If you’re looking for a game industry job, and you’re going to be anywhere near Vancouver on April 8th, there is an event you need to attend. Vancouver-based mobile developer A Thinking Ape is helping host the 2nd annual Hiring Happy Hour. 11 studios will be on hand to talk directly to job hunters about their openings, and hopefully do some hiring!

Sonia Ryan works for A Thinking Ape as a Troublemaker (seriously, that’s on her business card), and is helping to organize the event. Sonia said that the idea of the event was hatched last year by A Thinking Ape and Vancouver Social Games after a rash of announcements about industry layoffs. The event was such a success that the organizers decided to turn it into an annual event.

I also asked Sonia to give some advice to people attending the event, and this is what she had to say:

I would encourage all participants to fill out our Hiring Happy Hour Applicant Form.

Get to know a little about the participating companies. What games do they make? What excites you about their games? Practice your pitch about who you are and how you can help each company you are excited about.

Bring your resumes // portfolios!

For more details, check out the flier for the event:

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Like any good True Detective fan, I was scouring Reddit after the finale of the show for a final round of crazy theories and conspiracies. If you haven’t watched True Detective yet, stop reading this, borrow someone’s HBO Go password, and go watch. Seriously, binge-watch all 8 hours right now.

Back? Ok. So while on Reddit, I came across an interview with the show’s creator, Nic Pizolatto. What struck me most about the interview was not his insight into the show itself, but Nic’s comments about his journey towards a career in television. Now, a career as Showrunner for an insanely popular HBO show is obviously very difficult to come by. Lots of people would love to be in that position, and it struck me that there were some parallels to getting a job in the game industry. Breaking into games is difficult – there is a lot of demand for a limited number of positions. So let’s take a look at some of Nic’s comments, and think about how they might relate to getting a dream job working in games…

The idea of doing something like that for a guy with my class background? It’s ludicrous. You might as well say you want to be a movie star.

Tell me about your class background.

Just growing up in south Louisiana, going to state school for college, and working two jobs. I spent four years bartending in Austin. I never had any money or any window into the world of TV.

So how did you break in?

One of the things with writing is that you don’t need money to do it, and you don’t need other people to do it. You just need paper and a pen. And if you can learn how to do it well enough…

Now, to work on games, you need a little more than pen and paper. A computer and an internet connection, for starters. But there are lots of free tools out there. Lots of free online tutorials. Even if you have a degree from a 4-year college or a game design program, you could always be learning more. And other people are doing just that, and they’re applying for the same jobs you are.

At a conference in Aspen I ran into some people in the TV business. I’d never met anyone who did TV professionally at that point.  So I was like, “How do you break into TV?” And they said, “If you write a really good spec script and a really good pilot script for a show, then you can start to get work in this business.” After the conference, I told my wife that the first chance I got to speak to somebody from Los Angeles, I was going to move us out there and we were going to be in the film and TV business and I was not going to be a professor anymore.  I knew I could do it.

I love this. He experiences a bit of luck by bumping into these people, but takes advantage of the opportunity. He specifically asks what he can do to get into the industry, but it’s clear that he’s prepared to take drastic measures to act on that advice.

A year later Galveston got published, and it was optioned for very little money. But I got to talk to two agents finally—the agents who had done the option. And they were like, “Do you have any ideas for shows?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’ve got 30 ideas for shows.” And they were like, “Well, you should write some screenplays—have you ever written a screenplay?” And I was like, “No.” And I could tell that they maybe weren’t taking me very seriously. Every novelist they option a novel from, the novelist then asks how he gets to write the script. And they say, “Well, write us some scripts.” And then maybe months go by and they never hear anything.

But before a week was out I’d already sent them two scripts—a spec script and a pilot. I wrote one in two days and one in three days.

Again, he shows incredible initiative to act on advice that he’s given. The advice that he’s given is hard – do something you’ve never done before (write and deliver a screenplay), but he does it. It’s clear that the agents had told this to many people, and they were used to people ignoring that advice. Nic doesn’t ignore the advice, and his action starts to set him apart from other people in similar situations. If you’re looking to break into the industry, you are competing against other people like Nic. Too busy to learn Unity and make your own project? Other people are doing just that. Too busy to watch some Maya tutorials on YouTube and push your skills forward? Other people are doing just that.

I know that Nic Pizolatto is an extreme example, and I realize that everyone’s individual situations will be different. I do think it is an interesting case to consider, and something to keep in mind as you are applying for jobs. Always remember that a person like Nic could be applying for the job that you want. With that in mind, do you feel like you are doing everything you can in order to realize your dream?

Irrational Games Layoffs

Paul Teall —  February 18, 2014 — Leave a comment

Wow, this is wild. First off, our thoughts go out to everyone impacted by the massive shake-up at Irrational. The news about the restructuring is already being covered in many places. For now, we wanted to just start collecting tweets from people and studios who are doing some hiring. We’ll add links throughout the day as they come in. To the ex-Irrational employees out there – try and keep your heads up!

Layoffs at Turbine

Paul Teall —  February 12, 2014 — 2 Comments

More sad news in the industry today – it’s being reported that Boston-area developer Turbine is cutting an unspecified number of positions. This is, unfortunately, coming on the heels of recent layoffs at Zynga and EA Salt Lake City.

It’s always a bit depressing to hear news like this, but the refreshing part is seeing people in the industry rallying to help those affected by the layoffs. Several people took to Twitter to let others know about openings at their studios. Here are a few of the tweets that we saw:

Who else is hiring? We’ve got several positions listed on our site! Best of luck to all those that were affected – it’s never easy.

I saw a tweet recently from one of the companies on our LA dev list, Sony Santa Monica, saying that they were in the process of moving to a new studio:

I checked out the links, and was actually really impressed with what they’ve done with their entire site. They’re doing an excellent job at selling potential candidates on their studio. One of the first things you see when you visit the site is a video showcasing the studio itself and potential future co-workers for any job hunters. I don’t know why more studios don’t do this. Most game studios are fun places! I’ve been to 10 (I think) during my career, either on interviews or work-related trips, and even the smaller, scrappier studios had interesting things worth highlighting. Why don’t more of them spend a little bit of time to show off what they’ve got? Instead, it seems many studios are content to make their first impression on a candidate with a block of text and a bullet list of job openings.

Since they are in the process of moving, they also included some excellent details on the buildout process for the new studio:  http://sms.playstation.com/news/time-to-move/. They include lots of pictures, and there’s a nice write-up on the moving experience from their Head of Studio.

It’s clear they put a lot of time and effort into these new recruiting efforts. It’s easy to get a good feel for the culture of the studio by spending some time on their new site. I’m curious to know what other studios you guys have seen that have put together commendable recruiting materials. Have you seen anyone in particular that really stood out at selling their job openings?

 Photo credit:  Sony Santa Monica website

It was a tough week for some employees of two major development houses. Zynga let go over 300 employees, and the EA studio in Salt Lake City also let go or relocated several dozen people. Layoffs suck (speaking from experience) – it feels like a punch in the gut, and the minutes, hours and days immediately after you get the news are all incredibly challenging. We wish the best of luck to everyone affected in both of those incidents.

In that spirit, we wanted to do what we can to help those who are now unemployed land on their feet. We’ve got many jobs listed on our site. We also noticed people from lots of other studios taking to Twitter since the news broke, and we wanted to capture some of those here. I’m sure we’re missing lots of people – if your studio is hiring and we didn’t list you, go ahead and comment on the bottom of the page.

We have a good friend working at Retro Studios in Austin, and he let us know that they are in the process of trying to fill several engineering positions. He is directly involved with trying to fill three Tools Engineer spots, so we’re doing what we can to help spread the word. Here are the links to those three openings:

If you think you’re a fit for any of those roles (or you know anyone who is), they want to hear from you! They’ve also got a few other positions open – check out their job listings page for details.

We’ve also got several other Austin job openings on our site – check them out!


Fun With Twitter

Paul Teall —  January 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

We were part of a seemingly inauspicious tweet yesterday that ended up taking on a life of its own. Chris Sulzbach is a Lead Character Artist at Firaxis, and he offered up info that his studio was hiring environment and tech artists:

Twitter___sulzbunny__Tech_artists_and_environment____He included a few well-placed hashtags, and also threw in a mention to us. As of this morning, it had been retweeted 23 times! There’s obviously a bit of luck involved when a tweet goes viral like this, but I think there are some concrete factors that contributed as well. Chris mentions specific positions (not just, “we’re hiring!”), and includes hashtags (#gameart, in particular) that have a good chance at reaching viable candidates. As an artist, he’s also likely to be reaching friends/colleagues who are his direct followers who might either be interested or know people who would be. If your studio is hiring, I’m sure your recruiter would be thrilled to get this kind of assist in the staffing effort.

It was fun to watch the reaction last night – thanks to Chris for including us! If you’re interested in any of the Firaxis openings, reach out to Chris via Twitter.

One of the fastest possible ways to eliminate yourself from contention for jobs is to send the exact same resume and cover letter each time you apply for a job. Trust me – studio recruiters and HR staff can tell your cover letter is generic almost immediately. And what does that generic message tell the studio about you? That you can’t be bothered to do any research about either the company or the specific role that you’re applying for. You might be intimately familiar with that studio, a huge fan of their games and a great fit for the role, but it’s too late – you’ve been weeded out. You won’t even get the chance to show them that in an interview.

We’ve covered this topic briefly before, with a quick tip from Deep Silver’s Erica Haack. Her main point about cover letters was this – “I want to know why you want to work for us and specific experiences you have relating to the position.”

I also came across a couple of interesting posts this morning on Fast Company. The first post, which discusses some common cover letter problems, include this great point:

Whenever an entry-level gig opens up, she’s soon inundated by applications not only riddled with misspellings and typos, but more terrifyingly, “what appears to be a fundamental lack of understanding of how to sell oneself to a prospective employer.”

I feel like people don’t realize how many other applicants they’re up against when they’re applying for a job, especially the more junior positions. Your margin for error is razor thin. Errors are obviously unacceptable, but a generic, un-targeted cover letter is almost as bad. The studio could be looking at dozens, maybe even hundreds of applications for that position, and you have a very small amount of time to convince them that you’re at least worth talking to about the job.

The second post offers up some tips for making sure your cover letter holds the reader’s attention:

…you can use the cover letter to show your employer-crush why your experience is just right for the job description. Do not, do not, do not let it look like a template. Would you hire someone who sent you a template? No. So don’t send one.

Notice the 3 “do nots” to emphasize not using a template cover letter. Don’t do it.

Writing a new cover letter for every job takes time. It will slow you down. The alternative, however, is risking having your application thrown out immediately. Take the time to personalize the message when applying. Keep it short, honest, on point, and let the studio know how your skills and experience are just what they’re looking for.

Zynga Opening Orlando Studio

Paul Teall —  September 17, 2013 — 1 Comment

Zynga Orlando is now officially a thing. Ian Cummings is Director of Design at the new location, and has confirmed that the studio is open and hiring. No word yet on what titles they’ll be working on, but they do already have a few open positions listed on the Zynga site:

This is potentially a very interesting development for Orlando. For years, game development in Orlando has primarily meant EA Tiburon (and n-Space, to a lesser extent), but the pieces are in place for a very health scene to flourish. FIEA and Full Sail are both in the area, and several local indie publishers have been springing up over the last few years. Adding another major player like Zynga could push Orlando closer to becoming a major hub for game development.

Zynga Orlando is currently under 10 employees, but we’ll keep an eye on their growth in the coming months. For now, they’ve been added to the Orlando studio list in the 1-10 category. Congrats to Ian and the rest of the new Zynga Orlando crew!

Photo credit:  Lake Eola – Orlando by hao$ on Flickr