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  • Austin GDC 2007: Networking 101

    - staff
  • Brought to you courtesy of The Art Institute Online
    Austin Game Developer Conference Transcripts
    "Networking 101"
    September 7, 2007

    Darius Kazemi: I give lots of networking talks, and I love how I am almost always scheduled as the last talk on the last day. This is actually going to be more about how you should have been networking for the last couple of days, or maybe take good notes for next time.

    I am Darius. Hi, everybody. This talk is pretty informal. It's almost stream of consciousness. I do have some notes, but I have given it a lot of times. Just feel free to shout out questions or anything like that.

    The talk is called "Networking 101-Tips and Tricks to Make Yourself Memorable, Plus Other Stuff," so be prepared. I am actually going to start out with about a 10 minute portion at the beginning which more explains to how I got to where I am from being a student. How many of you folks are students right now? Okay, good. I feel good about sort of catering to you guys a little bit. How many of you are in college right now? How many high schoolers do we have? Do we have any? Okay, like maybe one and a half, or something like that? I'm actually going to jump out of this presentation right now and just go into the little intro one.

    Yeah! Okay. I'm Darius, and that's me in high school, in my senior year. And of course I got a diploma and graduated and all that. Graduate high school-to those one and a half of you-it's a good thing to do. I actually ended up going to Worcester Polytechnic University, the sample version, apparently. I actually moved from my hometown all the way up to Massachusetts. And I joined this game development club when I was there-that is a great picture of me, sorry.

    We were a bunch of really like wise, cultured, young men, and we did a lot of game related stuff. We would sort of hold game design workshops and kind of make our own games and stuff. There is a program at WPI now for video games that we actually helped put together, but that was sort of how I got involved in this whole thing.

    I was actually there to study electrical engineering, and I didn't really know if I wanted to be in video games or not, so I actually went to the Game Developers Conference a few years back and I made a whole bunch of friends and met a whole bunch of developers. And I think these are all actual pictures from that first year that my friend Jeff provided to me, and when I went there. I realized that although I like-I actually liked electrical engineering more than I liked video games themselves, I actually liked the people who make video games way more than I liked the people who do electrical engineering. And that was the big take away from the Game Developers Conference for me and from going out to places like this is I said, "Okay, I really like the people and that is why I am in this." People matter a lot to me.

    This is me at college, and of course I get my degree. And I actually stuck around until the fall-this is what fall looks like in Boston. And basically through a series of various conflicting interests and issues, I ended up leaving and I was sort of pursuing a video game thing at this time. But I ended up living in squalor for a little while. That's not my apartment, I just Googled "squalor" I think, or "filthy apartment" or something.

    So I was sort of unemployed for a while, but I sort of got up off the couch and started my job hunt, and I ended up moving. I was actually in Worcester, which is sort of in the middle of nowhere, and I ended up moving to Boston. This is actually a really important thing that I tell all students: Sometimes it actually makes more sense to move to a place where there are lots of game developers first, because people are more likely to just higher new people local. It is a risk, it's a huge risk, and I wouldn't tell this to anybody else in any other industry, but I think it is actually a risk that pays off.

    I actually interviewed. I started interviewing at a couple of places, and there's actually a lot of game companies in Boston, so I interviewed at actually a whole bunch of places. This [picture] is numerically accurate, not geographically accurate. I didn't interview at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, although the Irrational guys are there, so maybe they do have a secret underground rapture station somewhere off the coast of Boston.

    I immediately did not hear back from almost all of them. Nobody even returned my emails, or I handed them resumes and just never heard from them ever again. And then I got a couple of interviews at a few places and just one by one they all fell through, even the ones where I had friends from the conference and so forth. It's very hard for someone to promise you that they will hire you on their word, and I don't hold it against any of these guys. I was actually literally down to the very last company and it actually worked out for me, and that was Turbine Games.

    People wonder what did I do, and the answer is QA. Almost everyone I know sort of starts out doing it. It has a reputation for being kind of a sweatshop atmosphere, but I sort of looked at this and saw a sort of MS Paint-ified opportunity sort of inside that job. And I just had to work really hard. I came in there and said, "I am just going to work harder than everybody else that I know, and I don't know, something will come out of that, maybe, hopefully."

    The good thing is there were a few good things about that job. One thing, I did not have an insane boss. I had a really cool boss, who I will talk about a little bit later in this intro, and it actually wasn't really a sweatshop. We alternated weeks of crunch and so forth. So we'd have like two weeks of crunch and two weeks of regular work and so forth during that period. It wasn't that insane, and I was afraid that the pay would be crap, and it actually was, but that's okay.

    My education kind of came in and helped me out a little bit. I noticed that when we were testing we did lots of really repetitive stuff all the time, just literally, "There are a thousand swords in the game, you, Mr. Tester, load up the first sword. Swing it. Does the animation work? Great. Load up the next sword, swing it. Does the animation work? Great. Load up the next-" Yeah, you get the point. I always tell people and people are like, "Oh, man, you're a game tester, that must be awesome. You must play games all day." And I was like, "Yeah, it's like someone saying, "I'll pay you money to play soccer all day. And you're like, ‘Sweet, I love soccer' and then they just hand you a million soccer balls and they are like, ‘Measure these and make sure they are up to regulation.'" It's like, "Wow!"

    So I noticed we were doing these really repetitive things, and I said, "Screw that. There are much better ways of doing repetitive things, because that is what computers are for, right?" If you are not doing something interesting with your brain, a computer should be doing that instead. I actually got permission from my boss to do a special project and I sort of just took a bunch of this data that we had lying around in our various test plans and spreadsheets and stuff, because everything in game development is driven by Excel, basically, and I sort of took that stuff and kind of learned Excel scripting and turned it into interesting visualizations and I realized that we actually had in house this sort of metric system for tracking data and I said, "Hey, where is all that data going? I don't ever see any reports on that."

    I actually got some permission and I built some reports based off of that metric system and I worked really hard and I eventually came up with some interesting statistics that people really liked, and I ended up showing this to my boss, who showed his boss, who showed his boss, and they said, "Okay, let's have a meeting with all the executives in the company, and so I met all the executives." These aren't the executives; this is just a Google image search for executives.

    They gave me a title-they conferred upon me the title of Data Analyst, which is the most boring title in the game industry, and I was really disappointed So I started calling myself Weather Man for fun at the time. I was in charge of Nurfing stuff and just doing interesting visualizations. And then I eventually left Turbine and I started my own company to sort of do that kind of thing. And I actually started it with people you might have seen earlier in this presentation who I met at GDC and at school, so that's the intro of how I got to where I am.

    That didn't take very long-that was less than 10 minutes. I didn't want to spend more than 10 minutes on that. I just want to give you guys some context.

    It wasn't that easy, actually getting there, right? By the time I had actually graduated from college, I had already been to like three GDCs and had sort of learned how to network really well. I'm going to talk a little bit about networking and the high theory behind it because I'm a geek and no matter what I'm talking about, I'll bring some math into it.

    Game development is a really big industry and yet at the same time it's paradoxically also a very small industry. Word gets around really quick, so you know there are all these game companies and they make these big multi-million dollar projects; word travels fast. If you screw over your former employer or something like that, anyone is pretty much two phone calls away from your former employer no matter how weirdly disconnected they may seem from the industry. So it's really not a good idea to burn bridges or anything.


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