Dream Big • Have a Plan • Work Hard • Make Friends

Realistic Expectations

We talked earlier about having a plan. Let's assume you have decided to pursue a career in Game Development. You have your degree, and you're ready to make games for a living.

Now what? What are your expectations?

There are a plethora of job opportunities listed daily on sites like Gamasutra, Creative Heads, and on LinkedIn. This is where most people usually start.

You (hopefully) read the job description, tell yourself this looks like something I could be good at, send in your application, then wait for the response. Usually the response comes back in the form of a generic form letter telling you "thanks but no thanks, we need someone with more experience." Then you move on to the next listing, apply, and wait again.

The results are usually the same. Many potential developers at this point become frustrated and angry. They know they can do this work and only need someone to give them a break.

The problem I see, more often than not, comes from unrealistic expectations. Most studios, especially AAA studios, can receive a hundreds of resumes per day, per listing. Why should they consider your application? What makes you stand above the rest of the applicants? A recruiter scanning a base of applicants is primarily looking for experience, and if you have none, your chances are slim.

So, what's the best way to get noticed? Make games, and make friends!

Showing off your technical skills in important, but making sure you promote them, even more so.

Here's a quick story that happened to a friend of mine at the start of his now ten-year career in gaming.

Being from the Orlando area, he was eager to get in front of hiring managers at EA Tiburon. He was a really solid programmer with a great reputation and a guy that everyone took seriously. He applied to Tiburon through their website, followed up with a few calls, but never got anywhere. A few weeks later, he went to dinner at his local watering hole. He approached his friend who worked at the bar who immediately told him about a group of Tiburon Developers that were hanging out at another table. He went over and introduced himself. They invited him to have dinner with them. They talked about games, movies, books, and life in Orlando. At the end of the meal one of the developers asked him if he ever considered working at Tiburon. Of course, he told them his story, was asked to send his resume directly to his new friend who in turn would walk it into the hiring manager. Guess what? He received a call the very next day to come in for a chat. Keep in mind that he sent the exact same resume the recruiter would not pay attention to when received online. This time, however, it had a referral attached to it.

It's amazing what a referral will do. The more people willing to sing your praise, the less people will look only on the content of your resume. Get involved, make games, make friends, stay positive.

When establishing your expectations it is also extremely important to set goals for yourself. If you want to work in AAA games, what are you willing to do to make that happen? Are you willing to go get the experience that makes you more marketable? You owe it to yourself to research all of the options that are available to you.

I work with hundreds of developers that are involved in Indie studios. Many start their careers in simulation, casino, or other areas of software development. The experience they gain, technically and professionally, is what makes them viable for the higher profile studios that only look at experience as the metric for consideration.

I challenge you to start thinking about your goals. Ask yourself REALISTICALLY what you want to accomplish. Where do you see yourself a year from now? Five years? Ten years? Goals are easier to accomplish when you break them up into bite sized pieces. Remember that 99 times out of 100 your first job will not be your dream job, but it should be the job that helps you land your dream job.

Enjoy the journey. This is what makes the difference between a job and a career.

I look forward to your thoughts. As always, find me here or @RobCoble on Twitter.