NOTE: many of these lessons 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 lesson is subject to changes and improvements; reader comments are welcome.
There are lots of different and interesting jobs in the game business, but they're not necessarily all right for you. To discover what would be the best job for you, you need to:
It can be enlightening (in a self-revelatory kind of way) to take a personality profile test such as the Myers-Briggs Test and find out what kind of personality type you are. Or to take the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), which is specifically geared to career suitability. Here are some web sites I found in a quick search where you can learn more about this topic:
See how personality types and jobs go hand in hand at http://www.personalitypage.com/careers.html.
I, for instance, am an INTJ. (I've taken the Myers-Briggs, which is how I know -- I didn't just intuit that I'm an INTJ, although I probably could have, heh). According to the Department of the Interior's list of types / careers, I would be suited for the following jobs (I'm just selecting some that may be appropriate in the game biz, and which appeal to me):
You may have a hankering to be a designer, but if your personality profile says you are suited for a career in Sales, it might not work out as you had hoped. Your own proclivities and habits could be your biggest obstacle to obtaining that which you seek. Embrace your youness. Don't fight your natural abilities. I'm not saying you can't learn how to draw if your profile doesn't list "artist" among your suggested occupations. I'm just saying that you'll likely have an easier and more satisfying career (and life) if you do not deny your true nature. I think it was Polonius who said,
Here's a quick overview of some selected jobs in the game biz:
Programming -- Programmers (software engineers) write code. Programmers are engineers and problem solvers. It takes a lot of programmers to make a game these days. This is the era of specialization. What's your specialty: A.I., 3D, logic, math? The lead programmer is an experienced individual with managerial skills. Not only do game companies need programmers to make games, they also need programmers to make installers, websites, and other reusable technologies. Read Article 15 for more information about the job of game programmer.
Design -- Designers define how a game should work. They don't necessarily write code. Designers are communicators and problem solvers. Most games need several designers, focusing on particular aspects of the game. A big game like Civilization requires a lot of people doing research and designing levels. Several aspects of games need design: levels, the user interface, the A.I. The lead designer is an experienced individual with managerial skills. Read Article 14 for more information about the job of game designer. And read Article 69 for information about the job of Level Designer.
Producing -- Someone has to manage the process. The game is usually managed by a Producer, who may have one or more Associate Producers and Production Coordinators helping take on the workload. Producers are primarily facilitators and communicators and problem solvers. Producers should not be micro-managers. There may be a Director handling the creative side (and managing the creative personnel) while the Producer creates and maintains the schedule and budget, and coordinates with licensing, marketing, sales, operations, international, and QA. Read Article 42 for more information about the job of game producer.
Graphics -- Not only are graphics needed in the game itself, graphics are also needed for packages, promotional materials, and websites. Read Article 53 for more information about getting a job in game graphics.
Sound/Audio -- Games have come a long way since the Atari 2600. Most sound now comes from sound effect libraries and studio recording sessions. The sound engineer has to oversee the recording of voices in international languages, and has to make sure that all sound effects, music, and voice are equalized and delivered to the programming staff in the appropriate formats. Read Article 53 for more information about getting a job in game audio.
Marketing -- Games don't just sell themselves. Have you ever seen those cardboard displays at the software stores? The ads in newspapers, the ads on TV? The contests and promotions and online events? Even the box and the very title of the game have to come from somewhere. That stuff doesn't just happen. That's all marketing.
Community Management -- Gamers form online communities around their favorite games, and those communities can get rowdy. Representatives of the game's publisher work to keep things from getting out of hand, and to keep development and marketing up to speed on what the fans want and need in their games.
Data Analysis -- In the era of always-connected Big Data, somebody has to collect information about what the players are doing, so games can be updated to maximize user retention.
Licensing & new business -- There's a whole lot of business surrounding a successful game. The other merchandise like strategy guides and toys and soundtrack albums, and bundled CDs with new computers. Licenses to port games to other hardware.
Testing -- Contrary to what you might have heard from certain idiots who put testing down, testing can be an excellent pathway into the game industry for folks who don't have art, marketing, or programming degrees, if it's done the right way. See Lesson 5 for information about the job of QA tester.
Hardware engineer -- Software publishing companies probably don't have a lot of call for hardware engineers, but hardware companies (see below) do. Somebody has to design that stuff and build prototypes, repair the equipment, etc.
Executives -- The people who run the game companies usually rise through the ranks. Some started as programmers or designers. I know one executive who began in the warehouse. What have I said before? Ya just gotta get your foot in the door. Take whatever job you can. The more you learn about how the business works, and the better you apply yourself to it, the better your chances of growing into the top decision-making levels.
Writers -- Game design documents are created by designers and technical writers. The voice dialogue and onscreen scripts need to be written by someone with creative writing skills. Writing instruction manuals requires a special kind of writer. And there's the copy for packages and ads. Read Article 32 for more information about writing for games.
Software developers -- Companies that make software under contract for publishers. Software developers get paid for making games -- they don't have to risk the huge bucks to get the games distributed, pay for advertising, stuff like that. But those things are still part of the overall equation (it comes out in the royalties).
Software publishers -- Many software publishers have in-house development; some do everything in-house and some do everything outside. The type of jobs available in software publishers varies accordingly.
Test labs -- Increasingly, Q.A. is being outsourced to companies that specialize in game testing. These companies aren't as desirable to work at as a publisher or developer would be, if you have hopes of moving up into, say, game design. Read FAQ 5 for more about that.
Hardware manufacturers - console games -- Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft. These companies do make games for their systems, but because they're hardware manufacturers, there are a lot of types of jobs available. Nintendo and Microsoft are in the Seattle area. Sony has offices in Northern and Southern California.
Hardware manufacturers - arcade games -- This industry has shrunk with the maturation of the home console industry. But there's still a business here. Most companies are in Chicago, Texas, California, Japan.
Hardware manufacturers - gambling machines -- The machines they use in Las Vegas are looking more and more like videogames. The gaming business* has opportunities for programmers, math-oriented designers, graphic designers, and hardware engineers.
* That's right, the gambling industry is called the "gaming" industry. So please don't use that term in regard to video games and computer games. The word "game" or "games" should be used instead. [retroactive rant][/retroactive rant]
Hardware manufacturers - dedicated handhelds -- Companies like Tiger, for instance. My first game design was for a dedicated handheld (the Game Time watch) when I worked for Western Technologies (a company which no longer exists). Oftentimes, the design is created internally but the programming is done at the manufacturing facility (or the chip provider's facility) in the Orient.
Hardware developers/inventors -- Arcade companies and gambling machine companies and toy manufacturers don't develop everything in-house. Developers/inventors who provide services for such companies have jobs for programmers, designers, artists, and hardware engineers.
Platform holders -- Aside from the hardware platforms (the consoles and handhelds of Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft), there are also other platforms like Steam, the Apple Store, Google Play...
Toy & board game manufacturers -- I wish I could tell you about what kind of jobs these companies have, but I'd be stabbing in the dark. Varies from company to company, depending on what extent they do in-house development. Bit of a different kettle of fish from the other kinds of companies I've mentioned.
Lone Wolves, Lone Gunmen, Independents -- If you are going to be your own boss and do everything yourself, well, you have to be able to do it all -- programming, design, marketing, finance, legal... You'll probably have to outsource the legal, graphics, and audio, maybe even hire programmers to do the bits you can't do yourself.
Not everybody gets to be Shigeru Miyamoto or Sid Meier. But you can get a satisfying job in the game biz if you know yourself, know what's available, and know how things work.
Got a question about this lesson? Email webmaster at sloperama.com, and the discussion will appear on the Video Game Q&A bulletin board. You'll get answers! Like this...
Why doesn't the law do justice, part 3
>From: Paarth G
>Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2016 4:14 PM
>Subject: Why doesn't the law do justice for the game industry? (part 3)
>Name: Paarth G
>Location: Chennai, India
>Occupation : Junior Game designer, game tester
>Ok so I would like to talk about this law in gaming industry further as it is simply irritating and just doesn't make a lot of sense atleast to me.
>The government in general often tends to insult games and tries its best to ban majority of games to the public hence the reason why China banned them until now. So if at all such attempts are made to stop these so called controversial games, then why not just make the companies go bankrupt by having strict laws instead? Its just them being hypocrites here as they despise any sort of game violence and yet they ignore basic laws when it applies to those who overwork or don't get paid.
>I'm not expecting a lot of discussion here since you already made it clear that you have no idea what can be done. But I would like it if you can make an FAQ about this matter so that those who want to be into the world of gaming or any other entertainment biz must know of these notorious crunches so they can think twice whether its worth doing this field or not...after all, there's the matter of families, friends and affording basic resources.
>Also it would be interesting to know what you went through during those crunch times.
Hello, Paarth. You wrote:
The government in general often tends to insult games and tries its best to ban majority of games to the public
I have no idea what you're talking about, Paarth. You're saying the Indian government has made the majority of games illegal to sell or to own or to play, in India? I did not know that.
hence the reason why China banned them until now.
You're saying China banned games in China because the Indian government "insults" games? I don't follow you. I don't think you have hit upon the real reason why China made it difficult for non-Chinese game companies to sell their products in China. I think the real reason had more to do with trade restrictions, and China's wish to control what goes on in China.
So if at all such attempts are made to stop these so called controversial games,
Here in the US, controversial games are a small subset of all games. You're saying that in India, non-controversial games are a small subset of all games.
then why not just make the companies go bankrupt by having strict laws instead?
I don't follow what you're suggesting.
Its just them being hypocrites here as they despise any sort of game violence and yet they ignore basic laws when it applies to those who overwork or don't get paid.
I agree that lawmakers worldwide are often hypocritical.
But I would like it if you can make an FAQ about this matter so that those who want to be into the world of gaming or any other entertainment biz must know of these notorious crunches so they can think twice whether its worth doing this field or not...
Hmm, let's see what I wrote on this... I see that in FAQ 14 I didn't say enough about it (so I'll append this conversation to it). And I see that I never mentioned it in FAQ 7, either. Same for FAQ 10. I need to append this conversation to those FAQs, also. I did briefly (too briefly, perhaps) define the term "crunch" in FAQ 28.
Also it would be interesting to know what you went through during those crunch times.
I used to keep a sleeping bag under my desk for crunch times. As a producer, if my team was working late, then I would work late too so they could get in touch with me quickly. I worked numerous late nights, and sometimes the overwork hindered my normal thought processes. I would get frustrated easily, and sometimes I would get sick from the long hours and lack of sleep.
You are be right that an FAQ is desirable; but right now I've got other priorities while I'm recuperating from cancer surgery that I had 10 days ago. I'm putting it on my list of things to do.
Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Los Angeles, California, USA
December 29, 2016
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