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Thursday, March 29, 2012

So, You Want a Job With ADB, Inc.

Steve Cole comments:

At least once a month I get somebody asking me for a job in the game industry. We just don't have any jobs going begging, and being too small to train people we can only hire people who already have the skills the job requires. We just don't hire game designers (not as employees) which is the job a lot of people think is easy to do and makes lots of money. (It's very hard to do and pays peanuts.) Every game publisher is a game designer who couldn't get a job and couldn't get anyone to publish his game.

I'd suggest anybody who wants to work in this industry read my free book (www.StarFleetGames.com/book). The first three chapters will give you a ton of information you don't have, and define some ways that you could build a small second job in the industry (perhaps as a game reviewer).

The best I could recommend to someone who desperately wants a job as a game designer is to move to a city with a game publisher and get a normal day job. Then you show up whenever the publishing company playtests new games, offer to proofread new products, and otherwise try to be useful. Don't expect to be paid. You need work on your own game designs and eventually show them to the publisher and see if maybe they'd make some kind of deal. While one would assume that any gamer who shows up at the office of a game publisher, hangs around, and tries to be helpful would be welcome and useful, the reality every publisher learns is that (other than playtest night) such people are more a distraction than actually productive. There is rarely office space for them and they're always looking around for something to do and striking up conversations with paid employees who should be working instead of talking. In theory, if you were really great friends with such a publisher, you could show up (unpaid) and sit quietly in the corner and maybe now and then somebody hands you a draft of something and says "Read this and write down some notes."

If you have an active local group where you live, you could playtest for any number of companies. (ADB already has more than enough people who read games and solo-play them, but we always need people with active groups willing to playtest.) Don't assume that your group is willing to playtest without talking with them first. Many don't like playtesting games that don't work yet, or controlling their competitive urges and trying to make the game work. Petrick and I were playtesting Marines, and we constantly found ourselves saying "I forgot to move this guy" and then "sure, go ahead and move him, it's playtesting, not competitive play". Playtesting is hard work and not any fun, and while many gamers jump at the chance to playtest, most of them quit before finishing the first battle. Playtesting, again, is not fun. It's work. Hard and unpaid work.

The alternative is the hard, slow way to work your way into the ADB family (or the family of another publisher). Read the BBS, comment on new products, do after action reports on existing products, playtest what you can when things are made available for that (e.g., playtest every Federation Commander scenario in Communique after it's published since none of them were playtested before publication but they have to be tested before they move into a real product), and become someone we recognize as having valued input. It takes a while to work your way up that way but Jean Sexton did it, and so did Steven Petrick, but they're each one in a thousand.

Oh, and game designers in this industry don't make any money. Game publishers make little enough. We do it because we wouldn't be happy doing other jobs. I'd make three or four times as much money using my engineer license but I'd come home miserable every night and get drunk. I really hated that job when I had it.

So there you have it: how to get a job with us. We hope to see you involved in the SFU.