I Wanna be a Game Designer [part 4]

Finding a Job

So, let’s say you’ve done everything. You have studied a lot, you have even made two or three small games, you have several working prototypes, a good website and stuff. Now you want to get a job in game development. Maybe you’re looking at the super shiny big industry. How can you get a job there?

Well, let’s start by saying that, right now, staying in Italy won't get you into the big industry. All the most important companies are located abroad (currently Canada, USA, UK and Japan are leading the way, but northern Europe is catching up), so you must be ready to move. If you are, before you can even think about getting started and sending out job applications and CVs, there are some things you should know.

First of all, getting a job as a game designer is extremely hard. Traditionally game designers are former testers, programmers or artists that change their job profile while working in the industry. Even with a good portfolio it’s still quite difficult to land a first job directly as a game designer. If you look at the listings for game design positions, you’ll often notice how a several years experience plus a certain number of delivered titles in the industry are required. Why is it so? Because the game designer must demonstrate to be able to effectively complete a game. A good game.

So, what to do? Well, if you really want a job in the big industry, there’s no harm in trying to show your prototypes and your small games. Although difficult, landing a junior position is possible if you can show people that you know how to work. Plus, in social and casual game companies being selected could be a little easier. Or, you can look out for testers positions.

Being a tester is often the first step for a designer. By testing games you could see how the company works and learn some useful stuff. Unfortunately testing could be a tedious and very consuming activity (but game design is not less consuming, to tell the truth). And you shouldn’t stop making games in your free time.

What If I Cannot Find a Job?

Well, that’s tough. Sometimes you just won’t be able to do it. Finding a job in game design is often very very hard. Fortunately, if you have worked well, there are a lot of jobs you can still do. For example:

UX Designer/Interaction designer: a game designer is a very specialised interaction designer. And if you have made some games, you should have gathered a good experience in User Interface design. With a good portfolio, it shouldn’t be that hard to find a job in these areas.
Flash Developer: it’s possible that in your prototyping sessions you have used Flash more than a time. Probably some of your games are flash-based, so, why not trying to use this experience to your advantage?
Still a game designer: well, yeah. Sometimes for people being a game designer means being a video game designer. But the world of games is bigger and more various than you can imagine. If being a board game designer could be as difficult as making video games, you can try exploring playful installations, urban games and interactive narratives. These are all crossmedia forms of games fascinating to explore. For a first glance, check out the works of Hubbub, Monobanda and Six to Start.

Going Indie

You can also choose to avoid looking for a job both in the traditional industry and in another company: you can try to be independent. This could be really difficult and you are probably going to have a hard time earning enough money until you can make a successful product. But more and more people are trying this path, and the chances to make it alone (or, better, with a small team) are higher than just five years ago.

Going indie, on the other hand, means that you’ll often have to wear several hats to get things done. You probably will have to code something, to do some basic art, and so on. Please, don’t think you can go in forums and communities asking for help based on the fact that you have a great idea. As said, ideas are a dozen a dime. And all the people hanging out in indie communities are probably still involved with their great project. So, there’s just one thing you can do: start doing your own game with what you have and show it to other peers: they will get a better chance to evaluate and it will be more likely to get someone involved.

When your game is at an alpha state, you can start thinking about signing it for some indie competitions such as Independent Games Festival which is held inside the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, IndieCade which is one of the most important showcases of experimental and innovative games and Fantastic Arcade. This competition are all located in the United States; in Europe you can check out A MAZE, which is held in Berlin.

Whether or not your game is selected for one of these events, you’ll still need to effectively sell your game. To do so, you should keep in mind that being an indie means that all the work to market the game will be your responsibility. Being in the loop and getting known is obviously the first step to market your game, but it’s just the start. You should keep contacts with journalists in order to have them speak about the game. You’ll have to be creative and find ways to make people speak about it. And you should start pretty soon: having people follow the development of the game since the early stages (not too early: be sure to have something good to show!) can make them more involved and greatly enhance the buzz around it.

Then, you have to choose the right marketplace. If you are making a mobile game, there’s not a lot to do. Just publish the game in the relative app store and start fighting your battle to be noticed. But if the title is multiplatform, you should choose where to publish it. Obviously, you can try to sell the game directly, maybe using PayPal, or you can upload it on a free marketplace like Indievania. Other marketplaces like Steam for PC and Mac or Xbox Live Arcade for Xbox have to select your game before offering you a contract to sell it on their spaces. The same goes for interesting new models like the Humble Indie Bundle which periodically offer a batch of selected games in a pay what you want fashion.

Quite recently Steam opened to the public Greenlight, a platform where you can show your game to the community and, if it gets enough positive votes, it can be chosen to be included in Steam.

Remember, being indie could be difficult, but you will be free to experiment and try more original stuff. That’s why a lot of developer choose the indie way. If you want to, do yourself a favor and watch Indie Game: The Movie; it shows quite well what the life of an indie game developer can be.

CREDIT : http://wannabe.urustar.net/

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