Welcome to Question Block, a new (and hopefully regular) column where you get to choose the topic!
Submit your questions in the comments section below the latest post, or by sending them to rdonaldson[at]vfs.com —Each week, we will choose a few questions to tackle.
Anything and everything industry-related is fair game, whether you want to know why Nintendo isn’t attending E3, what to expect as you enter the interview process after graduating, or why you need to learn about QA when all you want to do is design.
Keep in mind that the responses here are opinions, and in some cases, they may not be shared by the VFS Game Design department. You are welcome to agree, disagree, laugh, or cry as you see fit. The goal here is to get all of us thinking about and discussing the many interesting facets of our industry.
Let’s get started!
How can we discover which game studios exist out there?
Historically, there weren’t very many game industry hubs around the world, with only a few in North America. Thanks to the growth of our industry and some of the new markets that have emerged, like social and mobile, we’re seeing a much broader distribution of game devs across the globe.
If you already live in a major center or are willing to relocate, a great place to start might be to simply look up the developers and publishers of your favorite games. After all, wouldn’t it be great to work with people whose products you admire? If you’re the right candidate, they should handle any travel expenses during the interview process, and might even be able to help with relocation.
No matter where you live, there a few websites that can be useful in locating game companies:
GameDevMap (www.gamedevmap.com) displays a world map dotted with active development cities. Simply click on a particular city and you’ll get a list of the game companies operating there. A word of warning that the site is largely self-populated, so the info can be a little stale, but it provides a great place to start.
VFS Game Company Listings (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/) updated and created by VFS students.
Aside from websites, the best way to learn about studios is to talk to people in the industry. This will naturally be easier once you’ve graduated, but do what you can before then: attend mixers around the city, be sure to attend any industry nights you can, ask your instructors for tips, participate in online forums, etc. The sooner you start making connections with others in the industry, the better.
So check out these websites, look up your favorite developers, and get out there and meet new people!
As new graduates, do we have a better chance of being hired by a big studio or a startup?
The short answer is that more new grads seem to be ending up at newer/smaller studios, but the good news is that you have a great chance to be hired by either!
The trend recently seems to be that new grads tend to land at companies that have adopted newer business models or platforms. A mobile-focused studio making free-to-play games would fall into this category, or a group making social online games. Many of these are newer companies, but some are pretty big and growing quickly.
Keep in mind that as new grads, you may have advantages over experienced industry vets when it comes to new business models, technology, platforms, and play styles — after all, you grew up playing games in these ways. It’s in your DNA. Smaller companies look for technical skills, but they also put a lot of importance on cultural fit, since you’ll need to work closely with almost everyone in the studio. They also really look for people who are autonomous and self-directed — you will need to really take charge and own your part of the project, and make sure it gets done properly.
That being said, big studios hire new grads all the time, so don’t be afraid to apply. Cultural fit is still important at the bigger houses, but because they tend to get more applicants, you will want to make sure your resume is as solid as possible. Be sure to call attention to your technical skills and experience (don’t be modest, but be honest). And when writing your cover letter, clearly (and hopefully convincingly) explain why you want to work there. Show your passion!
One thing to keep in mind, although it’s beyond the scope of this post, is that it may take longer for a bigger studio to reply to an application or email. Try not to take it personally, as it’s generally just by virtue of dealing with a larger volume of applicants than smaller studios.
Ryan Donaldson teaches the Business of Games course at VFS