How To Play Videogames For A Living

Discussion in 'Neo-Gaming' started by MAMA DIABLA, Dec 15, 2006.

  1. MAMA DIABLA News Administrator

    Here's a trick to get Mom off your back: The next time she tells you to stop wasting so much time playing Madden NFL '07, tell her you're just training for a career.
    There are now about 500 new videogames hitting the shelves every year, according to market research company NPD Group, and all those game studios need teams of driven, highly skilled gamers who can develop and produce virtual worlds.
    There are many ways to break into the videogame industry, experts say. The pathway into sought-after studios like Electronic Arts (nasdaq: ERTS - news - people ), THQ (nasdaq: THQI - news - people ) and Ubisoft Entertainment isn't always glamorous, but the payoffs can include financial success and the chance to create something enjoyed by kids from Boston to Beijing.
    In Pictures: How To Play Video Games For A Living
    The first thing to realize about working in the videogame industry is that playing Gears of War is a lot more fun than working to create it. The hours of a professional gamemaker can be grueling, says Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association. "It is a common myth that working in games means that you play games all day," he says. "In fact, that doesn't happen. It is extremely hard work."
    When deadlines approach, expect to work around the clock, says Matt Flegel, lead artist at gaming studio Volition, which created the game Saints Row. Flegel says that members of his team worked non-stop as the project neared completion. "There were times when people were working 100-hour weeks," he says. "It's more work than people assume."
    Just as challenging, Della Rocca notes, is the fact that despite the long hours, your game might never make it onto the shelves of Wal-Mart Stores (nyse: WMT - news - people ) or GameStop (nyse: GME - news - people ). In fact, games are often cancelled as publishers change their minds about the marketability of the product and choose to cut off the funding. "Staff gets laid off," Della Rocca says. "You will jump around from studio to studio."
    Still interested? One of the most successful methods of landing a full-time gig in the industry is to seek out an internship. Dale Jackson works at Electronic Arts, where he serves as executive producer on the Madden NFL franchise. He says that his company invites students every year from colleges like Georgia Tech, University of Southern California and Carnegie Mellon to intern at his shop. More than 50% of those interns eventually become full-time employees.
    "Our interns come in, and they work on stuff that ships," Jackson says. "They do real work that contributes to the game."
    Unfortunately, most game studios don't have formal internship programs. So what's Plan B? Try working on a "mod"--a program that allows players to edit and modify certain parts of an existing game.
    Creating a mod proves to prospective employers that you're not just another starry-eyed fan. "If we see someone who makes games in their spare time for fun, then we know they will be dedicated employees," says Coray Seifert, an associate producer at New York City-based game studio Kaos.
    Still another avenue into the industry is to start at the bottom and work your way up. While many of those working in videogames come into the office boasting advanced degrees in computer science and fine art, a game tester can walk in with just a passion for playing games.
    The tester's job is to search for glitches and hiccups by repeatedly playing a game, or even just a single scene in a game. Dennis Allard Crow is an associate producer at Kaos, but he broke into the industry by working as a tester for Activision (nasdaq: ATVI - news - people ) in Santa Monica, Calif. The gig was tough. Crow says you should expect to work those sweaty controllers for up to nine hours a day. "It's hard on the fingers."
    But here's the upside: Working in the studio day in and day out gives you the chance to show your bosses how motivated you are. "Since everyone is working long hours, there is always something to do," Crow says. "Testers can pitch in, get noticed and move up."
    While finding a paying job in the industry can be tough, there are plenty of games out there. Indeed, many of the teams developing these products now resemble small villages of game-addicted worker bees. More than 70 people, including 20 programmers and 30 artists, worked on Madden NFL '07. Similarly, Maxime Beland, creative director at Ubisoft's Montreal studio, says that 150 people worked with him to create Rainbow Six Vegas. "There were some people on my team whose names I didn't even know," he says.
    So long as demand for games stays strong, companies will need eager young gamers who want to turn their late-night hobby into a full-time gig. "If you have passion and skills, then there will be opportunity," Della Rocca says.
  2. Captain Morgan hates YOU!

    Too bad no studio in the right mind would hire me. Or else, i'd try.There's nothing I could offer, that someone else couldn't do better. That's something we all need to realize actually. Don't even bother with crap like this, unless you think you have something special. Or else, you'll just be turned down for the next person who show's up who has a more impressive resume or whatever.
  3. Archangel Sabre Well-Known Member

    Video game designing isn't a very wise career choice, in general. They all work extremely long hours, get paid far less than someone with the same degree in a different career, it's difficult to keep a job, difficult to prove your worth, and generally just a stressful career choice in general. Seriously, if you're thinking about breaking into the mainstream development line, give it a second thought. It's far more difficult and far less rewarding than many people give it credit for.
  4. Zackapple Express khdahahfdiahkai fka've just destroyed some guy's dreams..
  5. Archangel Sabre Well-Known Member

    Nah, I'm just pushing him out of the way of a car that would've hit him otherwise.

    Seriously, paying tens of thousands of dollars for college on a career that isn't even that great is just stupidity.
  6. Captain Morgan hates YOU!

    Well, you could always start your own company...and hope somebody takes notice. Hell, a lot of the big players in the market started out that way.
  7. Zackapple Express khdahahfdiahkai fka

    What's the average pay for those kinds of jobs?
  8. Archangel Sabre Well-Known Member

    But a lot of those guys started out in the Atari-NES era. Even up until the SNES, video games were things that could easily be created by anyone with imagination and talent. Even in the Playstation era a little money could get you far. Now, however, your average PS2 title costs in upwards of $1 million to create, that just isn't money your average consumer can afford. And of the hundreds of thousands of ameteur video game developers out there, how many of them are really noticed by the mainstream gaming community?

    Not certain. I believe it's around $40,000 a year, but considering the work, hours, and college required, in addition to the high-risk involved, that doesn't amount to a whole lot.

    EDIT: And shouldn't this be in General Gaming? It isn't really off the topic of video games, not at all, actually.
  9. Captain Morgan hates YOU!

    Well, i'd just be happy making a game that some cult following on the internet would enjoy. And if a little money is made from it, hey!
  10. Crossover Unoriginal Gangsta

    Actually, ps2 games go upwards of 50 million, and even PSP games are running about 45 million. I read that in my Game Informer a few months ago.

    As for the salary, I heard a while back it was actually around 60,000 a year.

    Oh, and those were my dreams you heard viciously shattering.
    3 people like this.
  11. Nights Shadow Custom User Title

    I think at one point and time anyone who loves video games wants to design them. Then when about senior year of highschool comes around or after your basics in college, you tend to wise up to it. Like oh hey thats gonna be hard to start, i think ill be a something else.

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