm not patient, talented, passionate, or hard-working?
Then you got problems, pal!

I heard about a guy who...
Yes, I've heard lots of other exceptional stories too! I heard about a guy who got hit by lightning twice. And every week I hear about somebody who won the lottery. There ARE exceptions, but you can't base your life on a pie-in-the-sky plan of becoming an exception.

What about this game that...
Yes, I know, that game was an exception to the usual rules. There have been lots of games that were exceptions to the usual rules. The fact that there have been exceptions to the rules does not invalidate the rules. It's unwise to base your planning on designing another exception.

Got a question or comment about this article? Email your comments to - you'll get a response on the Sloperama Game Design bulletin board.

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Click here to read article 60, the Publishing FAQ.

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© 2005, 2006 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.