Résumé tips.


There are good ways to go about getting a job and then.....

Breaking in to the games industry can be really tough. Just like other creative industries, such as movies and TV, there is a lot of competition for relatively few entry level positions. No surprise then that one of the common requests on the IGDA’s Breaking In Forum is for a review/help with a résumé. While helping with these requests I have noticed that there are three common mistakes that crop up again and again. The first is failing to give useful/specific information, the second is padding and the third is waffling. In order to produce a great résumé you need to ensure you avoid these simple mistakes.

1. Failing to  give useful/specific information.

Applicants often mention that they were responsible for XYZ on a previous project or are experienced at programming in C++ but how does the person reading your résumé knows what you mean when you say “responsible for”? You need to clearly but briefly explain what exactly you did – give numbers, time-frames etc so that readers can understand the value of what you did.

Saying “Eperienced in C++” is meaningless without detail so give an example such as “Developed a rigid body physics engine in C++ in X time for Y project”. Don’t write an essay about the features of your physics engine, leave it to the interviewer to pick up on that if it is something that interests them.

Note: You should also plan for any interview by giving some thought to what challenges you faced while developing your system and how you overcame them.

2. Padding

While the problem above was one of omission, padding is a problem of inclusion. It is most often seen in the résumés of  entry level applicants who apply for jobs which require “3 years industry experience” (Note: It is important to understand the difference between Work Experience and  Industry Experience). Entry level applicants who don’t understand the difference, or just want to try anyway, often pad their résumé with information which isn’t applicable. Examples of things that aren’t relevant experience for a games programmer would include…

A weekend job at CompUSA
Skilled in the use of Microsoft Word
Guild Master in WOW

CompUSA – When listing work experience it should be applicable work experience doing game development. Working retail, even at a computer or game store isn’t applicable work experience for a game developer. You could mention a university placement at a games company or at a company where you were actually doing some form of actual development (no, IT support wouldn’t count). You could also mention a completed game you made in your spare time or a mod project as these are game development, but don’t list them under work/industry experience. Put them under “other experience” rather than work/industry experience because there is a considerable difference between doing something in your spare time and working in a commercial environment under the sort of restrictions/deadlines that companies face.

Microsoft Word – Likewise don’t list basic skills such as word processing when applying for a technical position. It is assumed that a programmer will have adequate keyboard skills so it isn’t worth listing. Worse still it clearly indicates to someone reading your résumé that you either don’t understand what is important for the position in question or that you are desperate to pad your résumé so that it seems more impressive.
Note: Unless you send a hand written cover letter and résumé your keyboard skills are going to be pretty self evident.

Guild Master – This may come as a surprise to a lot of people but being addicted to playing games isn’t actually a qualification for a game development job. I have worked with some really great programmers and artists/animators who never played games. Their passion was programming/art – making games and not playing games. If you want to list gaming as one of your interests that is fine but it isn’t a a qualification for a development position and you shouldn’t treat it as such.

3. Waffling

Otherwise known as the age old art of managing to use twenty two words where five would have been more than sufficient. [see what I did there?] Again this often occurs when people are worried that their résumé isn’t strong enough. They try to make up for weaknesses by going to excessive lengths to explain about various elements in their résumé. The problem with waffling is that, rather than making things clearer, it usually makes a résumé less readable and thus hides what positive attributes you do have.

“I decided that a good quality game needed [system X] and so I spent my spare time designing it, then convinced my boss that it would be useful to the project. I then wrote and tested it myself in C++”

Not only is the above sentence overly wordy but the applicant was so busy trying to explain how good they are that they failed to provide the really significant details making them guilty of mistake number one above. You should clearly and briefly explain what you did, how long it took and what the benefits were. “I spent X months developed a level editing tool that allowed designers to assemble and test game levels 15% faster than the previous tool-set.”  – You obviously need to be prepared to have an interviewer quiz you on the claims made.


If the above problems occur in your résumé it is a clear indication that you have trouble communicating or that you are desperate for a job or lack confidence in your abilities. Interviewers and HR staff will spot these mistakes immediately and mark you down accordingly. If an employer advertises a position requiring three years of industry experience they won’t be fooled by someone including their two years of part-time work at McDonalds and a year at CompUSA. Employers do hire entry level staff and it is understood that these individuals won’t have industry experience. If you fit into that category then providing an honest (and short) résumé will be more likely to get you a job than attempting to mislead an interviewer.

Update: I came across a post that links to another useful résumé related article at Darius Kazemi’s blog http://tinysubversions.blogspot.com/2009/04/writing-resume-for-game-company.html

Related articles/posts: Industry Experience (and where to get some)

Image used in this post http://www.flickr.com/photos/azrainman/1004637172/ used under the Creative Commons license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

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No port in a (financial) storm

thq_logoIt used to be the case that selling your studio to a multi-national publisher was a great way to secure the future of your company. Massive financial resources would be available to a develop to create those great games you had always wanted to make, which would in-turn get major marketing support as the publisher owned the studio and the brand and thus stood to benefit fully from its success.

Unfortunately it seems that publishers are no longer a safe harbour due to the economic tornado that is sweeping the world. Gone are the days when a cash strapped publisher would cancel a few 3rd party games to reduce outgoings and shore up their cash-flow. Today’s multi-national publishers are listed companies with major shareholders to keep sweet and the only way to do that is via sweeping cost reductions. A few project cancellations are no longer enough – now they are required to shed staff in their thousands and close/sell off their own studios in order to reassure their shareholders that strong action is being take to cut costs. THQ have just announced that several studios will be offloaded.

Quote from Develop online article Another studio shake-down at THQ.

“Big Huge Games is the studio that might potentially get the chop, unless a buyer is found, while Heavy Iron and Incinerator are to be turned into independents.”

At least the studios in question haven’t been locked and the staff given their marching orders. But it does take serious planning, considerable finance and a hat full of luck to succeed when an entire studio finds themselves suddenly independent.

Other recent example include Microsoft’s closure of Ensemble Studios (Gamasutra: – Ensemble Studios To Close) and Aces Game Studio (GI.biz: – Microsoft closes Aces Game Studio). However, despite the difficulties caused to staff by sudden redundancies there is a small hint of a silver lining that goes along with the storm, which is the birth of new studios springing up after the storm has passed. Three new studios have been born from the remnants of Ensemble Studios – Robot Entertainment, Windstorm Studios and Bonfire Studios. Hopefully they will all be successful enough to grow and flourish until they become a suitable acquisitions target for a big publisher.

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Steve “Snowy” White and the Seven Directors

Deep in the Enchanted Forest stands a lovely little cottage; home to Steve White and the Seven Directors. Steve, known as “Snowy” to his pals, is the sole employee of a game development company Enchantia Software. He’s the sole employee because all seven of the other people working there are Company Directors.

The Seven Directors previously worked for the evil Baron of Manchester but two years ago they ran off into the Enchanted Forest and set up their own game development studio, Enchantia Software, where they could make games without being told what to do by the big boss. Steve is pals with one of the Directors and recently joined the company as a game tester. Unfortunately he isn’t getting to do much testing as the game seems to be spending rather a long time in development (far longer than their Publisher was led to believe) and hasn’t even reached Alpha test yet.

Obviously Steve is only a tester so he is not really qualified to judge but it seems that the Directors spend an endless amount of time arguing over various game features and seldom actually come to a decision. Currently the management team is made up of three programmers who are Joint Technical Directors and four artists – one Art Director, one Animation Director, one Creative Director and a Modelling Director. Unfortunately the one Director they don’t seem to have is a Managing Director (because they are all equal and couldn’t actually agree on who should be the MD – or if they even needed one). In addition they don’t have a properly defined decision pipeline – a process to ensure that decisions actually get made in a reasonable time frame. This is because they all want to be able to make decisions, but none of them want anyone else to be able to make a decision they don’t agree with. As a result all the Directors need to be involved in every decision, even if it doesn’t relate to their job. So, even when a decision does get made, it takes many more person hours than it should and stops people from doing their actual jobs.

Poor management structure means slow or non-existent decision making which will damage your company and your game. There are several possible causes:

1. Trust – put simply partners don’t trust each other enough to let someone (other than themselves) be “in charge”. Instead of focusing on the importance of making decisions they focus on keeping control. You don’t get the best out of an artist or programmer by standing over them and telling them how you would do their job. The same applies to management. You need to let someone do their job, trust them that they will make the best decision they can then have regular but focused meetings to update each other on status and, if necessary, discuss how and why a decision was made.

2. Your management team is missing the necessary skills – there is no one with an obvious management ability and the whole management team know this. In a case like this it is perfectly acceptable to hire someone to be a manager so that everyone else can focus on what they are good at.

3. The founders don’t understand the difference between management and ownership. Management is a job just like artist or programmer. A good manager’s job is to enable the team to get their work done – to decide what is really needed to achieve the companies aims and what they can do without. Ownership is just that. You own a share of the company in return for the investment you put in, when the company started, and the risk you took. For that you (hopefully) get a financial reward in the future if the company is successful and is sold to a publisher. Just because you own the company that doesn’t mean you need to be a Manager/Director. In fact your shares may be worth a lot more in the future if you let someone else do the managing while you get on with what you are good at/enjoy.

Image used in this post courtesy of Kelly Hamilton at junglestudio.com

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Strawdog Studios » Turbo Duck

img_0002Strawdog Studios have just announced their first iPhone /iPod Touch title “Turbo Duck” Strawdog Studios » Turbo Duck. The game is a fun arcade game in which you must guide a rubber duck around a pool to collect floating flags, while avoiding the obstacle’s which fill the pool over time. Hazards include toy boats, submarines, mines etc.

The game has twenty levels and will be availble by the end of March. Price details and more screenshots over at the Strawdog Studios site (http://www.strawdogstudios.com/games/turboduck).

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Sixth Sense – tech 4 life

This video from Ted.com is a very interesting presentation given by Pattie Maes from MIT about a project being spearheaded by one of her students Pranav Mistry. The system is a wearable device that recognises what is in front of you (a person, a product, a newspaper) and can project meta data related to that person/item onto any nearby surface (including your hand). The downside with the current WIP technology is that everyone else around you needs to wear a plain white T-Shirt and everything needs a blank white space on it to project onto. Joking aside though there are some really cool applications shown in the video including the simple wrist watch projection and the photography/image sorting.

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Playstation PSP : Fake boards

I just came across this piece (Playstation PSP : Fake boards) about a set of mock-up/fake billboard adverts for the Sony PSP. It’s good to see marketers putting some effort into creative advertising which actually relates to the product. In this case the billboard puts game characters into the real world by using the billboard/PSP screen as a see-through window onto the real world thus highlighting the PSP’s portability which allows gamers to play wherever they may be.

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More useless information on Digital Downloads

PSN LogoIn a recent piece on Gamesindustry.biz (Sony claims 14 million active PSN accounts // News) Sony announced that there are now 14 million active PSN accounts and that between them they have downloaded over 273 million pieces of content.

“pieces of content” could of course refer to paid for content such as games, themes etc or free content such as demos or videos or any other give-aways. Much like the press releases from Microsoft which talk about the “average number of game downloads” – but don’t tell you how many of those downloads were converted into sales – this latest piece of information can be filed under U.

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“Geon” launches on PSN (US)

Geon PSN Banner

The PSN version of Strawdog Studios’ game “Geon” just launched on the US PSN network and is coming to PAL territories on 2nd October.

The team have spent several months reworking/enhancing the game as a result of feedback on the original XBLA version. The new features in the PSN version include:

  • New goal scoring system which encourages player interaction (its essential to stop your opponent scoring),
  • Redesigned single player maps,
  • Introduction of a new League mode,
  • Players have attack and shield as standard (instead of only via a power-up) allowing for greater interaction with (thumping the hell out of) your opponent,
  • Redesigned Power-ups with the introduction of new ones such as Bliss’ ghost cubes (which collect pellets for you) and Rage’s extra attack – it’s one angry cube,
  • Dramatically improved AI to handle the new game-play,
  • 1080p High Definition visuals,

Oh yea, and I think it features PSN trophies too.

A tutorial video is up at http://www.strawdogstudios.com/geon/ and more should follow in the coming days.

Well done to the team who can now relax for ten minutes. Then it is back to work on the Wii version.

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Moral rights, porn star Tera Patrick and Saint’s Row 2

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) aren’t something most people think about in relation to porn. However that is exactly what I thought about when I read this article, published by Kotaku  (Saint’s Row 2: Porn Starlet Tera Patrick Joins Saint’s Row 2). The porn st…. sorry adult star Tera Patrick has been appointed “Special Producer” for the THQ published game Saint’s Row 2 – much to the embarrassment of some members of the development team, Violition (www.volition-inc.com).

Now don’t get me wrong, I am as sick as the next guy and am happy to keep staring at naked ladies until they find the drill hole and block it up. In addition to liking naked women I also like games and films and beer and animals. (The latter burnt just enough that they stop moving then smothered with bar-b-q sauce). What I don’t like is stupid and lazy marketing people who think that the best way to sell me a game (or any of the other things I like) is to dangle Tera Patrick, or any other porn star, in front of my face. Tera Patrick isn’t really a producer (special or otherwise) on the project. She doesn’t have any involvement in the development of the game and the game isn’t about Porn so her use in marketing Saint’s Row 2 is completely gratuitous. Saint’s Row 2 is about Gangs – would anyone seriously think that it would be good marketing to use a porn star to promote The Godfather or Gangs of New York? All this does is tell me that, in addition to being lazy, these marketeers have no understanding of why people buy games and have no respect for for either the customer or the developers that make the games.

So what does any of this have to do with Intellectual Property Rights? Well, in addition to the more commonly discussed IPR such as Copyright and Trademarks there are another set… Moral Rights. No I’m not talking about anti-sin, placard waiving Republicans. Moral Rights are the rights of a author not to have their work distorted, mutilated, or modified in a way that would prejudice the author’s honor or reputation. Something that they could certainly claim is happening as a result of this marketing campaign. Of course they will almost certainly have had to sign a development contract with assignes/waives any such rights but that doesn’t make it acceptable, it just means that unfortunately they can’t do anything about it.

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Negative campaigning

“Wii Is ‘Expensive Niche’ Says Sony’s Stringer”

I don’t get it. Sony’s negative marketing* makes them look mean (and a little stupid) just as it does when Hilary Clinton or any other politician uses the tactic. More importantly it would also seem to be a less efficient use of Sony’s time/money, because there are three consoles in the world. If Sony spend their time telling me the Nintendo Wii isn’t what I want (but don’t actually bother to tell me what is good about the Playstation 3) then I may just go off and buy an Xbox 360. That means Sony need to spend more time/money rubbishing Microsoft’s console – but even then they still haven’t given me a reason to buy a Playstation.

Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more effective to just do one set of work telling me how good the Playstation 3 is?

* Yes Microsoft and Nintendo are just as guilty of this as Sony.

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