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LittleBigClass Volume 5 – Job Searching

As someone who finished grad school and entered the frenzied world of “hey, I’m overeducated and want a job in a specific creative field!” not too long ago, I’m very serious about trying to give my students as much ammo as possible for their own career planning. In that light, week nine was all about the job search – finding out what various companies are looking for, how to build particular skills, and how to effectively search for opportunities.

I gathered a few design-specific postings – from Blizzard (they’re seeking a designer for Diablo 3), Gameloft (looking for a general game designer), and Irrational (for both level design and systems design positions). I tried to go for variety (both in terms of genre and scope), and let everyone go wild on the Gamasutra job board if none of the pre-selected positions suited their fancy. Then, I tasked them with writing cover letters for their job of choice, listing all of their design experience and portfolio-worthy work (including everything we’ve done in class, and an “aspirational” project – a full mobile game – that they expect to graduate with).

The point, of course, is to get them familiar with what’s out there, what will be required of them, and what they should have in their portfolios come game day. We chatted about the value of knowing a given company’s line of games (and the ability to speak critically about specific design decisions), and the importance of having an absolutely stellar portfolio. Studios want to see that you have the skill and the determination to put together strong, coherent work – so levels and mods and well-thought-out design docs are a must.

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Check out the “requirements” section for the Blizzard/Diablo position:

• A minimum of 2 years game design experience on a shipped product
• Excellent written and verbal communications skills
• Absolute passion for playing and making computer games
• Able to work well in a team environment

• Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
• Experienced in designing, playing role-playing games (RPG’s) and action games
• Experience developing rule sets (pen and paper or electronic, character classes, enemies, skill systems, etc.)
• Experiencing running pen and paper RPG campaigns

And the Irrational Level Designer:

Required Experience and Skills:
This position requires a high degree of creativity. You will be required to work with the team to form a “vision” of your levels and use that vision to inform your design decisions.

An important part of the role is communicating that vision clearly and concisely to the rest of the team and ensuring that they have a clear and specific mandate for their work. You must also provide a receptive ear so that other team members can provide input on the game design.

Above all we are looking for somebody with enthusiasm, passion and the desire to create levels that are going to amaze gamers.

We’re also planning to hit the career-related panels at PAX East this Friday – so if you’re hitting up the IGDA dev center for “Resumes That Rock” or “Portfolios and Demos that Rock” – feel free to come say hello!

The second half of class was spent on building exercises in LittleBigPlanet. After a few weeks spent primarily on design discussions, job searching, and mechanical analysis of existing games, we’re back in the LBP saddle for the rest of class, building two-stage “games” for the final project.

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It was a simple assignment. If you like, take a gander:

In your groups, build a very simple stage that contains at least TWO of the following features:

1. An elevator
2. Suspended platforms
3. A vehicle
4. A “dangerous” obstacle (such as a pit, fire, poison gas, etc.)
5. A character with dialogue

This is an exercise in very rudimentary building, LBP toolset use, and problem solving. Do not worry about aesthetics. You’ll have 90 minutes to build and present your work to the rest of the class.

Not to leave anyone high and dry, I supplied a few youtube tutorials (in fact, tutorials I’ve used in building my own levels) for good measure and let them have at it. Once everything was up and running, I floated around the room, watching the magic happen. One group put together a sensor-enabled elevator that connected to a zipline (which ended with a sackboy-skewering pit of spikes), while the other worked on a tiny fleet of retro-looking cars.

It’s awesome to see these kinds of “it has guidelines, but feel free to create what you want” exercises work. It’s always a balance between giving clear, concise instructions and letting the creative juices flow freely, but I think we hit a nice middle point with this one. As always, the most fun part of this job is to sit back and watch the wacky stuff that comes out, and its always gratifying to see the “aha!” moments alight when a student starts seeing the potential in his/her fiddling.

Check out every installment of LittleBigClass here!

Danielle Riendeau

What I do for work: spend my days as the ACLU design/code/video ninja, write about games, make (tiny) games, teach digital media at Northeastern University. What I do for fun: all of the above, plus lots of running, fitness fun, filmmaking, outdoor exploration, world travel, sci-fi everything.

One thought to “LittleBigClass Volume 5 – Job Searching”

  1. As always, I enjoyed reading about the development of this class. It sounds quite fun, and informative. It’s interesting to note that you mentioned critiquing the previous games of the studio you’re applying at. I think that’s a great idea myself.

    Just out of curiosity though, what exactly are the many jobs you do? Listening to the podcast and reading here, I know you dabble in Web Development, Games Journalism, and part-time teaching, but what else? This article implies you’re looking to get into something like game design, or are currently involved in that.

    Anyways, another great article, and I can’t wait to see the conclusion, and if possible the levels 🙂

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