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Careers In Video Games Are “Pretty Awesome” (Interview)

by Marc Luber

Careers in video games are “pretty awesome” according to today’s guest, video game producer Aaron Roseman. Aaron shares great insight into how to become a video game developer and what developer careers are like – plus what he did to achieve his dream job of becoming a video game producer!

SHORT VIDEO (Full Episode down below)

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Today’s Guest

Aaron RosemanGuest: Aaron Roseman
Current Job: Associate Producer at Major Game Developer
College Major: Screenwriting & Film Production
College: Cal State Northridge in Northridge, CA
High School: Milken Community High School in Los Angeles, CA
First Job Ever: Courtesy clerk at Ralph’s grocery store
Worst Job Ever: See first job ever!


Careers In Video Games

To become a video game developer, Aaron says you’d better have a passion for games because this path can be a lot of work! Producers interact with all of the different roles (including coders, animators, artists, and sound designers) to coordinate their efforts and complete the development of a game on time. Aaron says the best step to take in becoming a video game producer or to get jobs in any of these other roles is to first work in quality assurance and test games. He says a video game tester career is a great way to get your foot in the door, meet people, learn the business, the lifestyle and prove yourself. If you’re looking for a great industry resource, check out GamesIndustry.biz.

FULL EPISODE (#29)


For our Audio Podcast: Careers Out There on iTunes

TRANSCRIPT OF TODAY’S INTERVIEW

Careers in Video Games 2:01-11:02
How To Become a Video Game Developer 11:02-16:46
Challenges of Careers in Video Games 16:46-18:45
Requirements to Become A Video Game Developer 18:45-21:13
Keys to Success for Careers in Video Games 21:13

Careers Out There Host Marc Luber: Hey everyone welcome to Careers Out There. I’m your host Marc Luber and we’re helping you find a career that fits you. Today we’re looking at video game careers. Do you know that the video game industry is bigger than a $20 billion a year business just in the U.S. alone? That’s bigger than the movie and music businesses combined.

Our guest today is Aaron Roseman, and he’s a video game producer with one of the top game developers in the world. It’s gonna be a great show – so stick around!

[theme song] OK, we’re back. Aaron, welcome to Careers Out There.

Video Game Producer Aaron Roseman: Marc thanks for having me on your show.

Luber: Absolutely. Thanks for being here. So you are in an industry that is SO huge, so successful, so exciting, has a huge stamp on pop culture today, so many people who want cool jobs want to do what you’re doing….what’s it like?

Aaron Roseman: I’m not gonna lie Marc, it’s pretty awesome! It’s a lot of fun. I love what I do. In my opinion, it’s quite possibly the coolest job in the entire world outside of race car driver or astronaut or professional Lego builder. But…we all have our dreams! I love working in games.

Like I said, it’s the greatest industry in the entire world. I work with some of the most fun, creative, imaginative, funny…just good people. I love it. I enjoy coming to work every day and it sounds – everybody has their down days and stuff like that – but the truth is it really is just a great environment and a lot of fun.

Luber: It’s so great when someone can actually say that. That’s really really special.

I want to tell everybody –you’re just here representing yourself, you’re telling your story so that everybody can learn what it’s all about to be a video game producer. You are not here hiring, recruiting for them…you are not here as their official spokesperson. So – we’ll get that housekeeping out of the way.

[Aaron is here not as a representative of his employer but as an individual who loves games, fought his way into the video games industry and today is an Associate Producer, working in his dream job on some of the best known games out there.]

Aaron: Tonight is just about me and being an AP and working in games from my experience and my point of view.

[CAREERS IN VIDEO GAMES starts at 2:02]
Luber: So I have a feeling that a lot of the people that are watching are really interested in learning how to break in to the industry and they probably know all about the industry already – but for the people who don’t already know, give us the lay of the land – what it means to be a studio and what else is in the industry?

Aaron: Well the industry is split into a lot of groups. You could be a part of the video game industry and work at Game Stop because you’re working at selling the games. You could be part of the industry and the people printing the games. You could be a part of it working at a publisher. You could be a part of it working at a development studio – you’ve got the coders and a sound department and animators and artists and a production staff.

It’s all one giant storm but it’s all coming together to create one fun game for everybody.

Luber: So there’s all those different roles that bring in different skills, different types of people, different backgrounds?

Aaron: Yes. Like I said, the publisher’s main goal is to make sure everything is done on time and on the shelves. ON time and as promised.

Luber: You talked about animators, coders, you’re neither of those – you’re an Associate Producer. Tell us what it means to be an Associate Producer. What’s your role over there?

Aaron: I am neither a coder nor an animator is right. I claim to be none of those. Or an artist or none of the above. As an AP, there are several roles on a team. Depending on what your status is, essentially you’re managing specific tasks or a group of people at any given time.

An AP can be in charge of a handful of missions for a game – making sure that the designers, the artists, the coders and the animators are all working together to create the task of completing these levels on time. Meanwhile, another producer is actually zeroing in on a specific task – like specifically animation or specifically environments – or specifically multi-player or on game play balancing. There’s producers for everything making sure that all sorts of tasks are being done and finished on time.

And like I said, the videogame industry in a studio is like a big, giant storm and at any given moment things are just flying all over the place and it’s up to the producers to take all that information that’s all over the place – everywhere – and make sure that everybody is talking with each other and it’s all connected and one in order to complete the game, to finish a game.

Luber: So you’re like a coordinator helping to pull all the pieces of the puzzle together.

Aaron: Essentially, yes. And then there’s levels to producers. There’s Production Coordinator – what they do – they’re there for the team. So if people on the team – running anywhere from getting supplies to taking notes in a meeting , making sure people have their hardware set up, like their Xboxes are set up, they have TVs, they have computers, everything they need is there for them. Much like a gopher is in the movie industry except at the same time a production coordinator has the chance to learn a certain skill set.

A PC will usually have the choice of whether or not they want to continue on the production path or branch off and say they want to do design or they want to go into audio or something else. It’s a good place to be. But that’s production coordinator.

Luber: And that’s like the first level of production?

Aaron: That’s the first level of production, yeah. The next one is AP, which is where I’m currently at.

Luber: Tell us how many years out of school are you? How many years out of college are you at this point?

Aaron: I’m 6 years out of college and I’m an AP. An AP can be in charge of design, sound, audio, animation… we have a whole knowledge of the entire game and everything that’s going on in all departments.

And so we’re piecing all of this information together, putting together impromptu schedules, looking at how much time each task will take and presenting it to our producers – in my case a producer –and then they make the decisions on what has to be done.

And then the producer will hand me tasks – hand the APs tasks – and tell us what else needs to get done whether it’s make sure certain characters are done by a certain date and time or specific environments the bugs were fixed in them – you know – things like that. We have to keep on track of those specific tasks.

It’s all for the greater good of getting a game done on time.

Luber: And then what do people do at the higher levels? How is the role different if you then become a producer and then whatever is above a producer?

Aaron: The role of a producer has the big picture in mind. They’re in charge of making sure that the APs are getting their work done as well as talking with the leads of the animators – like the leads of the different departments of the games and they’re in cahoots with them. They’re constantly talking about scheduling and constantly talking about what needs to get done.

So essentially the producers are like generals plotting out the strategy – they’re plotting out the battle, the strategies and stuff like that. And then they send in the APs to make sure that it’s all gonna get done.

Luber: And who’s above them?

Aaron: That would be the senior producers, the executive producers, then the studio heads.

Luber: How would a senior producer and an executive producer then be different from the producer?

Aaron: A Senior producer – they deal with the bigger aspects of the game – more on top of what needs to get done – and like the highest level for in order to get the game out the door. That’s a very picture and like I said they also make the big schedule for the game. They decide what gets done, what gets chopped, what gets cut from the game, what stays in the game.

The senior and executive producers have a very big say-so in the development of the game. They know what can and can’t be done. And like I said they’re like generals – they command teams and it’s up to them to make sure that we go into battle and we win. In this case, ship a game on time.

Luber: So the production team as a whole, it sounds like, the overall role is to keep the engine going – to keep everybody pulling everything together so that everything can get out there and eventually get into the hands of the fans.

Aaron: Yeah. Correct. Essentially the role of the production team is to make sure that the game development never stops. Like you said, the gears keep going. From the production coordinator like I said earlier, it’s making sure someone’s computer is working, making sure that they have the right hardware, make sure they have computer monitors, make sure that their mouse works, make sure – when I was a PC – I used to be a PC – making sure that the team is fed. It’s very important things – essentially general team happiness is a major part of that job.

And as a producer it still a major part of the job – team happiness – make sure people are comfortable because sometimes you have to say – ask them to do stuff that they don’t want to do. But you can’t let it – you’ve gotta let them know at the same time that their work is extremely appreciated and then the truth is and in the long run sometimes – not sometimes – but it pays off – you get your game on the shelves and it’s a really great feeling. It’s awesome! It’s really awesome actually!

Luber: Yeah! It’s gotta be really fun to know that you’re working on something that the world gets to interact with!

Aaron: Exactly! And that’s really cool. It’s great. It’s a good feeling.

Luber: We’ve talked about the big role of all the producers combined – what about you then as an associate producer – what’s a typical day?

Aaron: That varies from the different stages of production. I’ll show up to work, I’ll get on my computer, I’ll look at the emails, I’ll look at the bug database, which is extremely important for an associate producer and any production staff member is to look at the bugs, see what’s broken in the game, see what’s busted and then from there at least later in production formulate a task list and then talk to people based on the bugs, what work they have to get done.

And you have to speak with the appropriate people whether it’s a coder or an animator or an artist – or it’s all 3 of them – or all designers – or all of them together – to get that specific task done whether it’s due that day or later in the week – and it’s your job to oversee all of it.

There’s a lot of talking involved – you have to talk with a lot of people and be able to compute information that they tell you. If someone walks up to you and says, “I’m not gonna be able to get this part – piece of work done on time” – as a producer you have to take that little bit of information that they just gave you and compute it in your mind and say, “OK – animator A says he can’t get this character done on time – how is that gonna affect the tasks for the rest of the week” and it’s up to the producer to be like, “hey man, this isn’t an option” or – “you gotta get it done” or “we can punt on it”.

Luber: So you’re coordinating the whole thing you’re pulling people together, you’re keeping the machine rolling forward.

Aaron: Correct. And a team is usually made up of several APs making sure all the work gets done because one AP can’t handle all of the work – it’s just not possible – there’s so much going on. You just have to talk to people all day – that’s a lot of what an associate producer does. And writing a lot of Excel sheets and sending out a lot of emails.

Luber: And the excel sheets are tracking where everything’s at?

Aaron: Exactly. Tracking bugs, tracking tasks, stuff like that.

[HOW TO BECOME A VIDEO GAME DEVELOPER starts at 11:02]
Luber: Let’s get to what I think so many people want to know – which is how do you break in?

Aaron: I’d say the best way to do it is to apply for a job as a video game tester.

Luber: As a tester!

Aaron: Start in QA and work your way up from there.

Luber: QA is quality assurance?

Aaron: Yes, QA stands for quality assurance and that’s essentially a video game tester. The greatest job on the planet guys – and girls!

Luber: So you sit and play and complain about what’s not working right essentially?

Aaron: I wouldn’t say complain. You find bugs in a game. There’s a million games out there people – there’s so many games – and there are testers for everything. If you’re gonna become a tester, don’t always think that you’re gonna become the tester on the world’s coolest game and you’re gonna get on Halo and be on that team playing multiplayer all day.

Yes, you do that and you play a lot of multiplayer but as a tester there’s a lot of bug writing – a lot of form filling – a lot of late hours and a lot of sitting in front of a TV not moving and playing the same game for several months on end – it’s not 1, 2, 3, 4. It’s like 5, 6, 7 months, depending on the project and what you’re doing.

It can be a really tedious job at times but it is probably the best way to get in to the industry.

Luber: And what does someone have to do to get that job? Can they be anybody? Do they have to have worked in the video game world in some way?

Aaron: Great question Marc! In my experience anybody can be a tester. Just have a resume, have basic computer knowledge, shower – showering is a plus – that’s always a plus in QA – you’ve gotta know how to play videogames.

You’ve gotta know how to play games. It’s their job to break the game, crash the game, see what sort of weird graphical issues they can occur, making sure that the lighting looks well, the characters don’t run into walls, the game doesn’t crash, that everything sounds well.

It’s kind of like a movie production, Marc. You’ve got your lights, your camera, gotta make sure the camera works, gotta make sure the lights work. The controls are responsive. And it’s QA’s job to look out for all these things. They’re hired because they’re supposed to be the best of the best game players.

Luber: And so then someone does that and then they prove themselves by taking the job seriously, then they can move up?

Aaron: Exactly. But it’s not just that – it’s – a QA is kind of like a make-or-break position as well. The truth is it’s a really serious position and from production, personally, I expect the best out of my testers but if you stick to it and show a real dedication to just like loving games, you know, good things – good things can happen – just be enthusiastic, be happy about it, don’t be a giant kiss-ass.

Luber: If getting into QA is the key thing and people want to break in, how can they get in to QA in the first place/ What’s the best way for someone whether they’re sitting in Iowa or Nebraska right now or they already live in NY, or LA or Austin, TX. What can they do to do that role?

Aaron: Oh man. A lot – you could do – to do that role essentially – to get into QA – have a resume and go to a publisher or developer’s website and see if they have positions open. That’s what I did. I went for interviews and I totally bombed the interviews and I never got those jobs in QA and I was so upset. I was so disappointed. But I just kept persisting.

Don’t give up – and even if you can’t get in as a tester, my best advice is just somehow try and stay involved in the games industry. My knowledge was then expanded when I worked at a game shop. Like at this mom and pop store – the Games for Less. I’d get paid to sell games and play games.

Luber: So would you recommend to a kid in high school right now who’s a big gamer but not quite probably able to get that QA job, he or she should start in a store?

Aaron: I definitely recommend starting in a store – if there’s a store that’s hiring, get a job there – the people who work in a store are always a colorful cast of characters – it’s always so much fun.

I recommend if you can do it go to the mom and pop store – because usually they don’t sell just the new games they sell games from all generations and if you’re in a store like that you have the opportunity to play – like I said – everything.

The other thing that I did – when I was younger – when I was like 12, 13, 14- what I would do is I’d go to different software developers whether it was Microsoft or some small game studio and then I’d literally just look for an email address or see if they had any type of beta center or some sort of testing.

In the case of the game studios, I actually got a couple of betas for these cool games that never saw the light of day. You just email somebody there and be like, “hey I’m really interested – I saw your website – I saw this small game you’re working on – if you need somebody to help test It, I’m your man – I’ll help you write these bugs – I’d love to do this.” Just try and get your hand in there or your foot in there anyway you can – just get experience.

Luber: Tell me this – so many people come home from work and to relax and unwind they play video games. You’re doing this all day, working in it at work. Do you still come home and play video games?

Aaron: Yes, yes I do – every day actually. I work with a lot of the smartest, most giantest nerds on the face of the planet and they love games so much. These are people – they literally sit and animate, code or do whatever they have to all day on whatever game we’re working on that they go home just like me and they play every game they could get their hands on.

These people are like super fans and we play it all as often as possible whether it’s old, new, etc. But yeah, to get in – not to get in – but I’d say to sustain yourself in this industry it doesn’t hurt to have a real passion for games.

[CHALLENGES OF CAREERS IN VIDEO GAMES starts at 16:45]
Luber: I always ask everybody two things- the most rewarding aspect of the job and the most challenging. I think we get the most rewarding b/c obviously you get to be in nerdland and so for the most challenging aspect, what’s the thing that you’d say could weed people out – for the people watching at home who really think they want to be in this industry – what would you say if you can’t handle this, don’t waste your time – move on – go do something else?

Aaron: Let me start first by saying the number one thing that would weed people out: The hours.

Luber: So the hours are the most challenging thing. Was there anything else you would say?

Aaron: The technical aspects of the development of a game. There’s a lot more that goes into a game than what a lot of people think. There are so many bits and pieces of the game that have to come together. Every day I’m learning something new and something different. And it’s a lot to take in.

And it’s easily – if you don’t catch on quick and if you’re not as perceptive or can’t take in certain information or technical information, you will drown a little bit and you’ll get lost.

But – but as long as you have a good team behind you they’ll make sure that you don’t get lost and they’ll help you through it but at the same time to get to where you’re at right now, you have to know this sort of thing – you have to know – have a certain knowledge of computers at the very least.

Along with the hours – it sounds silly but it’s a pretty stressful environment and a lot of people are under pressure from their bosses and their bosses’ bosses.

Luber: So you need to have a thick skin?

Aaron: You have to have a thick skin not take certain criticisms personally.

Luber: And I would think what leads to that issue is just the fact that the money is SO huge that’s at stake for each game combined with the fact that you guys have really strict deadlines!

Aaron: But that sort of pressure is intense cause it’s not just about the money – and the deadlines – it’s about – you have to deal with hundreds of people on a team as well – I mean there’s so many individuals and every person is unique.

[REQUIREMENTS TO BECOME A VIDEO GAME DEVELOPER starts at 18:45]
Luber: So let’s take that and boil it down to some of the key things that people need if they’re coming into this industry to be some kind of producer – you’ve gotta be – it sounds like you’ve gotta be some kind of a people person because you’re interacting with all different kinds of people – they’re not just lots of people – it’s different kinds – cause there’s all these people that fill different roles that you’re interacting with to keep them working together. There are different types of people that fit those roles, right?

Aaron: Exactly. Correct.

Luber: OK, so you’ve got that. Then you got the fact that you’ve gotta have a thick skin, you’ve gotta be able to deal with deadlines, you’ve gotta know your stuff, let me see what else – what about – is there a particular education – does it matter – do you need a college degree? And should that college degree be in a certain thing? You said yours was in filmmaking.

Aaron: Mine was in filmmaking – I‘ve seen people in the industry that are working who never got a college degree. They never completed college, they never got the degree, but I’m not saying like any Joe Shmoe who barely finished high school could go on and be a producer – you have to have your wits about you.

Just because they didn’t finish college doesn’t mean these people are not smart. They’re on top of their game – they’re extremely smart – they’re extremely knowledgeable and instead of picking up their education to be in the videogame industry in a classroom some of them started in QA and just stayed in QA until eventually they made it up a little bit. They learned. They got their education on the streets, Marc, that’s all I gotta say.

Luber: There you go! That’s sometimes every bit as valuable.

Aaron: Exactly. Every bit as valuable, yeah.

Luber: Anything else that you’d say as far as a skill or a personality type or an educational background that someone really should have and should start gearing up to get if they don’t yet have it – if they want to get into this?

Aaron: The first thing- one of the most important things for being a producer is A being a people person. Being able to communicate and talk with somebody. You have to because you’re conveying information to them constantly all the time. That’s what you do. You have to talk to your artists and say “hey – this needs to get done”. You have to be able to communicate with somebody in a way that they understand to get a task done.

Luber: It’s just good communication skills.

Aaron: Exactly. And you can’t just – like I said every person – no 2 people on the team that you work on are the exact same so you kind of have to deal with – you have to know everybody on your team – your designer’s not gonna act the same way as an artist, your artists aren’t gonna act the same way as a coder. And you have to know how they behave and how they’re gonna get work done.

[KEYS TO SUCCESS FOR CAREERS IN VIDEO GAMES starts at 21:12]
Luber: Alright so to kind of wrap things up and end us out on a high note, give us some keys to success for this path of video game production and combine that with an action plan for people watching who want to do exactly what you do.

Aaron: The keys to success in making it in the games industry – most important thing no matter what and no matter what project you work on or anything – is you’ve gotta love games. You have to. You have to have to have to love playing video games – because that’s essentially what’s pushing you through this – pushing you through this career choice.

To get to where I’m at right now just be persistent. Don’t stop trying. If you’re in high school right now and you’re playing games, just keep playing games and when you’re at the right age, I’d say 18 usually, because that’s when people start hiring, just try and get a job at a game shop, try and work at a videogame company – just try and get that experience.

In life you’re probably gonna fail – you can fail a thousand times and then thousand and one you’re gonna make it, you know?

There’s so many paths you can go whether you want to be a producer, you want to be a coder or an artist or an animator, I mean, just pick up a pen and paper and start drawing. It’s that simple.

Sometimes it’s gonna require you to leave your hometown. I’m fortunate enough I was born and raised in Los Angeles where there are plenty of game studios. But you gotta go to where the business is – or – if you want to go into production and you want to get into testing and stuff like that you can – like I said earlier, there are small developers – go to their website, check out their games, see what they’re working on , see if they just need someone to do QA.

The bottom line is working in games is like absolutely the greatest job on the face of the planet. If you really like making games and just see yourself playing video games and being a giant nerd for the rest of your life, I recommend this job for you.

Whether you’re gonna be an associate producer – like this guy – or a coder or an animator – or any other aspect of the industry – as long as you have the will and determination and passion for it, you can do it.

I’ve been doing this for the past 6 years and I have not regretted 1 itty bitty moment of this. It has been so much fun and it’s just been amazing – I make video games for a living – I go to work every day knowing that I’m gonna pick up a Wii remote or an X-Box controller or Playstation 3 controller and just playing a game and writing up emails about why an explosion wasn’t big enough or if a sound wasn’t loud enough. It’s kind of silly and kind of amazing and awesome and fantastic. It’s the greatest job in the entire world and I love it.

Luber: It’s so great to hear when someone loves their job that much. You guys – leave your feedback in the Comments – hopefully you learned a ton from Aaron today. Let us know is there something more you want to know about getting into this path and being a video game producer. We’ll be sure to get your questions answered – I’m sure Aaron would be happy to comment on this site where you leave your feedback. So please leave feedback in the Comments. Aaron thank you so much for joining us today.

Aaron: Marc, thank you for having me on your show today. It was awesome. I’ve never been interviewed before!

Luber: It was fun to have you . So yeah, thanks for being here. You guys thanks again for watching. I’m Marc Luber and look forward to seeing you again soon. Take care.

© 2010 Careers Out There

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  • Nathan

    First of all-Great interview! This is a question for Aaron. I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember with games as old as Quake and Pitfall through Half Life 2/Counter Strike: Source and Unreal Tournament and up to Mass Effect 2. I play A LOT of games. I have recently taken a lot of interest in modding games. I have been messing around with Valves Hammer map editor and messing around with that. I decided that I want to make this my career. The plan is to go to Savannah College of Art and Design and get a BFA in game development. There are lots of areas of focus. Here’s a list.

    Introduction to Game Development
    Modeling, Materials and Lighting
    Fundamentals of Game Design
    Video Game Industry Survey
    C++ Programming I
    Cognitive Art of Game Design
    Environment and Level Design
    Game Design Criticism and Analysis
    Level Design Mechanics

    I have two questions.
    1.) Do companies like you to have a college degree and does it better your chances of getting hired?
    and 2.) I would like to do modeling or level design, but what focus would be more appropriate or be more sought after for hiring studios?

  • Thanks Nathan! Here’s some info for you from Aaron:

    1. A College Degree ALWAYS improves your chances of getting hired, anywhere.

    2. If you want to get into level design and modeling, I recommend taking courses in 3D art, (regular) art, art history, etc… You are in college right now, this is the point in your life where you have the time to learn as much about everything as possible. Your best bet is to focus on becoming the most knowledgeable 3D artist/artist that you can be. When you’re done with school, your portfolio is going to do a lot of talking for you and help you get into a good company.

    As for the learning to become a better level designer, play more video games. Play good games, play bad games. Get your hands on everything. You can learn a lot about good level design from playing a great games you enjoy. Take the time to learn the games, start breaking down the mechanics and elements of the games that are enjoyable to you.

    Make sure you take classes where you learning how to use:
    • Photoshop
    • Illustrator
    • 3DS Max
    • Maya
    • Auto Cad

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  • muddy

    I only saw this interview now but it was really good! You probably aren’t even in contact with Aaron or watching comments on this any more but if you are I have a question.

    Q. Getting a career as a Computer Games Producer or Designer is all I want to do in the future. However, I’ve always been appalling at Art. I just want to know how important is having an art portfolio for a Designer? Or should I just rule that out now and concentrate on becoming a Producer?

    Thanks,
    muddy

  • Hey Muddy – thanks for the note! Appreciate it. I’ve forwarded your questions to Aaron and am waiting to hear back. I’ll keep you posted! Thanks again.

  • muddy

    Thanks! *anxiously waits, while biting nails*

  • Muddy – here’s the scoop from Aaron! I hope this helps – and that you’ve still got your nails! 🙂

    It depends on the type of design you want to do. If you want to be a scripter (someone who maps out the mission – progression/story), then you do not need an art background. If this is the route you want to go, you will need to have an understanding of how code languages work.

    If you want to design the maps/levels of a game, you will need to have an art background. Without it, you will not be able to use/operate the tools needed to build a 3D world.

    The lead designer is the person who makes the rules (writes the design docs) for the game and make sure the game follows the rules/designs set in the design documents. These positions usually go to the more competent/creative members of the team. I’ve seen former producers, coders, artists, animators, and scripters hold this position.

  • muddy

    Really helped. Thanks!

  • Ritz

    Hi Marc. This was a fantastic video! You have got me totally pumped about this field! I have a question for Aaron.

    I live in Nebraska (thank you Marc for bringing up the plight of the plains states’ future game producers). I have a wife, new baby, and a mortgage. I also have an MS in Immunology, but have a strong desire to change fields. I know the best way for me to get into the field is through QA, but how can I do that when the nearest sizable game development hub is over 200 miles away?

    I know better than to just quit my day job and jeopardize my family’s well-being, but I want to be on the path to a career in game development.

    If the only way for me to get in is to move, what can I be doing in the meantime to improve my chances for getting my foot in the door while my family and I wait for the right time and place to move? Also, is there such a thing as a part-time QA, and if so, is that still a good position for advancement?

    Thanks again to you both for an excellent video. At the very least you have succeeded in getting my spirits back up!

  • Mark

    Hi Marc, great video about breaking into the video game industry. By seeing this video, it boosted my confidence towards my passion in making video games. What I want to know, is it too late to start applying in a game developer company by the age of… let say 26-27? I’m already 24 and I have a degree in Computer Engineering and I’m enrolling myself in a degree of Game Design and Development. The reason that I want to take a degree in Game Design and Development because my past degree comprises a lot of hardware stuff, lesser software programming and I want to be a game programmer. Please enlighten me on what can I do or tips to achieve my goal. I’m looking forward to your reply.

    Thanks,
    Mark

  • Hey Ritz – thanks for the comment and the positive feedback on the career video! Good to see Nebraska representing! I emailed Aaron to see if he has anything to add but here’s my thoughts: In the long version of the video Aaron talks about emailing game developers and other companies to see if you could do beta testing on line for them. That’s a part-time QA situation that you could do from Nebraska or anywhere. Aaron did that to get experience in his early days.

    As for relocating your family for an on-site part-time QA position, think about this: regardless of whether companies have these opportunities, who do you think will get the better chance to show the company that he or she is worthy of a promotion? The part-time QA person or the full-time QA person? My gut says that given your specific situation, you would want to think long and hard about moving your family and shaking up your career for a part-time QA opportunity (assuming one even exists). You could easily end up getting passed by for promotion by the person who is arouund all the time consistently delivering for the team at the company.

    Another thing Aaron said he did was to work in a game store. You definitely have those in Nebraska. Maybe a store could use a weekend manager or other part-time role that would get your foot in the door.

    One final thought – because the healthcare field is booming and only going to grow bigger with tons of exciting opportunities and YOU are fortunate enough to have a degree and background in it, have you tried to find whether there is ANOTHER role for you in healthcare that would use your knowledge, education and skills but still make you excited to wake up in the morning? Like you said, you have a wife, new baby and a mortgage. Working at the big game studios and game developers is a MASSIVE time commitment that is not easy on families. LONG HOURS! Moving your whole family to a new city for the type of career path where you have to start at the bottom IF you can even get a bottom level job and THEN disappear from your family for a crazy work schedule so that you can get games to the stores on time is something you really have to consider. I’m never one to talk people out of pursuing their dreams, especially because I pursued mine in the music business when I finished school, but I would suggest first sitting down with a career counselor in your area to see if there is ANYTHING in the growing, exciting areas of healthcare that turns you on that you could step in to now and switch whatever you’re doing to THAT. If there’s something that would work for you doing that, you can get your fun out of video games as a hobby just like I get my fun out of music as a hobby since leaving that industry. If through exploring everything you can’t discover an exciting healthcare path that fits you and you feel that game development IS your dream and your life WON’T feel complete without working in it, then you have to pursue a career in video games….but your wife has to be on the same page and you have to think about what life will be like living in a city without any grandparents for the new baby….who will help you, babysit, etc…and what you’ll have to spend for that help. I hope this doesn’t lower your spirits that you said were brought up by the career video! I’m really hoping this instead gets you excited to map out a way to approach potentially finding a path that fits your passions, education and skills where you can stay in Nebraska and not shake up your personal life and take on tons of risk. I don’t know enough about what you don’t like about immunology or how big a dream game development is for you so it’s hard to say specifics….but I hope this advice is helpful to you! Good luck, please keep us posted on what happens and please tell your friends about Careers Out There!

  • Hi Mark – thanks for the feedback on the career video! Much appreciated. Not sure if you watched the long or short version but in the long version, Aaron gives all kinds of tips on how to achieve your goal so be sure to check that out and follow his advice. As for age, I remember Aaron telling me that they even have people in their 40s doing QA! So 26 or 27 is not too late!! Go for it! And good luck. Keep us posted.

  • Hi Ritz – Aaron replied so I’m adding his comments to mine below:

    I know of a few people who packed up their life in order to pursue a career in games. It does not always work out. There is no guarantee that you will make it in the games industry using QA alone. There are plenty of qualified testers who have been waiting years (5+) for their chance to move up.

    If you are going to make the jump to games, my recommendation is that you pick up an extra skill – programming, art, animation, etc…

    You have a family that you need to support. Please do not risk their well being on a job that is not permanent. QA is only needed for part of the development process. Once a game has shipped, it could be months to a year until the team needs testers again.

    Also, I do not know of any companies that hire part time QA. Even though it is a temp job, companies expect QA to put in full 40+ hour work weeks.

    I hope this helps.

    -Aaron.

  • Nick

    Hi – I just read your interview with a video game producer and gained a lot of insight. BUT, I’m still confused about what classes I should take at a 4 year college to actually become a video game producer. Any help will be much appreciated.

  • Hey Nick – Thanks for the comment and feedback. A producer of anything is really a team manager. Being able to handle different personalities, have good people skills, coordinate different tasks and schedules, and stay organized are all important. A producer isn’t really a technical role. The producer is coordinating other people, including those who do have technical roles. So take classes where you would be managing people and projects – like any type of production class. I checked with Aaron, the guest in the video, and he said that being a video game producer is a lot like being one for TV or Movies. He suggests taking some film production courses in addition to any game related courses you’re already likely taking. He says a producer is a producer is a producer – we all do the same type of work: team management. I hope that helps!

  • Ysabel

    I’m really glad that you made a video about this career/industry. Recently I’ve been looking into careers that involve the production of video games and after watching this interview it makes me feel very hopeful to pursue a career in this field.

    I don’t know if Aaron can answer any more questions but I might as well get my thoughts out there!

    Currently I am attending as a freshman in a California State University and studying under a Health Science major. My parents highly encourage me to get a job in the medical field, so right now I’m gearing myself up to be a Registered Nurse and maybe even continue on to be a Physical Therapist. Now both of these career paths aren’t bad, but they aren’t something I have a true passion for, which is art, music, dance and business. I like to be creative and I would love for my career to reflect that! Anyways, the main reason I’m pursuing the medical field is for high demands for employment and for the well paying salary. So I have been hesitant on pursuing my interest in video game careers because I don’t have any reliable source on the job outlook and salary for the video game industry. However, if I were going to focus my college towards video games, I was planning on majoring in a BFA in Entertainment Arts/Animation and probably minor in Business Administration. I’m not sure if my artistic abilities are good enough for me to be a competitive animator in the industry, so if anything I would like to be a producer. 

    So my questions are, is it difficult to find a job in this industry? When you do land a job, is the pay reasonable?

  • Hi Ysabel – thanks for commenting!  Let me try to address all of your questions here. I’ll start with health care careers first, since that’s what you’re currently majoring in.  I’ve interviewed several people on this site who work in the health sciences.  EVERY single one of them says that if you don’t like science and you find it a struggle to drag yourself through the studying of science, then you should save yourself the time, money and headache and move on now.  Because once school is done, these are still science careers and you’ll be putting the science to use every day.  These jobs are in demand and do pay well….and will continue to grow in demand.  So they ARE great for someone who enjoys science. You should think real hard about how much you’ve enjoyed science through high school and how much you’re enjoying the content of your classes now….and see if you could shadow some people in nursing or physical therapy so you could see what the work is really like.  If you conclude it’s not your thing, then shake things up. But try to figure that out first.  If you like this stuff but love playing video games, you could still have a great science career and spend your money and free time on playing video games! 

    If, instead, you’re not into science but are convinced that careers in video games are where your passions lie, then take this path seriously.  The reality is that the pay can be way better than reasonable.  The good companies tend to pay their people very very well.  They also tend to work their people very hard.  You have to want to LIVE this job.  That may require being SO passionate about gaming that you don’t mind not seeing family and friends for weeks at a time when you’re getting a game ready for market.  If you’re an over-the-top gaming fanatic, this won’t be a huge deal.  But otherwise it can be a drag when you want some free time, your 20s are over and your interest in games is potentially waning. It’s kind of a lifestyle career…like working in the concert business, as you can probably imagine.  As for breaking in to careers in video games, it’s tough to break in to any kind of entertainment job.  Very possible but tough.  It takes lots of networking and looking for any angle you can.  Aaron suggests working in game shops, doing online testing and fighting your way in to a testing job at a gaming company.  There are no guarantees.  If guaranteed jobs are your main parameter, then health care will be a better choice. But if you have no interest in science and are just dragging yourself through it all in order to one day get a guaranteed job, you’re probably not going to be too happy.  Lots to think about.  I hope this helps!

  • ABC

    whats up peeps!!

  • Tasha

    Thank you so much for sharing this interview! It has helped me immensely with writing my career paper for my business class. Seriously! I listened to the long version podcast while reading the script and I can say this was the most helpful resource from all of my weeks of research for this career. Now I have a clear sight of what I need to do to get started on my path and where I can go from there. I want to thank Aaron as well for being the interviewee and sharing all of the knowledge he has collected from being involved in this career for so long. Thank you again for asking all of the right questions during this interview and Aaron for answering them excellently. THANK YOU!!!!
    (The star ratings went haywire, while typing my comment the numbers kept decreasing.)

  • Thanks @b3c74661ffc1b2019abffbe2b1dca52b:disqus! Love hearing feedback like that. I’m glad it was helpful. Thanks for taking the time to write. Good luck with your paper!

  • Chris

    hi thanks Marc for the interview its a great insider to the industry and how things work, also another thanks to Arron for the great insight. Just have one question for you if you still check this,

    Q. I was currently studying 3D game art at university and have been forced to drop out due to grading on work but am still very determined to get into the industry doing environmental design for games levels and was wondering if i have a good portfolio and a partial degree do i still have a chance at a career or am not going to make it into this without the degree ?? thanks agen, chris

  • Hi @b6e758121f46e125251596d53cd7603d:disqus – if you watch the full interview you’ll see that Aaron says he does not have a degree in games. Granted, he’s a producer and not a designer. Bottom line is that you need a foot in the door to break in so you might want to try breaking in to testing like he did so that you can get to know enough people who would give you a chance. If you want it badly enough and the degree issue turns out to be in the way, you could try approaching a different path in the industry that gets you in and either stay on that path or try to finish the degree on the side as you earn income in the field. Good luck.

  • Dina

    how about the sound department?
    I mean the audio department
    what’s it like to work in that field?

  • Alex

    I’m 17 years old and awaiting results to be able to take up a polytechnic course in Game and entertainment technology, which will ultimately and hopefully set me on the path towards a career in game programming in singapore. I’m most worried about career oppotunities locally and also about whether I can deal with programming or not because i have absolutely no knowledge in programming, But I can say after looking at all the other available courses, game programming was the only one that caught my eye. My friends say that finding a job in game programming in singapore is tough and that gets my really worried. Should I ignore my friends and go ahead with game programming?

  • Hi @1f805cdd28db0715e378a5acbf2ac3dd:disqus. Sounds to me like you should take the course since it interests you and then see if you like it before worrying about careers in the area. Since you know nothing about programming and haven’t taken the class yet, you don’t yet know whether you’ll even enjoy programming enough to want to look for that kind of career. While in the class, if you’re loving it and finding that you want to be doing that type of work every day, then I’d start doing some serious research while in the class as to what types of career opportunities there may be as well as how to break in to them. Good luck!

  • Mazen Diab

    Is it easy or hard? I live Saudi Arabia and I really want be a game developer but my family are saying “You won’t make living out of it” and “You won’t find the job you want” Should I become a game developer? Please help me 🙁

  • Hi @mazendiab:disqus. I have no idea what video game jobs or careers are like in Saudi Arabia. Like Aaron explains in the full video, it’s hard to break in and it’s a lot of work once you’re there. If you love the work and are willing to put in the long hours and find work at the right company, it can be a great path that pays very well. But like any entertainment-related job, you have to really fight to break in. Good luck.

  • Sushant

    Hi!!

    I am a high school student right now in Canada taking courses like English, Social, Physics, Chem and Math at -1 ( Regular) Levels. I have taken a design and communication class upto a grade 11 level and want to know that if i go into uni or college would i have to take certain courses to be a part of gaming industry??
    In the Interview he said that no certain college degree is needed but if lets say that i want to be a coder or an animator are there courses in colleges and uni that i have to take in order to take a step forward into the gaming industry. Honestly, i love playing games like gta, all of the call of duties, and some sports games. Also, i would like know if there are certain colleges that specialize just for gaming industry.

  • If you want to be a coder or animator, then you’d want to learn how to code and animate. You can find classes like these at a variety of types of schools. As for schools that specialize in this, you might want to look at something like Full Sail or an arts or design school. Good luck!

  • Big E

    Hi Marc (and Aaron if you ever see this),

    Great video, thank you so much, but I do have a few questions…

    I’m 21 years old and about to graduate from a four-year university with my BSBA in Finance. The thing is, I want nothing to do with the finance industry, because I really just love video games so much and want them to be a bigger part of my life than they already are. I’m curious to know how I might enter the video game industry on the business side (such as being a producer and maybe one day an executive producer of some sort), without having to put in my time as, frankly, a poorly paid game tester.

    To recap, I love video games and would like to merge my degree with the industry, so 1) how can I do that without starting at the very bottom and 2) does a Master’s degree benefit you in this field?

    Thank you so much!

  • Hi @disqus_Sc8mUEfik8:disqus thanks for the comments. You ask good questions and I wish I had answers for you. I’m not in touch with Aaron lately so I doubt he’ll be seeing this. I suggest going on LinkedIn and doing some research to find people who do finance-related work at videogame companies and ask them your questions. You may need to join some videogame industry groups on LI to get to the people who can answer your questions on best ways in for the path you want. In many entertainment jobs, there are no shortcuts to those cushy jobs…but I don’t know enough about gaming companies to answer your questions….so use LI and find people who actually do the work you’re interested in and ask them. Sorry I can’t be of more help. Good luck!

  • Big E

    Thank you!

  • Sure thing @disqus_Sc8mUEfik8:disqus. Happy to help!

  • justin

    Hey Marc, I am 19 and extremely interested in working in the gaming industry and possibly becoming an AP. The only problem is that i live in Mississippi and do not know of any game studios or anything like that anywhere around. I would also be interested to know what the average yearly pay for an AP is!

  • Hey @Justin. Yeah, I don’t know of any game studios in MS either. When it comes to careers in video games, it definitely helps to be where the companies are. There’s a lot of activity here in Los Angeles. I was just out with 2 video game creatives the other night. One does special effects and the other does more general animation. It’s a very tough field to break into! The pay varies a lot depending on where you work. I don’t have details on that but the giant, well-known companies that produce the biggest games pay very very well. The hard part is finding enough free time to enjoy the money b/c working in video games is a time-intensive path. I’ve never met someone who does it for the money…it’s usually a huge passion for videogames or the desire to do creative work that has a big potential audience. Hope that helps! Good luck.

  • Lance

    Hey Marc (assuming you still check this), I’m 22 years old currently just a team manager at grocery store, so i know how to communicate and delegate. I’ve always loved video games, but my problem is that I don’t have any education passed high school. Though, just the thought of being able to test games, good or bad gets me excited. The question I have really is, how does someone like me with no background in the gaming industry,minimal computer knowledge but more than willing to learn everything, get the chance to work in QA?

  • Hey Lance – I think Aaron gave some tips along those lines in the full video and transcript, both on this page. You can contact the developers and publishers of video games as well as get started by working in a gaming store. Maybe there’s a gaming store that needs a manager….and through that you could make contacts with the developers. If you enjoy managing people, since you’re already having some success in that path by becoming a team manager already at age 22, you might want to find ways to continue along that path. A career path in QA uses different skills and is taking you down a very different road – one that has less opportunity, high demand and requires more luck than most. Managing people, communication and delegation skills are in demand in all kinds of paths, both retail and beyond. Unless you actually hate the path (which is different than hating your employer…and hopefully you don’t), why not build on that, keep growing those skills and finding new roles that use those skills, and make playing video games your #1 hobby? The expression that covers this is “a bird in the hand….” Just a thought…

  • Bobby

    Hi, i am 16 currently and i love playing video games. When i get the chance i play video games. I just wanted to know(in general) about graphic designing and animating. Another thing I would also like to know is if i wanted to be a graphic designer could i get someone to sletch whatever is assigned and then i put it on a computer and animate or add to that sketch. I am not a genius in computers but i would like to start learning about it. One more thing. What college do you recomend i go to for these jobs.(i live in florida).