How I Got Into The Video Game Industry
THE BEFORE TIME aka THE LONG, LONG AGO
Before joining Agora Games in May of 2008, I worked for a small company called General Electric for nearly 11 years in their Research and Development and Healthcare organizations. During that time, my interest in video games was re-kindled. I can remember the holiday shopping season when the slim PS2 was made available and OMFG I HAD TO HAVE ONE TO PLAY KATAMARI DAMACY! Thankfully I snagged one on Amazon.com and it was all downhill from there I guess. I got heavily into some now classics like God of War, God of War 2, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Okami and others. And then out of nowhere, I stumbled upon Dead Rising and OMFG I HAD TO BUY AN XBOX 360 TO KILL THE ZOMBIES. As it turns out, you could only reasonably play Dead Rising on an HDTV, so I attached that game onto a rocket ship and sent it flying into the sun (I still own Dead Rising, but have never completed it due to other issues that I will save for another blog post). I started playing the other XBOX 360 games that were all the rage at that time like the Halo series, Guitar Hero 2 and Guitar Hero 3, and others. However, I never really thought about joining the game industry even though there were 3 well-established video game companies here in upstate NY, Vicarious Visions, 1st Playable, and Agora Games (even though I hadn't known of Agora Games ... yet).
CRAIGSLIST: GOOD FOR FINDING JOBS (winking smiley face)
See what I did there? Get your mind out of the gutter! Anyhoo ...
On the last project I was on at General Electric, I was working many long hours, many days of the week. A lot more than I ever wanted to. It wasn't fun. At all. Life is too short to not do what you love. So, I started searching locally for a new job. I happened upon a job posting on Craigslist for a Software Engineer at Agora Games. I had no experience in the tools and frameworks outlined in the job posting, but I had been working in software professionally for nearly 15 years ... and I loved video games ... so that counts for something right? As it turns out, it does.
I submitted my resume on a Tuesday. I submitted a solution to a Pokemen traveling salesman problem (COLLECT THEM ALL) the following day. My first interview was the following Monday. Aside: In case you don't know about Agora Games, one of the franchises we work with is Guitar Hero developing certain online and community functionality. So, here I am going into the interview thinking that not only am I going to be grilled technically, but I'll probably have to demonstrate my skills playing "Through The Fire and Flames" on Expert. My first interview went well. I didn't have to demonstrate my Guitar Hero prowess, but I did have to explain how I would implement leaderboards to my now colleague, Ola Mork (who's laughing now Ola - see my other post on Leaderboards: A How-To Guide). I had a second lunch interview the following Monday with our CEO again and our new CTO. After lunch we went back to the studio, I had an offer, and I drove home and gave my 2 weeks notice to General Electric.
GO OUT WITH A LITTLE PIZAZZ
So, General Electric's e-mail system has a Global Address List (GAL). At the time, General Electric owned NBC. I think they still have some stake in NBC, but whatever, not the point. The point is that almost all of NBC's personalities like the entire cast of Saturday Night Live, the NBC Nightly News folks, Conan O' Brien (at the time still with NBC), Jay Leno, and more, all had e-mail addresses in the GAL. So, in my parting e-mail to all my colleagues at GE, I added every single celebrity I could think of. What did I care? I was leaving the company. At worst, they never read that e-mail. At best, I get a "Congratulations!" reply. As a fan of South Park, I ended my e-mail with the following:
I will have to defer any “words of wisdom” to those of one Eric Cartman (yes ... of South Park):
“Follow your dreams. You can reach your goals. I'm living proof. Beefcake. BEEFCAKE!”
If you can, line up your start date at your new company with an awesome "holiday". I started at Agora Games on May 5th, 2008 aka Cinco de Mayo. I was joining the Guitar Hero team and we were working feverishly on updates for Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. On my first day I got to play Guitar Hero: World Tour (possibly unannounced at the time). Think hard about how you spent your first afternoon at your new job?
Joining the video game industry was and continues to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Ever.
I realize the long and short of this blog post is that I got into the video game industry by applying for a job in the video game industry on Craigslist, but maybe that's the point? If you want a job in the video game industry, apply for a job in the video game industry. Whether you're a programmer or an artist or a musician or a writer or a player, there are jobs for any discipline.