There are many articles saying how hard getting into the video game industry is for recent grads. I thought it was not my case since I already worked for over 4 years in Korea as a game programmer.
I know most of Korean game companies are “nobody” here in America but I was lucky to have work experience at a company which is globally famous for its micro-transaction model. Also, I was confident of my programming skills by seeing the other students in my graduate school. All those things made me think like “It shouldn’t be a problem to get a job from one of my favorite game companies in America even before I graduate”.
Well, it turned out that I was not an exception. It took me over one year to get an offer from one of the game companies I want to work for. I applied for over 40 programmer postions, had about 12 phone interviews, took 8 programming tests and had 1 onsite interview. Finally, I got 2 full time offers and accepted one from Canada, today morning. I’m not going to write all the details about how I got the offers but I’d like to tell you a few things which might be helpful.
1. Have a Long Term Plan
You should have a long term plan. a very long one. It is mainly because of a global recession in these days. I just saw the news that Crystal Dynamics (one of companies I applied to) is reducing 25 more staffers. In a bad economy, this kind of news is not surprising at all. I was very lucky since I was in a school while I was looking for a job. Getting a job would take much (very much) longer time than your estimation.
Find a part time job or volunteer positions. If you are an international student like me, you should do work to keep your OPT status. Do some independent projects by yourself or with your friends. Some of my friends are planning to start a startup for developing IPhone games. You can also consider about attending an education program. The bottom line is that it’s important to have a clear answer to the question : “So, what have you been up to after you graduate?”
2. Keep Practicing and Studying
Most questions asked during a phone or an interview are NOT random. You can easily google them, prepare answers and practice by yourself. I found one great article in Gamasutra and it was very helpful for the onsite interview I had. If you were a programmer, you also need to check this article from Joel. Surprisingly, two interviewers actually asked the question from the article: “How many gas stations are in Los Angeles?”. Prepare for it.
Don’t forget to study basic things of your field. For programmers, some academic questions (yes, Computer Science) are very popular even they are not directly related to how good your programming skills are. Math problems are also frequently asked if you are applying for a gameplay or graphics programmer. I had to solve two math problems on a white board in front of interviewers. This book was very useful for me to study math for game programming.
3. Never Stop Applying.
You don’t need to rush but you shouldn’t stop applying. Make a list of companies you’d like to work for and keep updating it. Check Gamasutra and CreativeHeads everyday and ask your friends about open positions at their work place. That’s how I found over 40 positions.
Don’t wait for a result of the interview you already had. Instead you should search more positions and apply for them. Don’t stop until you actually sign on an offer letter. One of the companies told me that I passed all the tests & interviews and they were willing to hire me. But they just kept delaying giving me an official offer letter. Don’t think you’re hired before you really are.
That’s all. It was a long and hard time but all of difficulties I’ve faced improved me a lot. Don’t give up. Never stop.