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The Game Effect Editorial

Bioware Explains How To Get A Job In The Games Industry

How to land that dream job

By Daniel Jones on 4/23/2013
As Community Manager at Bioware, Ryan Warden talks to a lot of fans who want to work for the company that created Dragon Age and Mass Effect. "There's been people coming up to us throughout our time here at PAX and saying 'man, how do I get a job in video games?" He recalls, "And I ask them what they want to do and they say 'Um I just want a job in video games.'"

He happens to be speaking to a room full of people who want a job at Bioware. About two dozen eager fans and prospective employees are sitting in the small conference room hidden away on the third floor from of the Boston Convention Center at PAX East, far from the flashing lights and whistling bells of the show floor. They're not here to see Watch Dogs or even the latest indie darling. They're here seeking advice or maybe even a chance to meet face to face with the developer's representatives. It's like a nerdy job fair at one of the world's nerdiest conventions.

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The modest audience of roughly two dozen people seem to be Bioware fans with a clear goal of becoming employees at the company or one of its competitors. Some are programmers, some artists and a majority are writers. Some of the people in the crowd proclaim to possess multiple talents, but Warden warns the crowd against being a jack of all trades but master of none, "Figure out what you want to do. If that's a writer then just write the hell out of everything."

The panel echos his sentiment in explaining the siloed nature of the Bioware offices. "If we hire you as a writer, then you'll be writing." Says Assistant Design Director Aiden Scanlan. That goes for any role on the team. Bioware expects each of its employees to be experts in their field, and self-sustainable. "Be an artist first before you apply it to games". As the panel explains: make yourself as marketable as possible. If you're an artist, don't just limit yourself to video game art. No matter the discipline, Bioware looks for people who are able to create work suitable for any medium -- be it video games, films, comics or television -- limiting yourself to one genre will rarely boost your chances at a job.

When someone in the audience asks what people without college degrees can do to improve their chances, HR Representative Chris Pangrass gives direct advice: "Get a degree!" It wasn't what the young woman wanted to hear. But in the highly competitive industry, a degree can do nothing but good, however, a degree can only go so far. Your work needs to speak for itself, and in this highly competitive industry, that means building a brand and getting it in front of recruiters like Pangrass.

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Senior Recruiter Masah Kalugin offers some advice on that topic. "Having a brand for yourself out there on the internet is sort of the foundation for getting a job in the industry" She and other recruiters spend hours scouring sites like LinkedIn for talent, but they also frequent some sites you might not expect. DeviantArt, Conceptart.org and CG Hub are prominent bookmarks on her browser. Concept Artist Nick Thornborough interjects to tell the story of how he was called for an interview after Kalugin found some of his art online.

Scanlan has some unexpected advice for people with less tangible talents like level design and programming: "Make a mobile game," he tells the crowd. "That is a good path to getting to one of the bigger studios because it shows what you can do... And if it's good you won't need to get a job at another studio because you'll make your millions there." Like mods and built-in level editors, the iOS platform is accessible and simple enough that almost anyone can make a game for the hardware and getting noticed will still be difficult, but at least this will give you a tangible product that can represent your talents to prospective employers.

In general, the panel wants people to understand that in order to get a job at one of the best video game developers in the world, one needs to be the best at what they do. According to the panel, that requires a thick skin and a willingness to accept criticism. That mentality carries over to a successful career in the games industry, but begins in education, either in or out of academia. "It's not the degree, it's the environment," chimes in Thornborough, speaking on his experience in art school, feeding off the creativity of his peers. "If you have the right classmates and teachers, that will enhance your work." Whether you're just jotting down a few lines of a story, sketching some rough character models or putting the finishing touches on a proof of concept tech-demo, accepting criticism is a sure-fire way to improve your output.

As the panel concludes, the crowd walks over to a grouping of tables to speak with the Bioware employees and show off their portfolios. I get the feeling that each of these people see this moment as a seminal one in their development as video game professionals. As though this will be knowledge they carry with them going forward. In pursuit of a dream job, opportunities like this come along so seldom that you have no choice but to embrace it. The people lining up to speak with Bioware's employees were embracing this moment.
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KrazyTaco1 on April 27, 2013
Good article. 
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Jolt815 on April 25, 2013
This was pretty great. So educational, and on a video game site, no less. I'll definitely take some things away from this. Thank you. 
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