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  • Extract: Breaking Into The Game Industry

    [08.16.11]
    - Ian Schreiber and Brenda Brathwaite
  •  [In this extract from Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber's Breaking Into the Game Industry: Advice for a Successful Career from Those Who Have Done It, professional game designers offer some advice on how to pursue an education in game development.

    Question: Lots of stuff I learn in school seems like it has nothing to do with actually making games for a living. What classes did you take that were the most useful on the job?

    Ian: In other words, you want to know what you should pay attention to, and which classes you can safely ignore or sleep through. If you are just taking classes to get a piece of paper, or if you are the kind of person who tries to do just the bare minimum to get by, you will probably not enjoy working in the game industry. It's an industry where you are expected to be passionate and go above and beyond the minimum on a regular basis, so this would be a good time to consider a career change.

    But that's not what you want to hear. You want to know, with so many subjects competing for your attention, where do you put the effort so that your time is used the most effectively?

    First, whatever your major is, concentrate on the core classes that form the major requirements (art classes for artists, computer science classes for programmers, and so on). This is your primary competency, so you want to be competent. That much is obvious.

    Second, pay attention to the classes that are relevant to other fields of game development. If you're a programmer, take art and design and audio and production classes if you can find them, for example. This gives you an appreciation for the work that your teammates do, lets you speak and be understood even across departmental lines, and lets you do your own job in a way that makes things easier and more efficient for the rest of your team.

    Third, pay attention to your electives that seem like they have nothing to do with game development. Sometimes they are shockingly relevant if you just look at it the right way; a class in World History might seem useless until you find yourself working on a historically-based game, for example, at which point that history class suddenly becomes the thing that gets you hired. The more random little tidbits there are about you, the better your chances of accidentally falling into the perfect position.

    There are two other reasons to pay attention to your elective classes. First, the technology in games moves so fast that no matter what you do, you're going to have to learn new tools and techniques, so you had better have a passion for learning. Taking classes in random subjects that interest you helps build (or maintain) learning skills and passion. Second, as cliché as it sounds, it will make you more "well-rounded" as a human being, and the fact that you have other interests outside of game development will be of interest to employers during the interview (if nothing else, it gives you something to talk about to make you feel a little less nervous).

    So, pay attention in everything. For every class, try to find some way to relate it back to games (your professor will probably not do this for you, so making connections is up to you). Take classes you enjoy, and work hard on them because you love them. Work hard in the classes you hate, too, because just being able to get through something you dislike and doing it well is something you'll have to do at work, too.

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