Are you the type of person who day dreams in class of stomping on turtles, or defeating the evils of homework with a slash of your master sword? If so then you may be cut out for work in the video game industry. That, or you may have serious mental instabilities which may have long term ramifications, like stomping on a friends beloved pet and then demanding that you receive a 1up for all of your effort.
If you are interested then there’s good news my newly made friends! I’ve decided to throw together this little article here in the hopes of giving you some small glimpse of what jobs the video game industry has in store for you. Please try to bear in mind that this is just a short crash-course in the video game industry and doesn’t hold all of the information that is out there (I’d be writing a dissertation if I even tried to).
Well, now that you’re more familiar with what this article is about, let’s get started shall we?
The beginning of Character Design.
What exactly does a Video Game Designer do you ask? Well hell, that’s as simple as having your eyes poked out with sticks!
A Video Game Designer is a person who is in charge of some part of a video games design, such as the game-play, level design, et cetera. There are various types of VG Designers out there and many of these different designers hold a variety of responsibilities, some of which focus on level design, while others have much of their time taken up by creating schedules to keep the games development on track and on time. Suffice to say this job can be just a little bit confusing since the responsibilities vary from one developer to the next, and more often than not the title itself may vary as well.
On the roles most basic level; a Video Game Designer is someone who focuses on the core of a game; in other words how the game works. A Game Designer should be able to quickly deconstruct a video game, explain what works, what doesn’t, and why. Let’s take a short side trip here so that you can get a stronger grasp on exactly what I’m talking about here.
As a Video Game Designer you should be able to tear away all of the art, writing, and the rest of what compliments a games mechanics, in order to understand and analyze what is actually going on in the gears of the game. Let’s do a quick deconstruct of Bioshock: Infinite (my favorite upcoming title) game-play footage to get the idea across.
What would you say the mechanics of the game are all about?
Here’s what I would say:
- The Player interacts with a large linear environment from a first-person-camera perspective. In less murky wording this simply means that it’s a first-person-shooter.
- Since much of the game is made of large open areas the player uses a suspended-rail-system to traverse the landscape
- The combat relies on a mix of projectile, melee, and powerful (magic) abilities to defeat crowds of opponents, or individual ones.
- The (magic) powerful abilities in the game can be used in conjunction with other more basic weaponry of the game to increase damage, slow down targets, distract enemies, and so on. The crows that the player is able to use heavily distract the AI that they are swarming over, which allows the player to take their time in attacking or find a quick escape route.
- The suspended-rail-system is strung between multiple floating pieces of the level, and so the players must react quickly if they want to switch from one rail to another, or they may fall to their demise.
- Damage is displayed to the player through the use of a bloody screen when they are being damaged, or have sustained serious damage.
- The player can magnify their own powers by co-operating with a friendly AI character that they escort through the levels. The AI character creates a storm cloud which magnifies and chains the players electricity power, which allows for massive area-of-effect damage.
- Large and powerful enemies plague the characters travels through the game and in order to defeat them the player must be able to think strategically, or simple be relentless in their attacks while sustaining minimal damage.
In many different game developers the game designer is/are the person/people who creates the idea for the game, first by figuring out the mechanics of the game and then building on it from there. There are interacting levels of coordinating artistry, character design, and video animation–all combined in the hopes that what you’ve made actually works with your game engine.
Now keep in mind that I’m no expert here, but I am an aspiring game designer/writer, and in writing this section I hope that I’ve helped you understand what a game designer is a little bit more than you previously did.
Video Game Journalism (Hey, that’s me!)
Pay me by reading this article.
Do you enjoy working long hours, never being appreciated by your readers, and playing horrible games so that you can tell other people not to play them? Then you’ve come to the right place! Because we here at Gaming Irresponsibly are experts of all these things!
A video game journalist spends their time writing articles on a variety of subjects to do with the video game industry, the gaming community, and just video games in general. Among the articles that a VG journalist writes are reviews, news articles, and editorials.
- Reviews: A VG journalist will often have the video game that they have to review delegated to them without any real say in the matter. This means that as a professional VG Journalist you may have to spend a good amount of time on the latest entry in the Naruto games, while your editor will have chosen the next Gears of War for to review themselves. While this may be true for the professionals, we here at GI have a say in what we want to review. While we do our best to focus on AAA titles to bring in the readers there are times when some of us review games that we enjoy in our own free time that readers won’t necessarily eat-their-foot-off to find out whether it’s any good or not. Such as my Steambirds review. Yes, we here at GI pride ourselves on freedom for our writers, a friendly gamer atmosphere, and on Tuesdays we sacrifice to our Glorious and Dark Lord C’thulhu. All Hail the King of Madness!
- News Articles: Now there are a myriad of ways to obtain news that is relevant within the gaming community. I (and many, many, many others) use an RSS reader (Google Reader in my case) to keep track of official game developer/publisher websites, forums, and many other websites. As soon as something pops up that we think will be of interest to all the other gamers out there we jump on that like we’re a dog-in-heat, and get it out there in a news post for the world to read.
- Editorials: If you aren’t already aware, an editorial is an article in which the senior editor of a publication places their opinions. In VG Journalism anyone can write an editorial (the fun isn’t just for the editors anymore), and in fact many of these types of articles happen to be the most read. A good example of this is Ryan Hillis’s /rant series of articles.
On the professional level of VG journalism it’s no doubt a bit different than what we here at GI are used to. What with all of the money that they make, the conventions that the press get to go to, and that they don’t have to work a daytime job while following their passion. We’re getting there, but it will be a while before we can all give our bosses a photo-copy of our ass and argue with them that the photo is indeed a form of two-weeks-notice.
The job can be an all-time-consuming-beast when there is a flood of new games out at the same time, and it is this beast that devours our lives and only has the courtesy to spit out the bones. So, no, as VG Journalists we do not enjoy a large amount of free time, but we love our jobs and wouldn’t trade them for anything else. If this is a job that interests you, then you can apply within our ranks. The best perks of the job are that we work out of our homes, so we don’t even have to get dressed! Seriously, right now I’m only wearing a Megadeth t-shirt and some boxers, while listening to Dio. Trust me, writing sans-pants is the only real way to write. Everyone does it.
If you’re the math heavy type of person who loves staying at home and spending some quality time with your computer by refining your newly installed Linux Distribution then this may be the job for you! And despite what stereotypes may say there are female programmers, so if you are female don’t you dare skip this section! Seriously, don’t skip this section. I’ll be cross with you.
Programmers within the video game industry spend copious amounts of time crunching code in order to build that latest release of “My Little Pony” or, if they’re luck that latest AAA game that they can slap on their resume. This crunching-of-code involves so many hours of work that chances are you will be sleeping underneath your desk come Crunch Time, sucking your thumb, and humming a tear-choked tune to try and make the “bad feelings” go away.
Programmers are the detail oriented individuals who spend their time building software and games from their most basic levels. They spend much of their time trying to locate intermittent bugs in games and stamp them out before release day.
I can’t say too much about programmers since I am not one of the sort that is detail oriented, but I can assure you that programmers who work in the video game industry tend to get higher pay than the majority of their co-workers. There is of course a very good reason for this. They have a solid foundation in mathematics and an undeniable and transferable skill-set that is always in high demand in many different industries. This is the age of Computational Information Technology after all.
Quality Assurance (AKA: Video Game Tester)
Trust me, your eye-balls will bleed profusely after one day of this job.
This is by far the easiest, and simply the best job in the industry. The majority of people who want to work in video games attempt to get a job in the QA section because it’s a dream job. You play video games, eat Doritos and more or less just chill out all day.
Oh wow, I laughed so hard there I actually cried a bit, and I think I might need a new pair of pants.
In all seriousness though. Quality Assurance is nothing like the laze-around-dream-job that everyone seems to think it is. Imagine spending ten+ hours with a single game. Now imagine doing that for about 8 (or more) months non-stop. Now add the fact that you’re only getting paid around ten bucks an hour to do this. Oh, and I almost forgot. You aren’t actually playing a game, you’re attempting to find any bugs that may be present within the incomplete product that kinda sorta resembles a video game.
Still sound fun? It gets a little bit more interesting actually.
As a QA team member you are assigned a piece of said game to work on. So as a QA team member you must spend 8+ hours a day finding new ways to jump into a wall in a single room in the hopes that it may break and you will be able to fall through the barrier. If you do fall through the barrier then you actually have to find out where you fell through, and then do it again. This time recording the process on video so that those responsible for fixing the barrier placement can fix the problem.
Still want this job? Then here’s an exercise that should help you fully realize what this is like.
I want you to go through your game library and pick something. Anything really, it doesn’t matter. Now spend the next 8 hours running into the walls of this room. Try to be creative with it. Run at the wall, jump, and then crouch while in the air, maybe the crouching will make all the difference, no?
Actually, now that I think about it, the prison cell in Oblivion would be perfect for this.
If you didn’t find anything that you think would be a fit for you, or if there simply isn’t as much information here as you’d like, then it would be a good idea to purchase Paid to Play: An Insiders Guide to Video Game Careers (It contains interviews with 100 industry professionals and veterans!). If you would enjoy seeing more in this series than you can always find a way to contact me through my profile here at GI.