A long, long time ago in a country not so far away I had great dreams of becoming a visual effects artist for some big studio, creating a little bit of movie magic and earning an Oscar in the process. The backup slightly more attainable dream at the time was to work in the games industry, preferably for a game (series) I loved. Since then 6 years passed in which at one point I realized:
- there aren’t any real cool movie or video games studios in the Netherlands,
- there is no feasible way I’m moving to some interesting place where you do have those studios, and
- linear algebra and computer graphics are not my strongest points.
So I let my dreams of visual effects (and that Oscar) fade away to make room for a more probable and attainable future. At that time I would never in my wildest dreams have imagined that I would now live in London, with all different opportunities just waiting to be taken. It is worth saying though that without making the choice not to pursue computer graphics, but choosing another direction instead, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now.
Why all this sentimental talking about my dreams garbage? Last Tuesday and Wednesday was the London Game Career Fair, again an event of the London Games Festival. Even though I knew I’m not what they’re looking for, it couldn’t hurt to take a look, right? So last Tuesday I found myself in the middle of the fair at the Old Truman Brewery, surrounded by booths from EA, SEGA, Lucasarts, and many more.
I stopped by almost every booth (I skipped the university and college booths) and with all of them the conversation went down similar lines: What do you do? What do you want to do? Are you looking for a job? If so, here is a business card/website/email address where you can send your resume. Oh, and here is some free cool/crappy stuff.
I discovered (had forgotten) that a lot of companies aren’t only looking for people specialized in Computer Graphics and that my background in AI and pattern recognition can actually be quite useful in the games industry. You do, however, have to be very strong in C or C++. At the moment there’s a discussion going on about whether or not they should step over to C# (similarly 10-15 years ago there was the discussion if they should jump from Assembly to C or C++). Regardless though whether or not C# is adopted in the future, if you want a job now, you have to know C or C++ now. One tip I got was to have some programs/code ready to show your skills when you’re applying for a job.
There were three times that I talked to a woman at one of the booths and each time they were surprised to find a girl interested in games and with a background of Computer Science. One of them even went so far to hug me! They all remarked on the fact that while there are woman working in games, they are still in the minority and most of the time in a non-programming role (character design, environment design, QA, etc). I was planning to go the Woman in Games mixer that same night, but sadly other plans cropped up (free exclusive tickets to 30 Days of Night, which btw wasn’t that good).
So after a day of walking and talking around, I’ve got a list of websites and email addresses, for if I ever feel ready to try to get into the games industry. If I do, I will definitely have to brush up on my C/C++ skills first and create at least some sort of portfolio. I also ended up with a great bunch of freebies: 3 T-shirts (SEGA, Realtime Worlds and Other Ocean Interactive), a Lucasarts squishy pen, an Xbox 360 bottle of water, SEGA stickers and a whole bunch of other less useful stuff (mousemat, folders, etc). Not bad for a day’s “work”, huh?
If you’re looking to get into the games industry, I really recommend going to a fair like this. The people are genuinely helpful and give a lot of advice on how to get in. I noticed that a lot of people had brought multiple copies of their resumes (plus dvds with their work) with them to give away to companies, so make sure to bring along your resume. I’m not sure yet if I want to get into games myself, but these type of events are definitely interesting.