We had a game dev Meetup in New Orleans recently, and I was chatting with a developer who just recently moved to the city. He had worked for Nickelodeon, and he mentioned that he had worked on Neopets. I had met the Neopets founders at GDC many years ago, and we ended up bumping into each other at several parties and hung out a fair amount. So me and this developer swapped a few stories about our mutual acquaintances, and chuckled briefly about how small the industry is.

That got me thinking about how important that really is, and gave me the idea for this blog post. If you’ve had anything to do with games, I’m sure you’ve had someone give you the “it’s a small industry” line. It’s repeated so often that it almost sounds trite, but it really can have a huge impact on your career in games. One of the most important pieces of advice I would give to anyone getting into games is just to be professional. Be nice. Don’t be an asshole. You never know when a former coworker might end up having a say in whether or not a studio should hire you.

I wanted to illustrate that a bit using my own career as an example. I hope this doesn’t sound like bragging, that is not my intent at all. I’ve worked at 2 games studios, EA (Tiburon) and THQ (Volition). I’ve attended a few conferences over the years. I currently work at TurboSquid, which is used by many game studios, but we don’t do any game dev ourselves. I also help run this site and another new game-related site, PlayingThis. I help run the local game dev Meetup here in New Orleans. I am NOT, in any way, a famous game industry figure.

Using the “Six Degrees” idea, I’m going to look at a few well-known industry people, and see how closely I’m linked to them. This is not meant to show how influential I am – none of these people would have any idea who I am if they bumped into me on the street. But, if they were ever looking at my resume, they could pretty easily find someone to ask if I was worth hiring. The last thing you want at that stage is some former co-worker who you treated like garbage to say, “him/her? No way, they’re totally toxic!”

  • Tim Schafer – Founder, Double Fine: 2nd degree. At least 2 former Tiburon co-workers are at Double Fine.
  • Don Mattrick – CEO, Zynga:  2nd degree. Former execs at Tiburon worked with Don at EA and Zynga.
  • Cliff Bleszinski – Founder, Boss Key:  2nd degree. Former Volition co-worker now at Boss Key.
  • Harvey Smith – Creative Director, Arkane:  2nd degree. 1 former Volition and 1 former Tiburon co-worker each worked with Harvey at Midway.
  • Warren Spector – Former President of Junction Point:  2nd degree. 1 former Tiburon co-worker worked at Junction Point.
  • Gabe Newell – President, Valve:  2nd or 3rd. 2 former co-workers at Valve. I assume they have met Gabe directly, if not, they work with someone who has.
  • Brenda and John Romero – both famous for lots of stuff:  2nd and 3rd degree, respectively. I know the former Orlando game community organizer through IGDA meetups, and he is connected to Brenda.

Again, I hope this doesn’t read as boastful – pretty much anyone who has worked in games for more than a few years could get similar results. It’s meant to be a word of caution. I specifically picked recognizable names to make a point, but think of all of the other Producers, QA Leads, Dev Managers, Recruiters, etc. where you would see similar results.

I’ll use another related example from my career to help highlight the point. Imagine someone junior to you makes a mistake that impacts you. Take a moment to consider that the Tester or Art Intern that you’re frustrated with will not always be in that same role – some people advance quickly in their careers, and in ways you might not expect. I’ve worked with many people in modest roles who climbed into very influential positions. I’ll list out a few examples, indicating the role a person was in when I first worked with them and their current role:

  • QA Tester to Director of Design (2 people, actually)
  • QA Tester to Principal Designer
  • HR Intern to Senior Recruiter
  • Receptionist to Art Outsourcing Manager
  • Environment Artist to Director of Studio Art
  • Associate Producer to Studio Director
  • UI Artist to Studio Artist Manager
  • UI Artist to Studio Art Director

Connections like these can absolutely make or break your chances of getting hired! I didn’t even really have to cherry pick these – I had a couple in mind when I started, and then I spent 10 minutes flipping through Linkedin for more.

Saying “be professional and don’t be an asshole” sounds so obvious, but I have worked with people who have not followed that rule. There are people I would not want to work with again, no matter how good they were. Is that how you want to be known in this small industry? Is it worth the risk?

We’ve got another recruiter quick tip, this one from Nadine Rossignol from Armature Studios in Austin. If you’re thinking about a casual studio drop-by to ask about openings, check out Nadine’s tip:

Don’t just show up at a studio to pass in your resume in person, or for any other reason! The people who work at the studio are busy individuals who most likely don’t take kindly to interruptions in their daily work flow. And game companies generally do not give studio tours to potential applicants. If you are interested to applying for a job, go to the studio’s web site. On their site will be instructions on how to apply for the job electronically, whether that be via an email address or filling out an application form directly on the site.

I’ve had this happen a couple of times, and it’s just not a good idea. Catching people at at studio off guard usually ends up leading to an uncomfortable situation. Talking to viable candidate takes time and preparation – you’re giving people neither if you just walk into the lobby. It might feel like making direct contact can help you get noticed in the interview process, but it will almost definitely have the opposite effect.

It’s been a while, but it’s time for another recruiter quick tip. This one comes to us courtesy of Ashley Doyal, who is the HR Manager for Arkane + BattleCry Studios (ZeniMax) in Austin. Ashely offered up several tips that we’ll share in the future, but we’ll start with this one:

Don’t be afraid to show your passion in a cover letter or resume!  If you’re an audio designer who fell in love with the score from one of our titles or an artist who has spent months working on a mod for one of our games, tell us about it!  We’re all really passionate about our work here and knowing how much you want to be part of the team can help.

For me, this ties in nicely with the idea of a custom cover letter/resume for each studio you apply to! If you can convey your interest and passion in that studio, you have a much better chance of having your application get noticed. Recruiters get a LOT of applications for each open position – highlighting what excites you about a specific opening can go a long way.

Make sure and check out our open game job listings to see who is hiring!

NHN Entertainment Labs is a new studio that recently opened in Santa Monica, and we’re helping them get the word out about their open jobs! You might not be familiar with their name, but that doesn’t mean that they’re starting from scratch. Their parent company is one of the largest and most profitable entertainment companies in South Korea, NHN Entertainment.

A Meeting of Erudite Minds

NHN is currently working on a “social mobile casino” platform that they’re calling Golden Sand Casino. We wanted to give potential applicants a better idea about that app and what life might be like at NHN, so we put several questions to Drew Smith (NHN’s Head of Talent Acquisition) and the NHN management team.

Since NHN Entertainment Labs is just getting started, let’s focus on the basics a little bit. How long have you guys been open for business? How big is the team right now?

“Planning began in earnest in September 2013 and hiring commenced in December/January. We’re at 30 full-time employees right now.”

It looks like a few of the founders have experience at other start-ups. Are they finding anything different about the experience of getting NHN up and running?

“There’s a substantial difference starting a company that’s a division of a multinational company vs. an angel or even VC funded start-up. The resources at your disposal, Board and employee expectations, and exit strategy are fundamentally different. Fortunately, the goals are the same – create a great game that effectively competes with the market leaders.”

Have any of the team members worked together at previous companies?

“Yes, several of our team members have worked together before!

  • Tony (CTO) and Arun (Backend Developer) worked together at Playgistics
  • Greg (Sr. Artist), Phelicia (Sr. Production Artist) and Wil (Core Artist) worked together at Electronic Arts
  • Al (Cofounder), Dion (VP Game Design & Mathematics), Alex (Designer) and Joe (Sr. Producer) worked together at WMS Gaming
  • Dan (Lead Frontend Engineer) and Corey (Sr. Frontend Engineer) worked together at Bottle Rocket
  • Steve (Lead QA Engineer) and Harry (QA Engineer) worked together at Bioware”

What are some of the goals that the team has in creating a “Social Mobile Casino” product?

“First, we want to create a truly “social” social casino. We want to create the most authentic gaming experience in terms of the player’s emotional roller-coaster, which really means giving them huge wins. We also want to effectively compete with DoubleDown, BigFish and Caesars. We’re building an extensive analytics and multivariate test framework, so there’s no hiding behind 1-2 year launch schedules where you simply build what you think is cool without regard to the players’ desires.

On the tech side, we’re using Unity on the front-end and Node.js and Socket.IO on the back-end, so if you lean nerd, we’re about as much fun as you can get. Even QA has automated just about everything about the build and test process.

Bottom line – we’re a place where if you want to really test your skills, we’ll give you the opportunity.”

What are some of the most unique aspects of the studio that you’d want potential candidates to be aware of?

“The company provides candidates with the opportunities of a startup — e.g., to have their voices heard, their ideas implemented and to make a difference.”

Are you guys planning to work on multiple titles concurrently, or just one?

“We’ll be simultaneously working on multiple games of chance (slots, slot tournaments, video poker, bingo, blackjack), and games of skill (poker), but all within the Golden Sand Casino app.”

Any word on when the beta might be released, or is that still under wraps?

“Very, very soon!”

Thanks to Drew and the NHN team for answering our questions!



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:

Poster_web (1)

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.