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- Published on Amazon.com
Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Many years ago, I spent my after school hours in the role of the brightly clad plumber, stomping evil mushrooms on route to rescuing a captive princess. Were you to ask me of future job ambitions, I would not have hesitated to answer, "computer programmer." So strong was this desire, that 7th grade me taught himself a pretty rudimentary understanding of BASIC language with which to create custom video games. Now granted, by video games I do mean text-based, decision making numbers and action games in which the letter A could be controlled with the keyboard while being chased around the screen by the letter Z. Suffice to say Nintendo and Sega didn't come calling.
As grade school turned into high school, BASIC went extinct, C++ became the programming language of choice, I discovered cars and girls, and somehow my aspirations of video game designing were dropkicked by the allure of a college major in Business Administration. Those early days spent writing code were as close as I would ever get but the charm of video gaming never wore off. In fact, even now, while immersed in some epic quest on the Playstation 3, I find myself wondering about the industry as a whole and what it takes to become a part of it. Enter Breaking Into the Game Industry by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber; for me satiation to long-standing curiosity, for someone serious about being employed in the video game industry, a lifesaver.
The book is of the Course Technology series part of something called the CENGAGE Learning System. Not to worry if that means nothing to you, as I understand it, such classification puts it in the Professional, Technical & Reference category. Indeed, a perfect-bound softcover, it appears as if it would belong on the same shelf as say, "Welcome to the Exciting World of C++" and "Computer Programming for Dummies".
Coming in at close to 300 pages, the initial reaction could be one of overwhelmed until scanning even the introductory pages. The authors of the book take a very conversational approach to the material, written almost as if it were an email to a friend. Better still once the actual book begins, each and every bit of advice provided come in the form of easily digestible question & answer format.
Spanning the 291 pages are 100 questions; identified by the author as the most commonly asked of she and her colleagues and they cover some points I suspect would be incredibly useful for a student of video game design looking to get out and find employment in the field. Among these are what your business card should say, how your portfolio should look, dos and don'ts when talking to established game designers, writing cover letters, even proper attire when showing up to an interview!
Additionally interesting is that the book addresses the reality that while going to a college, university or specialized school to acquire degrees/ certifications is one route to breaking in, it is not the only one. It does frequently offer advice and tips to those individuals gifted with artistic ability, naturally bilingual (where the second happens to be assembly language) and those oddities who always wondered what it takes to break into the video game industry.
Another point worth mentioning is that while she does not elaborate on it, the author (Brenda Brathwaite) claims to have gotten her start in the industry at merely 15-years-old so clearly PhDs are not a requisite. The subtitle of this book is "Advice for a Successful Career from Those Who Have Done It" and while I figured we would have to take the authors' word for that, the fact is Brenda herself comes packing a resume that had me wanting to offer her a job- and I don't even work in the game industry! Her credits include working for Atari and Electronics Arts and having played a hand in the development of countless popular social-networking classics like Garden Life, Ravenwood Fair, Critter Island, and SuperPoke Pets!
Her coauthor Ian Schreiber has a history of teaching game design, has worked on many projects (including developing software used for corporate training) and is known for having co-founded Global Game Jam (GGJ); the world's largest game creation event.
As highly decorated as this pair come, surprisingly they serve mainly as the structure and research behind the book; chiming in with their own answers periodically, though a majority of the questions are fielded by their colleagues in the industry. This technique goes a long way in diversifying the information presented and prevents the authors from coming off as know-it-allish.
In all, I have to say that reading through the book was quite an interesting experience. I won't try to pretend that all of the information here was pertinent to someone in my position (just mild curiosity as to how it all works), it will likely prove quite beneficial to those individuals seriously putting together a plan of attack for getting involved. I did come away with some newfound tidbits such as what separates a Triple-A game (nothing to do with roadside assistance as you may have suspected) from a Casual Game from a Serious Game for example. I can also state with certainty that the word BASIC is never once mentioned throughout- go figure.
- Published on Amazon.com
Breaking Into the Game Industry, by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber has a perfect mix of practicality-teaching and personal anecdotes. It is formatted in a way such that the chapters are answering specific questions from a pool of commonly asked questions by students and aspiring developers. This means that if you're a student, there is a good chance that many of the questions you've been thinking about asking a professional developer will be included in this book--and then some. There are even interviews with pertinent game developers under the section into which they would provide more insight than Brenda or Ian could themselves. I appreciate this arsenal of direct sources and each developer has their own way of thinking of the industry and handling situations, so the reader can learn a lot by the collective opinion on what is the right thing to do to get a job, once hired, and how to evolve the industry as a whole.
I particularly enjoy reading each individual section that is broken up into categories based on job discipline. Are you looking to be a Character Artist? Environment Artist? Game Designer? Game Writer? Programmer? Sound Designer? Pretty much ever major discipline has it's own individual chapter in this book (note that the chapters are more conducted as sub-chapters and all follow a brief and to-the-point approach. So a single chapter may only be a page long). The book will tell you exactly what studios are looking for and what to have in your portfolio or what to focus on while you are in school. How do you know it's exactly what studios are looking for? Well, many times the criteria is outlined by a professional in the field (sometimes a team lead or someone more experienced).
Another insightful side-effect of reading this book are the personal anecdotes. I know that, from my perspective, I am always interested in hearing how people got their start in the game industry and also how they moved up or moved laterally to positions with other studios. This is helpful because once you hear so many, you start to see subtle patterns developing. This may be unimportant to some but I can guarantee you that reading between the lines from people who have done it is about the best way to learn for yourself, as we all know that some may not be the best at easily explaining themselves or quantifying and outlining their success. Once you get to hearing their experiences, though, you will be able to form the picture in your head of why they were successful or what type of mindset they have (hint: ambition and hard-working are two of the strongest characteristics to have when starting your career).
Perhaps the most valuable portion of this book, in my opinion, is the section about searching for jobs. I am a seasoned veteran to the industry but I may not have been keeping up with technology A or practicing the theories of group B. Well, Brenda is always on top of her technology and she introduced new methods of searching for jobs--or posting job listings or mod team help, for that matter--and one of the strategies she mentions is using Twitter to find all of your industry information. I usually have been using popular job websites like LinkedIn and Gamasutra, or lesser-known ones such as creativeheads.net or gameguzzler.com, but really never considered Twitter serious in apprehending a new job. Well, she says she almost uses it exclusively to recruit new talent and it seems to be the way to go if you are looking to be a social games developer or get your foot in the door at a small start-up, as they will not have the capital to be listing jobs on major job boards and taking large amounts of time screening international candidates. So, I highly recommend that you start following major game developers such as Ian, Brenda, Will Wright, Warren Spector, Gabe Newell, Richard Garriot, Cliff Bleszinski, and other lesser-known developers to get the current industry scoop and to find potential job listings.
There is a section in this book that explicitly tells you how to recover from a failed art/programming/design test. I didn't know that this was possible, but it's great to know that you can at least try and the worst the studio will say is no--again--which isn't bad since you've already got a rejection. This type of information is valuable to industry professionals as well as rookies or newbies, and it is an example why anyone at any level can take away something from this book.
Lastly, I highly respect the honesty that the authors give when describing how to handle job interviews and salary negotiation. I am not as veteran as the them, as they have had decades of experience in the industry. Thus, it was interesting to learn how they handle salary negotiation and when the best time to negotiate is. Want to know? ...You'll have to read the book!
If you are serious about your career than you will understand that it is common sense that reading books about what it takes to get a job in a specific industry that you are aiming at are worth their weight in gold. It is far cheaper than any textbook you will need for a single college course, and teach you a heck of a lot more. So, you would be only missing out if you don't buy Breaking into the Game Industry and learning what is has to offer in your pursuit of being the best game developer that you can be.
Author, "How to Get a Job in Video Games"