Getting a Job in Games
Any advice on interviews?
I was involved in interviewing some candidates when working in games and since then have helped a lot of students get through interviews so I have picked up a fair bit of knowledge about what is being looked for. Generally an enthusiasm for games and a good knowledge of the issues involved in developing for the different platforms. For example when interviewing a candidate for a Playstation programming position I asked the candidate about the issues they would expect to face hoping they would talk about the limited memory, graphics capabilities etc. For a programming position you will often be expected to sit a fairly simple C or C++ test (or sometimes a face to face questioning), this is just used to filter out those who can't program at all. A demo is always good to have, but most important is your ability to talk about something you have written. If you don't have a demo with you, you may be asked to talk about a university project. The interviewer is looking to see how well you managed designing and implementing your own code and how well you can talk about the issues you faced. Finally they are looking to see how well you will work in a team and could fit into their company. Other brief things:
- Get advice on writing your CV (and read the notes below).
- Do some research on the company in advance, if necessary buy some of their games and play them before the interview. They will quite likely ask you what you know of their company in the interview and why you want to work for them. The worst thing you can say is you just want any job in games, they need to feel you really want to work for them.
- Let them know about any structured design knowledge like UML you have, this always goes down well.
- Prepare some questions in advance that you would like to ask at the end. You are always asked 'Have you any questions?' at the end of the interview and this is your chance both to find out information and to further promote yourself. Ask them about the future plans of the company for example.
- Don't be too desperate, I interviewed one candidate who kept saying things like 'Just give me a job' and 'Please let me work here' and it did not go down well at all. The interviewer wants to think the candidate is keen to work at their company and not just desperate for any old job :)
A good place for help on getting a career in games is the Blitz games web site: www.blitzgames.com/gameon/
While visiting a games company recently I quizzed them about what they are looking for in new games programmers. Some of their responses are shown below:
- Never begin your CV with ' I have been interested in games since the age of ...'. One guy said he would scream next time he saw this phrase.
- Never exceed 2.5 pages. 2 pages is preferable. He sometimes gets CV's of 9 pages and those go straight in the bin. These people get a lot of CV's every week and have not the time to look through 9 pages.
- Do not say you have C/C++ skills if you do not have C++ skills. This particular company only wanted C++ skills and found some candidates claiming both were really C programmers with a bit of C++ theory.
- Don't describe all the irrelevant things you have done in the past e.g. 'I was captain of the tiddlywinks team at school'. Stick to the last few years (apart from qualifications of course).
- A simple but effective demo is really useful. They are not looking for huge games but just simple examples of good work. They also like to see you have covered a few game areas and not concentrating solely on graphics.
- No more renderers! They have been sent so many renderers and they do not find them useful. Most jobs as a games programmer do not involve graphics.
- No more tigers! The DirectX SDK comes with some .x files like the tiger and many beginners seem to use them in their demo code. It is very easy to get hold of other models from the Internet to use in your demo (see Resources)
- A web site is a good idea. They like to be able to visit an applicants web site and browse demo's and examples of work etc.
- Include a simple 1 or 2 page design. So for example you might want to add a few UML class diagrams to describe your demo.
- For them DirectX is useful to know but not OpenGL
- Analysis & Design skills are very well sought after
- Being able to work in a team is essential and ideally they would like to see examples of team projects you have worked on
- The new .net is now the standard development environment (but not managed)