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Breaking Into the Game Industry: Advice for a Successful Career from Those Who Have Done It [Paperback]

Brenda Brathwaite , Ian Schreiber

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Book Description

June 16 2011
Aspiring and professional game developers have a lot of questions: What should be in their portfolios? How do they make contacts? How do they negotiate salaries? How much do game designers make? What should they wear to interviews? In this fast-paced and humorous guide, the authors answer these questions and many more, including the ones you didn’t know to ask. BREAKING INTO THE GAME INDUSTRY: ADVICE FOR A SUCCESSFUL CAREER FROM THOSE WHO HAVE DONE IT, provides aspiring game developers the know-how and confidence they need to make it in the industry. Written in a unique and engaging question and answer format, the book presents a clear, overall sense of what the game industry is and how the professionals operate in it, answering the key questions new developers should be asking as they begin their career. Providing invaluable advice and tips from experienced professionals, you’ll learn how to best present yourself and your skills, showcase your work and create a compelling portfolio, and much more, giving you a leg up as you try to break into the competitive and fast-paced game industry.

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1. Why are you doing this? 2. Who are you? 3. No, really, why are you doing this? 4. What percentage of my school work will help me get a job? 5. How do I make contacts? 6. It costs HOW much to go to GDC? How will I ever afford that? 7. Should I get my own business cards? 8. What should be on my business cards? 9. Who do I give my card to? 10. Speaking of networking, when does it start? 11. How do I get game developers' business cards? 12. When should I follow up after getting someone's card? 13. Is there anything you shouldn't do when following up? 14. What else shouldn't you do with developers? 15. Can we talk about portfolios? 16. What should the front page of your portfolio look like? 17. How about the images? What do I need to do there? 18. What do character artists need to show? 19. What do environmental artists need to show? 20. What about modelers? 21. And texture artists? 22. What about game designers? 23. What about game writers? 24. Wait, doesn't everyone say that it's impossible to get hired as a game designer or game writer straight out of college? 25. What is the one thing we ALL need to do for our portfolio? 26. How many images/games should I have in my portfolio? 27. When should I start working on my portfolio? 28. Have you seen any stupid portfolio tricks? 29. Do you have a pet peeve about portfolios? 30. What's an art/design test? 31. What happens at an interview? 32. Do people still expect me to follow up after an interview? 33. What about my resume? 34. How much money will I make working in the game industry? 35. What should I do before I accept a job offer? 36. How do I find a place to live if I'm hired in a new city? 37. Where should I look for jobs? 38. I talked to a woman and she was really excited because she heard I was a character artist! She totally wanted to talk with me and see my portfolio. That's great, right? 39. What about MFAs? Are they useful? 40. What's an MFA do? 41. I've heard people say that getting a degree (even an undergrad degree) was a waste of time. Is that true? 42. Anything else you'd like to add on the subject of game education? 43. How should I dress for an interview? 44. How do I need to handle the interview? 45. They want me to sign a non-compete. What's that? 46. What will I feel like my first day on the job? 47. Once I have a job, any key pointers? 48. If you could add something to a student with great vision, what would it be? 49. Any opinion on who was the greatest game designer ever? 50. What question number are we on? 51. Typically, what do entry-level employees do in their first few months? 52. What programming language is used the most? 53. How much experience should you have before you start looking for a job as a game designer? 54. If you enter in the middle of a project, what's the best way to get up to speed? 55. Is there another way to get up to speed on game development, other than making games? 56. Is it better to be a generalist or specialist, in the short term or long term? 57. How is performance measured for raises/bonuses? 58. Have you ever seen a game company promote independent projects outside of the core project among employees? 59. What's the worst thing you've seen in a game development meeting? 60. Is it important to play games? 61. Have you seen someone make it in the industry with a learning disability? 62. What's the best subject to make a game about? 63. What is the "game industry"? 64. Does the current state of the economy have an effect on game development or hiring? 65. Do small studios typically have health, dental, and savings plans? 66. What is the best approach toward getting an internship? 67. How much weight do studios put on GPAs? 68. How much weight do they put on the major or college attended? 69. How do you write a good cover letter, one that connects with HR and developers? 70. How do I get my stuff out there so someone can see it? 71. How do I get my games to be more fun and not just tasks? 72. Is there such a thing as taking a new job too early? 73. Is there a way to get a feel for the industry before even getting there? 74. How early should I show up for an interview? 75. Should I just show up unannounced at a game company? 76. In your opinion, what games stand out? 77. What do you look for in a game? 78. How much help will videogame literature be in obtaining a job in the game industry? 79. I have this amazing story... 80. I have this amazing idea for a game... 81. What does a game designer do? 82. What question are we on now? 83. Will you look at my game design idea? 84. I want to send in my idea to a game company. How do I do this? 85. Where do you get your ideas? 86. What was it like to work on a big licensed title? 87. What is the scariest thing about being a game designer? 88. What does the lead do? 89. Who is the most evil person on a game development team? 90. If I join a game company, will they make my game idea? 91. Do you really work 70 hours a week? 92. Is there such a thing as a stupid question? 93. Have you played Halo 4? 94. Have you played the game that I worked on? 95. Do interviewees ever say dumb things? 96. Do you know [insert famous game developer name]? 97. Can I come work for you? 98. Is the game industry a good place to meet someone to date? 99. What are you working on now? What's it about? 100. Are we done?

About the Author

Brenda Brathwaite is an award-winning game designer, artist, writer, and creative director with 30 years of experience in the industry. Before founding Loot Drop, Brenda worked for a variety of game companies including Atari, Electronic Arts, Sir-tech Software, and numerous companies in the social games space. She has worked on many Facebook games, including Cloudforest Expedition, Ravenwood Fair, Critter Island, SuperPoke Pets!, SPP Ranch, Garden Life, Rock Riot, and Top Fish. Brenda served on the board of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and presently chairs the IGDA's Women in Games Special Interest group. Brenda was named Woman of the Year by Charisma+2 Magazine in 2010 and also was a nominee in Microsoft's 2010 Women in Games game design awards. In 2009, her game Train won the coveted Vanguard Award at IndieCade. She was named one of the top 20 most influential women in the game industry by Gamasutra.com in 2008 and one of the 100 most influential women in the game industry by Next Generation magazine in 2007. Nerve magazine also called her one of the 50 artists, actors, authors, activists, and icons who are making the world a more stimulating place.

Ian Schreiber has been in the industry for eight years, first as a programmer and then as a game designer. He has worked on five published game titles, including Playboy: the Mansion and the Nintendo DS version of Marvel Trading Card Game. He has also developed training/simulation games for two Fortune 500 companies. Ian has taught game design and development courses at Ohio University, Columbus State Community College, and Savannah College of Art and Design, and has mentored college students at those and several other universities. Ian is co-author of "Challenges for Game Designers."

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting Read and Potentially Quite Useful Aug. 12 2011
By ONENEO - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Many years ago, I spent my after school hours in the role of the brightly clad plumber, stomping evil mushrooms on route to rescuing a captive princess. Were you to ask me of future job ambitions, I would not have hesitated to answer, "computer programmer." So strong was this desire, that 7th grade me taught himself a pretty rudimentary understanding of BASIC language with which to create custom video games. Now granted, by video games I do mean text-based, decision making numbers and action games in which the letter A could be controlled with the keyboard while being chased around the screen by the letter Z. Suffice to say Nintendo and Sega didn't come calling.

As grade school turned into high school, BASIC went extinct, C++ became the programming language of choice, I discovered cars and girls, and somehow my aspirations of video game designing were dropkicked by the allure of a college major in Business Administration. Those early days spent writing code were as close as I would ever get but the charm of video gaming never wore off. In fact, even now, while immersed in some epic quest on the Playstation 3, I find myself wondering about the industry as a whole and what it takes to become a part of it. Enter Breaking Into the Game Industry by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber; for me satiation to long-standing curiosity, for someone serious about being employed in the video game industry, a lifesaver.

The book is of the Course Technology series part of something called the CENGAGE Learning System. Not to worry if that means nothing to you, as I understand it, such classification puts it in the Professional, Technical & Reference category. Indeed, a perfect-bound softcover, it appears as if it would belong on the same shelf as say, "Welcome to the Exciting World of C++" and "Computer Programming for Dummies".

Coming in at close to 300 pages, the initial reaction could be one of overwhelmed until scanning even the introductory pages. The authors of the book take a very conversational approach to the material, written almost as if it were an email to a friend. Better still once the actual book begins, each and every bit of advice provided come in the form of easily digestible question & answer format.

Spanning the 291 pages are 100 questions; identified by the author as the most commonly asked of she and her colleagues and they cover some points I suspect would be incredibly useful for a student of video game design looking to get out and find employment in the field. Among these are what your business card should say, how your portfolio should look, dos and don'ts when talking to established game designers, writing cover letters, even proper attire when showing up to an interview!

Additionally interesting is that the book addresses the reality that while going to a college, university or specialized school to acquire degrees/ certifications is one route to breaking in, it is not the only one. It does frequently offer advice and tips to those individuals gifted with artistic ability, naturally bilingual (where the second happens to be assembly language) and those oddities who always wondered what it takes to break into the video game industry.

Another point worth mentioning is that while she does not elaborate on it, the author (Brenda Brathwaite) claims to have gotten her start in the industry at merely 15-years-old so clearly PhDs are not a requisite. The subtitle of this book is "Advice for a Successful Career from Those Who Have Done It" and while I figured we would have to take the authors' word for that, the fact is Brenda herself comes packing a resume that had me wanting to offer her a job- and I don't even work in the game industry! Her credits include working for Atari and Electronics Arts and having played a hand in the development of countless popular social-networking classics like Garden Life, Ravenwood Fair, Critter Island, and SuperPoke Pets!

Her coauthor Ian Schreiber has a history of teaching game design, has worked on many projects (including developing software used for corporate training) and is known for having co-founded Global Game Jam (GGJ); the world's largest game creation event.

As highly decorated as this pair come, surprisingly they serve mainly as the structure and research behind the book; chiming in with their own answers periodically, though a majority of the questions are fielded by their colleagues in the industry. This technique goes a long way in diversifying the information presented and prevents the authors from coming off as know-it-allish.

In all, I have to say that reading through the book was quite an interesting experience. I won't try to pretend that all of the information here was pertinent to someone in my position (just mild curiosity as to how it all works), it will likely prove quite beneficial to those individuals seriously putting together a plan of attack for getting involved. I did come away with some newfound tidbits such as what separates a Triple-A game (nothing to do with roadside assistance as you may have suspected) from a Casual Game from a Serious Game for example. I can also state with certainty that the word BASIC is never once mentioned throughout- go figure.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tremendously approachable and informative. Fantastic for all levels of experience Aug. 9 2011
By Bryan Cash - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a rare treat. The authors did a great job of condensing and including a wealth of information in an incredibly readable format. It's very easy to find a relevant section and the language of the text is conversational and approachable. The game industry can be a confusing and intimidating space, and the book neither pulls its punches nor trys to present itself as the "One True Way." The authors make very clear that the answers provided are the opinions and perspectives of actual game developers, ensuring teh book is filled with heart-felt, honest, and (above all) practical advice.

The book's basic format is 100 sections, each being devoted to a commonly asked question about the game industry. These questions span a tremendous period of experience, with answers being provided by the two authors and other individuals in the game industry.

In just a brief scan of the book:
For those about to apply to undergrad: how to pick a school, what majors to pick, how important is a GPA.
For those starting to test the waters: business card and networking etiquette, Facebook and twitter, and the importance of portfolios.
For people actively seeking: internships, interviews, and resumes.
For people who've just been hired: salary negotiations, entering in the middle of a project timeline, AAA studios, small studios, crunch time, disagreements in teams.
Not only that, but the book spends an admirable amount of time covering the different disciplines (tech, art, design, audio, etc) and different people (minorities, disabled, women, lgbt, etc)

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you're thinking about, working towards, or actively trying to get into the game industry, this book is an incredible asset.

And if you're already in the industry and are used to fielding these questions regularly, it's a great resource to add to your bookshelf.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Informative & A Fun Read Aug. 24 2011
By Theseus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Just how does one move from being a gamer to someone who works in the gaming industry? This book is loaded with important information, presented in a readable (but not an insultingly elementary way.)

Here's the thing -- if you ask a hundred people how they managed to get excellent jobs in the industry, you aren't going to hear one story, or even twelve stories, you're going to hear something like 50 to 60 different stories. And that's one of the things this book does well -- it doesn't break things down into a simplified step-by-step, it affords you the opportunity to learn from a multiplicity of experiences.

I like books that are structured in a Q and A fashion because I can get through the information more quickly with the Q and A structure. So this was a good match for me.

And there's about $100,000 of practical information to be found in this book. Things like...
- how do I negotiate an actual job offer?
- how do I put together a portfolio?
- how much might I make?
- is it true that all game designers wear filthy ironic t-shirts with stains on them?
- what sort of school should I attend?
- does it help if I am a geek when it comes to the history of games?
- am I the sort of personality that will fit into the professional gaming world?
- should I focus on audio or on art or on design? do I have to specialize now?
- what sort of things happen when you're on a team with a big deadline and people aren't getting along?
- what should my business card look like?
- I've had this semi-crazy idea for a game that I've been fiddling around with for two years, what do I do with it?
- how can I use Twitter and Facebook to promote my career?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great and Helpful Guide! Aug. 18 2011
By Maura Ann Rubies - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product

My son has for some time been looking to get into the gaming industry, and has already been taking the steps to do so. This book answers all the questions he had, even some he hadn't thought of!

One of the biggest things he was worried about was what to show up to the interview wearing. It answers that question, along with many others such as: What do I put on my resume, what do I put on my business card, how to go to GDC and why, the list goes on and on.

In total, 100 questions are answered, each in a conversational tone and easy to read Q&A format. Most of the questions also have the opinions of videogame legends such as John Romero included.


It didn't talk about the videogame journalism side of the business, which is what he was most interested in.

In conclusion, Breaking Into the Game Industry is one of the most helpful gaming books out there!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Is Amazing Aug. 18 2011
By M. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
My son really wants to get into the game industry and I think it's a great idea. I read the book prior to giving it to him to read so we could easily discuss it. I think this book offers great information, broken down in a way that is easily understood by both the novice and the gamin expert. If you are someone or know someone who is interested in getting into the gaming industry this is the book you need.

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