What was your first job in the game development industry? Please share your experiences--the good, the bad, the ugly, all of it--with me.
Hello. I am an aspiring Game Designer/Developer who's attending college to get my Bachelor's Degree.
I was just wondering to all the veterans and professionals in the Game Development world, what was your first job title working in the industry? Did you like it? Was it memorable? What game play mechanics are your personal favorites? What would you say was your greatest challenge? Finally, what was your best success?
My first job in the industry was as a dialogue writer for kid games. The studio did lots of contract work for Disney and Hasbro. I had applied for a game designer position, but they called me back about being a writer because my degree was in film and video production and they hoped I had experience writing scripts and dialogue. I jumped at the chance and within a week I was asked to write a proposal for a game Hasbro was pitching. A week or so later the founder of our studio came to my desk and threw a folder down on it. He said, "It was your idea, you design it." From there, I was lead designer on six titles for that studio.
The experience was great because the studio was small enough to have a flat organization. Anyone could talk to anyone. Everyone contributed. Many of those early games were 2D with animated sprites. The kids chose learning activities from a central hub menu. So I spent much of my time designing activities more than mechanics per se. But I got to work closely with all aspects of the production: programming, art, audio, etc. There is much to be said for working for a small to medium sized studio when you start. In the big boys, you're just a cog in the machine.
Almost 20 years later, I spend more of my creative time working on tabletop games. There, the mechanics are king and the rest is just window dressing. I've been focused on cooperative games that can be played by a family. That way, helping younger players is in your best interest and is built into the structure of the game. My favorite mechanics are randomized boards (so each play is always different), resource management, and, when I'm playing with grown-ups, hidden traitors.
I hope this helps. Remember, you never know which opportunity is going to be the one that breaks the doors down. Be ready for when it happens.
My first job title was Junior Programmer. The company I worked for was located above Skid Row in downtown Seattle. We were a small company making PC games on a shoestring budget. Our back door opened onto an alley where drug deals went down daily. If you worked past 6:00, you had to listen to the blare of street musicians playing over the Harleys dragging the strip, all underpinned by the thundering baseline of the blues band in the restaurant on the first floor. The street reeked of endless bar crawls. Overtime was frequent and unpaid. A couple of our games did OK, but we didn't make any hits.
It was the best time I ever had.
There are thousands of game developers in the States. Think of how many you have ever heard of. A handful, right? The rest of us toil in obscurity. You'll be lucky to work on one modest hit in a 20 year career. But, if you are the right kind of person, that won't matter. Nothing compares to working with your team, sweating blood to get your game out the door, and seeing it on the shelves. Of course you want to make the best game you can, but never underestimate the power of personal taste. No matter what you make, someone, somewhere will think it's great. Strive for quality, but also know that your are reaching people every time you ship a title.
I have come a long way since those early days, but I look back upon them fondly -- and all the years between then and now. If you chose game development because it seemed like a good career choice, you probably won't be happy. The hours are long, the competition is insane, and it will try to take over your life. If you are doing it because you love games and have always dreamed of making them, you won't be disappointed in the crazy, rocket-sled ride.
Great question. It's definitely a great idea to get a sense of how different people have experienced life in your intended industry. I wish you the best of luck getting in.
My first job in the industry was as a concept artist at EA working on a Lord of the Rings game. It was great since I'm a huge fan of the books and movies. It was a great experience getting to work with talented and creative people. But that was also one of the worst moments as we were cancelled after 2 years in development. It was heart-breaking especially since it was my first job in the industry and it was with an intellectual property that I loved. I was able to stay on and work on many other projects at the company and am currently at Zynga.
One of my biggest successes was working at Zynga. I was able to take the reins and do a majority of the character style exploration and design for CityVille and so when it became a hit it was amazing. We had advertising up in Times Square, there was additional merchandising from a monopoly-style board game through a deal with Hasbro to cross promotional marketing with Frito-Lay. It was an incredible experience to work on a project with such huge success and scope.
Some of my favorite gameplay mechanics revolve around 3rd person action/adventure games. Completing missions and solving puzzles, especially cooperatively with friends is amazing. The group heists in GTA online, the cooperative puzzles in the Tomb Raider Temple of Osiris are so much fun with friends.
I know that I'm not in game design like you, but I hope that this little view into the game making world was helpful to you.