Break Into the Game Industry


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Break Into tiny shadow


The Ultimate Book for Aspiring Game Developers

Get the book. Then get the job.

Ernest Adams has been around the gaming block many times; his industry insights coupled with the developer war stories should give any aspirant that extra edge to break into the game industry.

    Jason Della Rocca, Program Director, IGDA

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Years ago I thought I would try to break into the book-publishing industry by writing a little book about how to break into the game industry. Well, I've done it, but it turned out to be a not-so-little book: over 300 pages. I crammed in everything I know about getting a job making video games, plus a lot of information from other game developers as well. This is no mere "how to write a résumé" book. It tells you what to study in high school and college, what jobs are available, and how to go about getting one. It also has sections for people who don't have the opportunity to get a formal education, and information for people who want to switch from a different career.

Break Into the Game Industry gives you the details an ordinary job-hunting manual can't: how games are built and how the game industry works as a business. It's full of inside info from seasoned professionals that you would otherwise only learn on the job. Read this book and you'll walk into your first interview a much better-prepared candidate.

The appendices are full of additional  information, including over 200 places to learn game development; free tools you can download to help you build a portfolio or demo; a detailed list of study topics; and numerous networking resources to help you make contacts in the industry.

    A "hit you over the head" description of the game industry and its greatest secrets, littered with war stories from an industry old-timer who has seen it all.

      — Graeme J. Devine, Programmer, id Software

    A detailed and highly readable roadmap to careers in the game software industry... reading this book is like having a personal mentor show you the ropes.

      Dave Grundgeiger, author of Programming Visual Basic .NET

Text From the Back Cover:

    Practical Advice for Landing the Job You Want!

      Join the fun! Learn how to become part of the excitement and creativity of game development—one of the hottest and most profitable industries today. Author, game designer, and producer Ernest Adams takes you inside the game industry, then delivers an action plan for you to break in—even without any game industry experience.

      Get great career advice and learn the different jobs that are available. Whether you're a curious gamer, a student, or a career changer seeking immediate help, this handy guide provides the information and insider advice you need to land a job in the game industry.

        – Learn how a game is built and published
        – Understand and acquire the skills you need to get into the industry
        – Discover the inner workings of the game business
        – Get your foot in the door as a game tester, or with other entry-level jobs
        – Exercise your creativity as a game designer, artist, producer, or programmer
        – Get the right education for the job you want
        – Gain insightful advice from more than 20 industry professionals
        – Includes hundreds of useful resources for job-seekers

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Table of Contents

    1 A Brief History of Interactive Entertainment

      Computer Games and Mainframes
      Arcade Games and Console Games
      Enter the Personal Computer
      The Rebirth of Console Games
      The IBM PC Arrives
      The CD-ROM Changes Everything
      Interactive Movies Come... and Go
      3-D Graphics Hardware Reinvents Action Gaming
      The Online Explosion

    2 A World of Games

      Personal Computer Games
      Home Console Games

        Games in the International Market
        How the Xbox Changed the Rules

      Arcade Games
      Online Games
      Handheld Devices
      Location-Based Entertainment
      Gambling Equipment
      Miscellaneous Games
      Games Versus Multimedia

    3 How the Game Industry Functions

      Some Fundamentals

      Tracing a Game to Its Source

        The Customer
        The Retailer
        The Distributor
        Electronic Arts: A Game Industry Giant
        The Publisher
        The Internal/External Cycle
        The Developer
        Converting Games to Other Platforms

      Related Businesses

        Console Manufacturers
        Add-on Manufacturers
        Product Manufacturers

      Other Distribution Channels

        Unsold Returns: A Game Industry Scam

      Gamer Demographics and Markets

        "Video Games Are for Kids"
        "Video Games Are for Boys (and Nerdy Men)"
        Casual Versus Hardcore

      Game Genres

        Strategy and War Games
        Sports Games
        Vehicle Simulators
        Construction and Management Simulations
        Graphic Adventures
        Fantasy Role-Playing Games
        Online Role-Playing Games
        Puzzle Games and Software Toys
        Children's Games

      The Game Press and Web Sites

        Players Magazines and Web Sites
        Industry Publications and Web Sites


    4 Inside the Fun Factory

      Internal or External Development?

      Stage 1: The Brilliant Idea

        Evolutionary or Revolutionary?
        How Publishers Hear about Game Ideas
        Pitching the Game

      Stage 2: Pre-Production

        Design Work
        Technical Research and Prototyping
        Project Planning
        Going to Full Production
        The Development Contract

      Stage 3: Production

        The Production Process (and Why It's Not Your Problem Yet)
        Jobhunting Tip: Avoiding Incompetent Employers
        Meetings, Meetings, Meetings!
        Marketing Activities

      Stage 4: Testing

        Alpha Testing
        Beta Testing
        Configuration Testing
        Disney's Christmas Configuration Calamity
        Content Ratings
        Quality Assurance
        A QA Failure
        Licensor and Console Manufacturer Approvals
        A Sample Development Schedule

      Stage 5: Manufacturing


    5 Preparing to Be a Game Developer

      If You're Still in Public School

        Uncover Your Talents
        Lay the Foundations
        Dont Drop Out!

      Selecting Your Higher Education

        University or Trade School?
        The Two-Year/Four-Year Question: A Personal View
        How to Evaluate the Programs,How Do They Feel about Games?

      What to Study in College

        How to Use the Curriculum Framework
        Color Outside the Lines!
        Learn about Particular Areas
        Other Useful Subjects

      Postgraduate Programs

      If You've Already Got a Job in Film, TV, or Other Entertainment Media

        Your Head Start and Your Handicap
        Learn about the Differences
        Breaking in: From Television to Games
        If Youre in High-Tech Hollywood

      If You've Got a Job Elsewhere in High Technology

        Your Head Start and Your Handicap
        The Legend of Army Battlezone
        Learn about the Differences
        Breaking in: From Silicon Valley to Games

      Other Ways to Prepare Yourself

        Play the Games
        Breaking in: Playing and Persistence Pay Off
        Develop Your Own Games or Game Elements
        Attend Industry Events
        Follow the Press
        Be Your Own Press
        Take Part in Beta Tests
        Attend Focus Groups


    6 Skills and Careers in the Game Industry

      Production Versus Development

        Two Different Mindsets
        What about Internal Development?
        Internal and External Producers: Still More Confusion!
        A Warning about Job Titles, Responsibilities, and Org Charts
        The Two (Well, Three) Types of Career Ladders
        How Do I Change from One Ladder to Another?
        Project Organization


        A Day in the Life of an Engine Programmer
        Talents and Skills
        Inside the Job of a Port Programmer

      Art and Animation

        A Day in the Life of a Production Artist
        Talents and Skills

      Audio and Music

        A Day in the Life of an Audio Lead
        Talents and Skills


        A Day in the Life of a Writer
        Talents and Skills

      Game Design

        Design Jobs
        A Day in the Life of a Game Designer
        Talents and Skills

      Producing and Project Management

        Production Jobs
        A Day in the Life of a Producer
        Talents and Skills

      Testing and Quality Assurance

        Breaking in: All Experience Is Good Experience
        Talents and Skills

      Non-Development Jobs

        A Day in the Life of a Marketing Director
        Public Relations

      Other Entry-Level Jobs

        Customer Service
        Information Technology
        Warranty Returns


    7 How to Get a Job

      Packaging Yourself as a Professional

        Introducing Mary Margaret Walker: Recruiter Extraordinaire

      Networking: It's Not What You Know...

        Where to Meet Game Developers
        Researching a Company
        About Recruiters
        How to Schmooze
        Talking about Yourself
        Be Real!

      Your Résumé and Cover Letter

        Mary Margaret's Résumé Tips
        Don't Get Cute
        Never Lie, but Always Spin
        Job-Hunting Tip: Show Them You're Adaptable
        More Suggestions about Résumé Content
        Crafting the Cover Letter

      Building Your Portfolio or Demo

        Mary Margaret's Tips on Demos
        More about Demos
        What about Nudes or Erotic Material?
        Job-Hunting Tip: Don't Mail in a Mountain of Stuff!

      On the Hunt: Finding and Applying for Jobs

        How Do You Find the Jobs?
        Mailing out Your Résumé

      Handling the Interview

        About Phone Interviews
        Mary Margaret's Interviewing Tips
        Dress Properly: Neither Too Poorly nor Too Well
        Who Will Interview You?
        Showing Your Demo or Portfolio
        What about Tests?
        Job-Hunting Tip: Show Them You're a Team Player

      The Compensation Package

        Financial Compensation
        Time-Off Benefits
        Health-Related Benefits
        Retirement Plans
        Miscellaneous Benefits
        Work Policies


        Reasons to Accept a Lower Salary
        Reasons NOT to Accept a Lower Salary
        Get It in Writing

      Discrimination and Workplace Issues

        Inside the Job: Advice for Women in the Game Industry
        Gays and Lesbians
        Non-Western Game Developers


    8 Legal Issues for Creative People

      First, Three Disclaimers

      You Can't Protect an Idea Alone

      The Three Types of Intellectual Property Protection


      Trade Secrets and Non-Disclosure Agreements

        NDAs and Job Interviews

      Don't Worry Too Much about Protecting Your Ideas

      Understanding Your Employment Contract

        It's Not about the Money
        Beware: Your Inventions Are Not Your Own!
        Protecting Your Existing Inventions
        The California Labor Code on Inventions
        The Hazards of Moonlighting
        Moral Rights
        Your Duty to Protect Your Company's Property
        How Come You're Being Kept in the Dark?


    9 The Future of Game Development

      Bigger Games, Bigger Teams

        Bigger Teams Mean More Bureaucracy
        The Rise of the Content Creators
        Programmer Specialization
        Subcontracted Services

      Spiraling Development Costs and Consequences

        Publisher Conservatism
        Sequels and Sequels to Sequels

      New Options for New Ideas

        Homebrew: Mods, Bots, and Engines
        Academic Research
        Video Games as an Art Form

      Will there Be Another Crash? How Safe Is this Business?

      A Few Final Words

    Appendix A: Educational Institutions

    Appendix B: IGDA Curriculum Framework


        Contact Info


        About the Framework

      Overview of Core Topics

        Critical Game Studies
        Games and Society
        Game Design
        Game Programming
        Visual Design
        Audio Design
        Interactive Storytelling
        Game Production
        Business of Gaming

      Core Topics Breakdown

        Critical Game Studies
        Games and Society
        Game Design
        Game Programming
        Visual Design
        Audio Design
        Interactive Storytelling
        Game Production
        Business of Gaming

      Tying Core Topics to Career Options

        Game Studies Scholar and Educator
        Game Technology Educator
        Game Journalist
        Game Designer
        Level Designer
        Game Graphics Artist
        Game Audio Engineer


    Appendix C: Jobhunting Resources and Development Tools

      Major Employers in the Game Industry

      The IGDA Breaking In Page

      Free or Inexpensive Development Tools

        Programming Tools
        Art Tools
        Audio Tools
        Office Tools

      Professional Game Development Web Sites

        Console Manufacturers Web Sites
        Game Job Postings

      Networking Resources

        Resources for Women
        Resources for Minorities
        Miscellaneous Resources

    Glossary of Game Industry Terms


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