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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessHow's the game maker's life?
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Caio
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« on: July 28, 2007, 06:29:01 AM »

It's about time for me to decide what I'm going to do with my life. For a couple of years now I've fed a stupid dream of moving to a country where the industry meaningfully exists and working with game design and living happily ever after, but I do realize that may not be possible - or at least not as easy as it seemed to be.

I still dream of making games, but I am not sure if I can, or want, to do that as a job. The big industry seems overwhelming and uninspiring, and the indie industry, while apparently fun, also looks like a tough place to make a living.

So I ask you, who I know make games – do your games sustain you or you have some other profession (and if so, do you make games as a hobby or as a secondary source of income)? How do you see the game making business? Is it satisfactory to work in? Is it what you expected it to be before joining?

I'm sorry for the amount of questions I asked here – give as much or as few details and answers as you want. I just thought it'd be better to know it from someone who's already there than just go and get real the hard way.

I may also post this on the GameDev.net forums later, but I'd rather hear it first from TIGS. Smiley
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Kornel Kisielewicz
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« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2007, 06:40:31 AM »

Well, I shouldn't be taking part in this discussion, because I don't live off the game industry (yet), but a word of advice -- never "cut down" on your dreams. Build yourself a "shining castle in the sky" and do whatever it takes to achieve it (and if someone will pull a Berserk reference here, I'll kill them).
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« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2007, 03:42:21 PM »

and if someone will pull a Berserk reference here, I'll kill them).

Chicken, fight like a robot!
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« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2007, 05:13:33 PM »

Fantastic question.  I'm going to have to think a bit about the specifics, but yeah, it's a lot of work.

For me, games have always been what I do.  Growing up doing indie stuff, eventually netting a job thanks to my indie stuff, and several years later trying the indie thing again with some retail experience to back it up.  I try to use game development as my avenue in to exploring other related things I'm fascinated with, be it art, music, even film.  The thing about video games it's rather all encompassing.  So there's many *many* ways to go with it.

I guess it boils down to what you want from it, and that's a hard answer in itself to come up with.  Retail jobs probably aren't the end, but are a means to being involved if that's all you want.  They can also be a starting point.

I'll have to come back to this.  Great topic.
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« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2007, 03:07:14 AM »

If you're not sure about the game industry (you know you'd like to make games, but you have some kind of artistic vision and the 'game industry,' as it were, creeps you out), I'd recommend picking a related field you'd actually enjoy working in, and then doing game things in your spare time.

If you like the challenge of programming or design, I think, in the industry, go for it, but if you really feel like it's not what you want to do, I wouldn't bother. Just because you like games and making games yourself doesn't mean you'll like working for EA, for example.

It's mostly a question of 'do you like what you will be doing on your average day,' and 'will it get you doing something you will like doing on your average day?'
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« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2007, 08:24:03 AM »

Akhel:
I'm thinking about my response but before I do, I'd like to know 2 things:

How old are you and what do you seek in life.

Why am I asking you this? because I know alot of people who make games but we don't all seek the same thing. We can all be happy making games but it all comes down to what you want out of life.

I feel we may help you out more wisely with a bit more details about you. Feel free not to answer though! I'm not forcing you or anything, it's just that it would help me to answer your question with a response that will be more helpfull to you

Later!
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« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2007, 01:54:04 PM »

Hey, thanks for all the answers.

Guert, I'm 16. As for what I seek in life, it is to express my ideas and hopefully be able to make them real, to tell interesting stories that people can enjoy and, above all, of course, to be happy — actually enjoy doing what I do, having a nice income and some free time to have fun, etc. I don't care at all about being famous, rich or anything like that.
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Guert
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« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2007, 02:31:12 PM »

Ah, that's the kind of answer I wanted to read! Wink

In this case, I'm going to tell you to go to art school. It seems to me that you are interested in creating something and the medium has yet to be defined in your head. You know what you want to do but don't know how. I suggest general art classes because you'll be able to explore around various ways of telling an idea and a story. May it be written down, on a canvas, through an instrument or by using wood, clay or any other thing at hand. You're very young and you have the chance of being able to experience numerous ways in theses clases that otherwise you'd have to invest and hope it works out. who knows, perhaps you'll find a devoting to cinema or writting or something else...

You are young and it's hard to tell what you truly want to do to express yourself. It's quite normal. You've yet found the way of expression that fits you most. Sometimes, some never actualy find one. No one can say except you what you like best. I personaly have to use videogames and comics to express myslef simply because only one of them doesn't do the job.

Now, I can hear you think: "What the hell has this to do with videogame you rambling idiot?" Well, videogame is something you can do all the time. all you need is a bit of will. Even you don't enjoy coding or making artowkr or music, the videogame community offers numerous tools  to paliate your weaker skills.

The best way to make a good videogame is not to think of videogames. The more diversified your mind is, the better your game will be as you will pluck ideas from various fields and let them bloom in the emerging medium (video games).

If videogame is a field you truly want to do, you'll have no choice to create some because you won't be able stop yourself from doing it. It'll be natural. Just like an artist can't stop doodling when you put a pencil in his hand or from tapping on his lap to a beat he just thought up. As you create games, you'll get experience and will have some "field combat" under your belt already when you'll want to break in the big industry. or, you'll simply have the knowledge required to start off your first shareware game. And by having other visions of life, you'll be able to express what you think through these games.
 
So, in a short and sweet sentence: go to art school and make games for the fun of it in your hobby. You'll eventually see where your road can head. Perhaps you won't like art, perhaps you'll discover that you like computers. Perhaps you'll realize that you rather be a plumber or an evil yakuza. Life is full of surprises. You never know where your road is heading until you start walking it.

Well, hope this helps a bit...
Later!

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« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2007, 05:27:49 PM »

If you can avoid going the studio route then I would recommend doing so.  Studios seem fun at first but the mood always changes and you're left with the daily grind, doing Gameboy ports of "Barbie Cart Racing" or death marching on a AAA title that will likely end up being cancelled.  Then there's the inevitable massive employee turnover every 2 to 3 years where most of the staff split for greener pastures.

My advice is to acquire skills that cross polinate with the web, marketing, film or tv industries.  In my experience these jobs pay a whole f*** of a lot more than game studios and you're still using the same basic skill sets.  Plus you encounter fewer of the "social troglodyte" personality classes.  You will have to learn to communicate with Mac users, though, so speak slowly and use small words (just kidding!).

In my case I have a job doing Flash games and presentations, using all the typical game development skills.  The work is stupid-easy, the hours are short and the pay is good.

In short: It's cool to say "I work at EA" but it's even cooler to have a well paying day-job and lots of free time to do the indie thing.  I wasn't able to find that in the traditional games industry.
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« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2007, 05:41:36 PM »

I second everything ZombiePixel just said! Smiley
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Alex May
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« Reply #10 on: August 03, 2007, 12:28:30 AM »

If you wish to go the professional route, and can find a small independent studio to work for, that's probably the best thing IMO. By all accounts working for a large company is only great if you're willing to give over your actual life to it (and then become bitter after 2 years) or you're in management. There's a lot of industry mud-slinging about nearly every studio in existence - all this says to me is that in general, management in the games industry is poor.

As ZombiePixel says, you will likely end up working on shovelware while your studio builds enough cash to blow on one of their own IPs. Sometimes this moment will never come; I hereby dub this chasing the professional indie dream, and I think most small independents are doing this.

But yeah, I think on the whole, just take ZP's advice and try and fine a sideline industry rather than going for AAA or shovelware studios. It's not good in these jobs really, and as it's a creative industry your pay will be less than your skills could net you elsewhere. The developer generally loses. In my experience.
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fish
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« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2007, 08:17:44 AM »

avoid the game industry like the plague.
it will drain all the life, fun and creativity out of you and will leave you an empty shell of an obese man.

i was happy, once.
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Alex May
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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2007, 08:43:38 AM »

I drink to forget!  :D

... Cry
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fish
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2007, 10:15:04 AM »

i sleep to forget.
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Inane
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« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2007, 11:16:01 AM »

I forget to sleep, or drink! :D
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« Reply #15 on: August 03, 2007, 11:53:24 AM »

A lot of good advice here.  I totally agree with ZombiePixel.  Keep your options open and always have a backup plan.

I suppose you have three general options when it comes to game development:

  • 1) get a job at a larger studio
  • 2) get a job at an indie studio
  • 3) start an indie studio

Right off the bat I'm going to strongly disuade you from attempting the last one.  More on that in a minute.

You need to decide what's most important to you.  Money? Creativity? Job security?  Longevity?

In my experience, the indie life is far more rewarding than working at the larger studios.  You get to wear a lot of hats, you get to think outside the box, you get to work towards making a difference in a sometimes homogenous industry.  But you're likely to get paid much less than at a big studio, and being that smaller studios usually take more risks, your job security can be questionable.  I read somewhere that 90% of indie startups fail in the first year.  So I guess one word of advice would be that if you're looking into joining an indie team at a smaller studio, make sure they are established.

I'm partial owner of my studio, fulltime almost five years at this point.  And throughout those years, we've had to take plenty of less-than-desirable contract jobs.  We're just getting to the point where we don't have to worry about not having work on the horizon or not having payroll in the bank.  Such is the nature of small business.   

Starting your own studio is an option, but again I would seriously disuade you from attempting that.  Not only would you be wearing so many hats your head would spin (accountant, office manager, payroll, team manager, new accounts, computer tech, etc... oh, did I forget artist or programmer?), it can be very risky and very stressful.  Only after many years or a lot of luck could your studio begin to afford to change these things.  And smaller studios pay less.  Especially if you're the owner.  I pay my employees better than I pay myself.  Yeah, I've had to make a lot of compromises to keep this place going.  But obviously I feel like it's worth it.

Sometimes I miss the days of having a fat salary at a larger studio, just doing UI work all day on racing games.  But my job now is a lot more fun, full of a lot more variety, and a much better use of my skills.
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« Reply #16 on: August 03, 2007, 12:42:14 PM »

I don't need to sleep, I can stop anytime I want Grin
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« Reply #17 on: August 03, 2007, 02:26:06 PM »

Meh.

Keep doing what interests you, what you care about. The rest will fall into place in time.
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« Reply #18 on: August 04, 2007, 06:39:52 AM »

Yeah, I think Alec said it all.

I have always been good in school - never actually enjoyed it a much. I went to university to study media and communication. I thought that I probably find it interesting enough. Well.. I didn't. Instead of trying to get good grades I spent my free time drinking a lot of beer with my friends, and also making websites. Why should I use all the time listening some boring professor, when I could do something that I found creative and fun? Do what you enjoy most - but if it's only drinking (or playing games) then you have problems. Do something creative, something that makes you better in something. Don't think too much things like "painters don't get jobs", "nobody lives by doing comics"... If you are good in something - then you will always do great in life. If you just go through that university route, then you are like everybody else out there.

I know many people who have studied years and years - and they really don't like what they do and they also say that they suck in what they do.

And what happened to me? After three years of wild life in university me and my girlfriend got a child. I went to work small it-company to (15-20 people) make web pages. Spending time at home is not a problem to me - I enjoy it a lot (after that 24h/7 partying anyways). And my son is greatest kid out there, almost 6 months already.

Do what you enjoy, train and relax. Be a good person. Life will be good. And most important - don't listen your parents too much, if all they are speaking is school. Just take care that you do something creative.
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« Reply #19 on: August 04, 2007, 06:45:16 AM »

And I don't meant that university-route is bad - it just don't suite to everyone. And some people just aren't creative in any way - so it would be just perfect for them to go to trade school and do some boring business.
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