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GDC08: Hottest Jobs at the Hottest Companies

Summary

Speakers: Karen Chelini, SCEA; Jason Pankow, Microsoft; Matthew Jeffrey, EA

I didn’t stay more than about half the session – my laptop battery ran out, so I couldn’t take any more notes. I’m writing this up really only because there was one key point that came up which illustrates something that CMP and their GameCareerGuide.com do often which hugely angers me, and I want to see changed. They not only spread a rumour that is blatantly not true, but I keep meeting undergraduates and students wanting to break in to the games industry who are in danger of having years of their lives wasted because of this misinformation.

Which is a real pity, because other than that I think GameCareerGuide.com is fantastic. I wouldn’t have written an article for them if I didn’t believe in them and in what they do (generally).

Q: Horror stories?

Jason: I asked why the applicant was interested in games:

“I just think that people who go home and play games after working on them all day are nuts.”

karen: interviewing animators, one had coursework that was “too large” to bring in, so we had to go visit it. It was a ship model with a real dog’s head on it. Couldn’t work out how on earth this was related to 3d animation.

matthew: really strong game designer, loved the sims, will wright got in the lift, and the candidate froze, and they went and gave him a hug. Hero worship at its worst.

Q: Name for us an entry-level job title that you hired for in last 6 months

matthew: junior producers, junior game designers, junior software engineers. We’re desperately hiring graduates [Adam: and he went on and on about how much they were hiring. I’ve noticed he does this. I would quite like him at my company, he’s very good at going to conferences and using his talks as a hiring pitch :). Cheeky, but he just about gets away with it]

Q: You really can get into games at the entry level? We’re told this is a myth

[this is what really pisses me off about CMP and their various outlets every time they talk about games industry jobs – they lie outrageously about it. I have come to suspect it’s because they make lots of money out of selling guides to “breaking-in”, because it’s been so obviously not true for a good 5 years now. I don’t really believe that – it’s just I’m finding it harder and harder to accept that they really believe what they say in the face of so much evidence to the contrary!]

matthew: yes, you can. A great game designer can come from anywhere, you can’t predict it like you can with programmers, so yes.

karen: yes for art

michael: if you can code, then you can code, that’s what happens. If you can write the code we ask, you’re hired. But computer science degrees are very very good for those interested in a career in it.

Computer Games degrees

matthew: strongly advise you to be suspicious about the quality of the degrees that are not traditional. Very tempting for academics to think they can setup games degrees, but I say to the professors what the heck are people going to do with a games degree if they don’t get a job in the industry? Is it good for anything else?

Karen: I’ll look at someone with a good degree way beyond anyone without

Q: Name a job you’ve hired for over and over again?

matthew: software engineer

[everyone else agreed]

Q: Who are your ideal people? What made someone stand out?

michael: Resume [aka CV] intrigued me because even though it had no games industry experience it said “go to my website and look at the FPS I programmed”. She now works for Windows Gaming.

karen: it’s the projects that you work on, that will make a difference. Looking for highlights in your school career

matthew: so many people don’t put their best work forward when applying. That’s insane – we get hundreds of demo reels a week, so we only see the first 30 seconds initially, a few minutes if it’s good, and that’s what you’re judged on.

Q: is it OK to send resumes to companies where there’s no job posted?

michael: short answer is yes, we will. Ultimately however you will have to apply to an open position because of US govt legal requirements. We will funnel a resume through to an actual job if we like it, so it’s OK, but it can be a bit convoluted.

karen: its about timing, so by the time you’ve applied the job might exist, or not. applying more than once through a website is never going to hurt you

matthew: no company is going to turn away top talent

Q: I’m afraid my CS degree may not be attractive to the industry in 4 years time when I graduate – should I be worried?

matthew: CS degree is no loss, games degree might be

what skills are presently / projected to be in high demand?

michael: producers are in crazy high demand in my group right now. People who oversee the project are hugely needed right now.

karen: across the board in our organization, everything is in huge demand because we’re growing so much

matthew: ditto. Never been a better time to come into gaming.

[Adam: I left at this point, no battery left]

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