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Ask Slashdot: Experiences Working At a High-Profile Game Studio?

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the hope-you-enjoy-crunch dept.

Programming 189

msheekhah writes "I have a friend who, when he gets out of college, has been promised a job at well known electronics company with a salary around $70k. However, he wants to instead go work for Blizzard or some other game company as a game programmer. I've read enough on here and on other tech websites to know that he should take the job he's been offered. Can you share with me your experiences so I can give him real life examples to convince him to take this job? If your experience is contrary to mine, I'd appreciate that input as well."

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Stop Interfering (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594831)

Maybe you should let your friend do what the hell they want and stop being such a busybody? You're not his mom. Maybe the electronics job would suck, maybe the gaming job would suck, you're not in a position to judge.

Re:Stop Interfering (2)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | about a year ago | (#44595505)

A gaming job wouldn't necessarily suck, not if it were at Bethesda or something. At Blizzard it would suck.


I say keep striving for what you want.

Re:Stop Interfering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595569)

Maybe you should let your friend do what the hell they want and stop being such a busybody? You're not his mom. Maybe the electronics job would suck, maybe the gaming job would suck, you're not in a position to judge.

My sentiments exactly.

Re:Stop Interfering (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596005)

But still... £45K straight out of college? That is one amazing wage! In the UK you'd have to do another two years at University, get a good degree and then be lucky to get that on your very first job.

I'm not buying it... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594835)

I have a friend who, when he gets out of college, has been promised a job at well known electronics company with a salary around $70k.

[citation needed]

Sorry, I don't buy the "my friend is being offered $70k/year straight out of college, but wants to work for Blizzard instead" line. I'm gonna call bullshit on this one.

Re:I'm not buying it... (2)

pjt33 (739471) | about a year ago | (#44595059)

Even better than that is the incongruence of

I've read enough on here and on other tech websites to know... If your experience is contrary to mine, I'd appreciate that input as well.

Is OP only interested in hearing from people who've read that working in the games industry can be fun, or does he actually want to hear from people who've done it?

(For what it's worth, I spent five years working in the games industry, and the two years at Jagex was the best job I've had. I'm no longer in games, but it still winds me up when people think that everywhere is as bad as EA).

Re:I'm not buying it... (1)

CheshireDragon (1183095) | about a year ago | (#44595681)

I have a friend who, when he gets out of college, has been promised a job at well known electronics company with a salary around $70k.

[citation needed] Sorry, I don't buy the "my friend is being offered $70k/year straight out of college, but wants to work for Blizzard instead" line. I'm gonna call bullshit on this one.

Imma have to agree with you on this too. I have never heard of anyone making that 'right out of college'. Maybe within a few years if you're good at that thing you do, hit a great idea or are one of the rare prodigies.
However, if this is true, I'd say, 'take the 70k job, work a few yrs to get some experience and then move on to follow your dreams.' That's what I did. Not with programming though.

Re:I'm not buying it... (1)

Captain Segfault (686912) | about a year ago | (#44596119)

The starting salary for a new college grad software engineer at the big tech companies in the SF Bay area is well over $70K.

Re: I'm not buying it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596145)

$70k out of college is not unusual. A few years ago I did a brief stint in management at a Seattle company. I had to hire a junior dev and found a recent college grad who did pretty well during our interview loop. When HR brought me the offer they had put together it was $90k base pay + bonus + options. I thought it was high but they assured me it was supported by the market. That particular company is not known for spending money it doesn't have to so I'm inclined to believe them.

Re:I'm not buying it... (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | about a year ago | (#44596467)

I'm in Blizzard's back yard (working for a different company, though). As a software engineer with a CS bachelor's, I was hired straight out of college at over $70k. I'm no crazy prodigy; I just ran into a company that hadn't hired new grads in a long time, and I guess they had unrealistically generous pay expectations. So, I know that it's not impossible. Looking at my friends and the jobs they landed in though, it's also nowhere near common to start off at that kind of pay. Honestly, I was expecting to start around 55-60k, in my area.

What does the job entail? (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#44594843)

Game development sounds fun because games are fun.
Like how being a prostitute sounds fun because having sex is fun.

Re:What does the job entail? (1)

godrik (1287354) | about a year ago | (#44594935)

I had not laugh thatmuch in a while. Thank you! :)

Re: What does the job entail? (4, Insightful)

Chelloveck (14643) | about a year ago | (#44594999)

Tru dat. I've worked at two large game companies. Developing games is sweatshop work. But a guy's gotta follow his dreams! If he's already been offered a job he'll be able to find another one if a gaming gig doesn't work out. Now's the time, when he's young and relatively responsibility-free.

Re: What does the job entail? (4, Informative)

slart42 (694765) | about a year ago | (#44595749)

After reading several comments that game industry jobs are all sweatshop work, I thought I might share my (different) experience. I work at Unity, so not exactly a games company, but game industry anyways. I've been here for quite a few years no and have always been (and I still am) very happy about my work. While everybody has done overtime work to get urgent fixes done at some time or other, this is not the rule, and we are far from the working conditions in many places described here. The development team has a great culture, we get to work on exciting stuff, and we get plenty of opportunities to try out things which interest us -- as a rule, similar to Google's "20% time", we have FAFF (fridays are for fun) to work on pet projects, as well as regular Hack Weeks, were the whole dev team is brought in to one location to form teams to try new ideas. It's fun.

If you're interested, check out [] - but then, I guess your chances of being hired for an engineering position when fresh out of colleges are somewhat slim, unless you have done some really awesome stuff besides your education. But that will not be any different in any of the other larger companies in the industry.

Re: What does the job entail? (5, Insightful)

eulernet (1132389) | about a year ago | (#44596411)

I'm an ex-game programmer, and what you say is not supported by my experience.

Developing a framework is totally different than releasing games.

When you work on a framework, you spend a lot of time on the same project, by incrementally adding new features.
Quality is very important, so you must spend most of your time building quality, by writing tests and writing optimized code.
You also have direct contact with your customers.

When you program games, what is important is the delivery date, especially in large game companies.
Quality is not really important, and all the conception is already done before the game started, so there is not a lot of place for innovation.
Porting games is mostly what large game companies do, since you cannot rely on a single console to earn money.

And when you write games nowadays, your job as a coder is mostly using libraries, because a game is too much work if rewritten from scratch.
The "fun" part as a coder is to write your own routines, so that you master everything, when you rely on a library, you always expect bugs.
And the "fun" part as a gamer is to fine-tune the game, and this is the most tedious task !

Re: What does the job entail? (1)

gmueckl (950314) | about a year ago | (#44596435)

Well, at Unity you are in the cozy position of not having to work much on actual games. Game studios have a lot of shit going down because of the creative and economic aspects of games. Game engines are sort of decoupled from that. Consider yourself lucky in that regard!

Also, you guys at Unity are doing great work.

Re:What does the job entail? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595139)

Many prostitutes enjoy their jobs, which is another reason why it should be legal, but the opponents of prostitution want to continue the lie that they're all forced into it so we can continue to legislate and control male sexuality by artificially limiting sex availability.

Re:What does the job entail? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595591)

There is actually a fair amount of research in this area. It's not at all as clean cut as you make it sound. But there is quite some surprising data in the research, if you bother to read it.
Another weird thing is that there is very little research done regarding male prostitutes (except the fact that male prostitution is often more common than female).
It's sometimes hard to let preconceived notions go, and this area seems to be one of the worst in that regard.

Re:What does the job entail? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595197)

Like how being a prostitute sounds fun because having sex is fun.

When I visit them, they always make a point of telling me how much fun they had ;-)

Re: What does the job entail? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595627)

The hardest part of customer service is bring nice to those that don't deserve it. :(

Re:What does the job entail? (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about a year ago | (#44595887)

Yeah, and the funeral director tells me how sorry he is.

Re: What does the job entail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595363)

Most conventional jobs can be summed up that way.

Re:What does the job entail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595405)

It's actually far worse than prostitution, more like working at a dildo factory.

Re:What does the job entail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596191)

As the horse cock dildo tester.

Re:What does the job entail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595603)

Tru dat. I've worked at two large brothels. Having sex is sweatshop work. But a guy's gotta follow his dreams! If he's already been offered a job he'll be able to find another one if a gaming gig doesn't work out. Now's the time, when he's young and relatively responsibility-free.

Re:What does the job entail? (2)

Xyrus (755017) | about a year ago | (#44595695)

Game development sounds fun because games are fun.
Like how being a prostitute sounds fun because having sex is fun.

Yep. The "game industry glow" wears off pretty damn quick when you're working non-stop 80 hour work weeks. I don't really miss having a sleeping bag by my desk, the perpetual deadlines, low pay, crap benefits, vacations you were never allowed to take, and all the other crap from the game industry. Yeah, it's cool to see your game on the shelf and if you're lucky, good game reviews but that is a small consolation for basically being a sweatshop slave.

The first job I got after leaving the games industry doubled my salary, gave me real benefits, and had me working standard 40 hour work weeks.

It's all the same, really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594845)

Electronics company or game studio, if he's a developer he'll be working crunch time from time to time. What you should be considering first are
a) is the working environment good?
b) is the management good?

If whichever company he goes on to work for falls short on either of the aforementioned, he's in for a grind.

Not me but friends (4, Interesting)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | about a year ago | (#44594847)

I have a few friends who worked for the bigger companies and their experiences were pretty uniformly miserable. One worked directly for a big company and even though he could make opengl dance they had him working on what was basically build scripting. The others worked for game companies that did the porting of the larger games to the lower tier platforms such as the DS. These companies put a huge amount of effort into glamour (highly photogenic workspaces) but were just thankless sweatshops with the few owners being the only ones making any money.

That said, their resumes now have a golden game programming glow. So they have been able to go out into the indy/startup world and be treated like kings. Way way better than some third rate "game programming" degree or diploma program.

Re:Not me but friends (4, Interesting)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44594891)

I have a friend who worked for Zynga during the high-flyin' days; she worked on Farmville. Said it was a sweat shop and the management were terrible overlords. Same thing from another friend at EA, again, during EA's salad days. But then I have another friend who works for Valve and he says its great there. So, I guess you kind of have to get lucky. As for the comment above that goes along the lines of "he's lucky to have an offer at $70K", that seems kind of low. If he knows GL native code or ActiveX, either managed or native, he doesn't have to take that offer, he can get more from someone else.

Re:Not me but friends (2)

binarylarry (1338699) | about a year ago | (#44594975)

Haha, ActiveX, hells yeah!

Re:Not me but friends (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | about a year ago | (#44595539)

I'm sure he meant DirectX. But still funny :)

Re:Not me but friends (2)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44595865)

yeah yeah, directx. that's what I get for mentioning a technology I have very little experience with.

Re:Not me but friends (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595061)

I completely disagree, coming right out of college and getting 70k is actually damn good. He has no experience and yet they're willing to pay him that? I suppose it depends on which city he is at, though. But, even in expensive L.A. I know developers who make around that who have experience. Though, I suppose it could be potentially low. Just remember, a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. He could apply at Blizzard, get turned away, and then lose the offer and end up sitting on his ass for a year which leaves a big gaping hole in your resume and makes you nigh unemployable. Take the job, and apply at Blizzard. If Blizzard accepts, be a douche and jump ship. Companies have no loyalty to us and can drop our asses at any time for no good reason and they often do, we should have no loyalty to them either. If Blizzard does not accept, you're still making money in the interim and getting great experience. Pad that resume, and you'll look better and better to future employers. If you end up staying at the company every year you get a 4% to 5% raise (assuming you're doing well), after a decade that adds up. Not to mention you'll have benefits in the meantime; insurance (you may be young, but anyone can be hit by a bus or experience health problems), 401k w/ matching (e.g. free money), life insurance (if you met a girl and made her your wife in college and she's having your baby, this is handy), etc.

Re:Not me but friends (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about a year ago | (#44595107)

I have no idea why you got modded down. If I had mod points today I would definitely mod you up.

Re:Not me but friends (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about a year ago | (#44595873)

I completely disagree, coming right out of college and getting 70k is actually damn good.

Not around here, 70K is actually a low end figure. Coming right out of college or not, they're actually favoring new college grads. Come to sillicon valley and see what nonsense is going on here, with new grad & h1b recruiting. Its a fucking slaughterhouse.

He needs experience (1)

Therad (2493316) | about a year ago | (#44594857)

He will need experience if he wants to go to one of the high-profile studios. So he should take the job, and work hard so he gets a good resume.

First rule of working (5, Insightful)

kschendel (644489) | about a year ago | (#44594861)

It's really simple:
If you have a job, you can get a job.
If you don't have a job, getting a job is harder.

"Promised" is an elusive word, but assuming that the $70K offer comes thru, why not take it unless he has a gaming company offer in hand? which I assume he doesn't. It's always a good thing to be able to afford housing and food while looking for the job of one's choice.

Besides, he might be surprised, and like the promised job. (Or, it might be a small step above a Siberian work camp. One never really knows about these things until one tries it; but of course the same goes for the "dream" job at a gaming company!)

Re:First rule of working (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596087)


Always easier getting a job when you already have one.

he should pursue (5, Insightful)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year ago | (#44594883)

the path that makes him happy.

Re:he should pursue (1)

Nutria (679911) | about a year ago | (#44594987)

Unless that path is surfing, living with your parents and getting Food Stamps.

Re:he should pursue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595161)

nah, when your fellow human beings and government have rigged the game, then you should pursue whatever avenue you want even if it's leeching off the government. That's better than life in a cubicle farm. If you don't like government leeches, change the rules.

Re:he should pursue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595185)

Surfing can be very fulfilling

Re:he should pursue (2)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#44595255)

>>> he should pursue the path that makes him happy.

I find this highly inapplicable advice. Very few people enjoy work, just ask yourself and co-workers as to who still would come to work if they won a lottery.

Assuming he is a normal human being, he won't enjoy work. The best he can hope is fulfilling career with adequate compensation. You can trade increase in fulfillment for decrease of compensation, but "happy" is definitely out of the question. Happy is what happens outside of work. If all you do is work, then your opportunities to be happy drastically decrease.

Re:he should pursue (2)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about a year ago | (#44595315)

If you dread going to work every day with no bright points, you really do need a different job or different employer.

For example, I have to deal with whiney instructors who don't follow directions, who check out completely 3 months of the year (and are proud of it), and who ignore emails or manage the work related messages they have after returning from 3 months off by saying "there were too many so I just deleted them all".

But, I also get to play in our teaching zoo, work on setting up webcams, experiment with the way a planetarium projects, influence lab exercises and projects the programming and networking students do, and teach Linux as an adjunct. Without all of this, the job really would suck.... but there is enough balance for me to enjoy it for the most part.

Re:he should pursue (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | about a year ago | (#44596491)

If you dread going to work every day with no bright points, you really do need a different job or different employer.

Nice theory, but no... Most people need to pay the bills and that's why you go to work. Pay your bills, make the time you haven't got to work as comfortable as possible. Oh, and that's for the people who are well off... For those less lucky, they go to work to pay the bills, then go to their second job to pay the ends-of-months and then, if they're lucky not to have a third job, be happy to can crash and sleep.

Re:he should pursue (1)

seebs (15766) | about a year ago | (#44595851)

I might do different work if I had Infinite Money, but there are things I work on for $DAYJOB now that I would likely continue to work on if I had free time and no other obligations.

It's high pressure and high risk (4, Interesting)

Drewdad (1738014) | about a year ago | (#44594885)

Based on the experiences of some colleagues, I've avoided getting involved with gaming companies. First, there's tremendous pressure any time a new release goes out. Developers, admins, etc. are all expected to be available around the clock (with many choosing to sleep at the office) for weeks. Second, game popularity is very fickle. Working on a game that loses popularity? Pink slip. Some people view game studios as sexy and edgy, which is fine. Young, single people can afford to take risks that people with families and mortgages just can't afford.

Re:It's high pressure and high risk (4, Interesting)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#44594951)

>Young, single people can afford to take risks that people with families and mortgages just can't afford.

Indeed. If his dream is truly to work for a game company and he can get an acceptable offer out of college perhaps he should take it. It may go well or badly, but he may never again have as much freedom to chase a dream for the hell of it as he has now. Better to chase it and be disappointed by what he discovers than spend his life dreaming about what might have been.

On the other hand if he doesn't have a gaming offer in hand I'd start chasing the offer now, and go for the electronics job if he can't make any headway there. I imagine even gaming companies prefer candidates with a proven work history. Just not so much of one that they demand a reasonable compensation package.

Re:It's high pressure and high risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594995)

First, there's tremendous pressure any time a new release goes out.

This isn't just limited to game companies. For me, a senior dev at a company that produces a relatively boring product for the corporate market, the last couple of weeks have meant a lot of late nights and weekend work to make the ship date.

Re:It's high pressure and high risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595507)

I've actually worked in game development for a few years. If I saw someone sleeping in the office, I would quit right there. Maybe it's more common in the US and various developing countries, but I've never seen it happen.

Re: It's high pressure and high risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595663)

Par for the course in Japan.

Don't assume they are forced to do it by evil overlords. Sometimes you care do much about your work that you do things like this. It shouldn't happen often, but sometimes that is what it takes.

Take the decent job for a few years (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594887)

Having left Blizzard in the last year I can say that it was once a really awesome place to be! Just not any more sadly. The politics have stunted too many people's ability to get things done. On top of that revenue is down so the idea of "low base pay with more from profit sharing" doesn't make up for how overly stressful things are. That said, working somewhere where the other "perks" of the Blizzard Culture aren't apparent will make working for a game studio a bit better; just have a decent savings account first and be ready to work twice as much for half the pay you used to get. From my friends that decided to say in the industry many are going to indie developers or starting their own small game companies so they can get back to what they really wanted to do in the first place: make games! On my end I've just created a bit of a "gamer culture" on the engineering teams I've started since I left to get the best of both worlds. My suggestion would really be to take the decent paying job for a few years while making some indie games on the side to make sure that they really want to make games for a living.

Learning the hard way. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594895)

I guess he should take the job at Blizzard. There are many ways to learn and build up an experience. There are the easy way and the hard way. Easy way would be to take the 70k job and build up his experience accordingly. The hard way is to follow his dream and ambition and learn for himself if that is the path to take and if that way is for him. To find out the hard way that life isn't always as you expect it and that even tho a company products might be very interesting, they are not always the most pleasant work environment. On the other hand, he might just find out exactly what he was searching for and therefor, good for him.

Your life is what you make of it and what you take out of it. Build your own wisdom from your own experiences, failure or success. As long as you learn from it and move one accordingly. And never stay somewhere that doesn't make you happy and help you thrive and learn. Quoting AE "If you always do as you always did, you will always get what you always got."

First post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594901)

If he really, really wants to be in gaming, a big game studio is a place to start. It's better to do it early, get to know the industry, and then go off to a startup or something else. The only way to know if its for you (him) is to try it... That said, large game studios have a reputation for working people to the bone, hiring fast, burning you out, and re-hiring someone else - because everyone wants to work for a game studio, and manager don't always make good decisions (!). That's changing.. A lot of engineers I know are no longer willing to work under these conditions. That doesn't mean they've changed yet, but they will... Really, at an early point in a career it shouldn't be too much about the pain -- because there is similar pain at any company when you get started. Who knows what kind of managers he'll face at the electronics company?.. It should be much more about finding out what one wants to do. There are people who stick with the game studios for 10+ yrs; they've learned that they love it, and over time that balances out the initial obstacles. Whatever it is, you've got to really want it first.

Re:First post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594921)

Well, it could have been first post if I typed faster!

take the job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594909)

Take the job then look for one in gaming. Having a job is better than looking for a job. Also being employed makes you more desirable than unemployed.

Working in gaming sounds fun at first but think of playing the worst game you have ever played. Now think of playing that same game every day. Oh and it is broken all the time.

Re:take the job (1)

Grumpinuts (1272216) | about a year ago | (#44595065)

Not according to Morrissey....and Heaven knows he's miserable now.

An fitting wow quote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594911)

Get rich or die grinding

It's Simple, Really. (4, Insightful)

FSWKU (551325) | about a year ago | (#44594941)

Does he have a piece of paper in his hand from this mythical company that clearly states they are offering him a job and what the compensation will be? Does he have one from Blizzard? The correct choice is whichever of these two he can say "yes" to.

If your friend doesn't have this dubious "$70k as a college graduate" offer/promise on paper, signed, and in his possession , then such a position doesn't exist. Period. If he believes otherwise, he's gonna have a bad time.

Re:It's Simple, Really. (1)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#44595039)

I was listening to the radio last night and they reported the top job desired by children is that of reality star. I see this in a number of high school and college graduates as well. They want to be a star working at a star company. For jobs that do not really create anything, CEO, lawyer, doctor, that is OK. But for an engineer, who should be innovating everyday things that makes our lives better, that should be making the world safer, it does. Of course a game developer is likely more like a lawyer than an engineer, but still. I would say find somewhere you can make a difference, not somewhere you can be a star. It is not a bad thing to know that you went into work and did something meaningful. Of course that could happen a Blizzard. But if someone is offerring you a job at a firm where what you do matters, and you are getting well compensated, I think that is a good thing.

Re:It's Simple, Really. (1)

julesh (229690) | about a year ago | (#44595689)

I was listening to the radio last night and they reported the top job desired by children is that of reality star. I see this in a number of high school and college graduates as well. They want to be a star working at a star company. For jobs that do not really create anything, CEO, lawyer, doctor, that is OK. But for an engineer, who should be innovating everyday things that makes our lives better, that should be making the world safer, it does. Of course a game developer is likely more like a lawyer than an engineer, but still. I would say find somewhere you can make a difference, not somewhere you can be a star. It is not a bad thing to know that you went into work and did something meaningful. Of course that could happen a Blizzard. But if someone is offerring you a job at a firm where what you do matters, and you are getting well compensated, I think that is a good thing.

I think working on a project that would likely make millions of people happy (even if only for a few hours each) is pretty damned meaningful. Sure, entertainment isn't life-or-death, but it's got to be more rewarding than, say, accountancy.

Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594953)

That is a very relative decision, it all depends on him. As long as he is "convinced" to do X, he will be unhappy at X. If you are asking for differences here are a couple I can think of (in favor of his decision, since you must be informed in your side of view):
- That well-known electronics company will be slow-moving and he will need to deal with significantly more bureaucracy
- It will be harder to make a difference
- Company-hopping makes sense when you are as fresh in your career as possible
- Motivation is a huge factor in efficiency, if he has ever developed a game and liked it, writing verilog code editors will be a huge buzz-kill for him

Let him do what he wants (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594961)

This is the only time of his life that he's going to be able to take a risky or even stupid decision and not have to worry about the consequences: he (presumably) has no spouse/children, and is (presumably) in good health, so if he wants to do it, then DO IT!

Because he's never going to have that opportunity again.

Take the steady job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594965)

Anyone who's worked in video games can tell you that unless you really, really, really want to make video games you cannot make an excuse for the state of the industry. He'll be fired after his first project, and the one after that, and the one after that. His benefits will be a joke, and the retirement plan? Die young. It's an experience I'll never forget, but it's something I'll never do again professionally.

let him make his own mistakes (4, Insightful)

Njovich (553857) | about a year ago | (#44594985)

The guy isn't exactly wanting to go into drugs or some such. Nothing good will come from trying to interfere with him. If he never starts at the game industry he will always keep some romantic vision of how it would be.

Going into game dev can be a tough choice, but if that's what he wants to do there isn't much you can do about it.

Let him work it out himself if it is for him, he will find out the reality soon enough after starting there. Also, if he can get 70k offers now, I'm sure he will be okay after a year at a gamestudio finding a new job too.

just before I saw the draft (-1, Troll)

tintn678 (3022941) | about a year ago | (#44594989)

just before I saw the draft ov $5581, I be certain mother in law woz actually bringing home money parttime at their computer.. there friends cousin haz done this for only 9 months and as of now paid the morgage on there place and bourt a great new Acura. go to, WEP6.COM []
Go to website and click Home tab for more details.

Re:just before I saw the draft (1)

Grumpinuts (1272216) | about a year ago | (#44595099)

I take it the job doesn't involve online proofreading, then.

Re:just before I saw the draft (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about a year ago | (#44595167)

Lemme guess... You program in Perl, right?

riot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595049)

Tell him to take the job he was offered. He needs experience. Also tell him that after 6 months or so, he might try One of the best companies in the world, and also has the most played game with leagueoflegends.

Clock is ticking (1)

faffod (905810) | about a year ago | (#44595067)

The average game developer leaves the industry after 5 years. The reason is that as much fun as it is to play a game at the end of the day, you are never able to play your game until it is complete and by then you are exhausted and burned out and the last thing you want to do is play your game. Of all the games that I have shipped I have never played one of them after they shipped.This is a hard industry and it is not for everyone (most)

The next consideration is that just because you qualified for a job offer outside of the game industry doesn't mean that you'll get an offer in the game industry. Do you have any demos that show that you can make a video game. I can promise you that I won't look twice at a college applicant that doesn't have his own project. It doesn't have to be big, it has to show polish. It can not be a class project, it has to be something that shows me what you can do and are passionate about. If you are not passionate enough to be making games on your own you won't survive the first year.

So if you have an offer, but are considering going into games, the clock is ticking to get an offer from a game developer. If you can't get one before your current offer expires, then take the current offer. If you still have a dream of making games, keep working on your demo (i.e. continue learning) and apply for jobs. It is always easier to find a job when you have a job already.

be wary (5, Interesting)

alx (7083) | about a year ago | (#44595095)

I had an offer from Bioware that I ended up passing on because I had another offer from another company to do full time iOS development which is what I really wanted to do. A friend of mine ended up taking the same job at Bioware that I had been offered. I left a year later. His experiences can best be summed up in a single line from a chat he and I had one time -- "they cancelled Christmas" ... he had been working 80hr weeks for almost a year by that point. I felt like I dodged a bullet.

If writing games is your passion, and you can't live without it, and you don't mind doing it ALL the time, then that is the only time I would say it's okay to work for a games company. If you do, try to find an indy shop that works a sustainable pace. The other downside is that the people working there were very grouchy and mean. Not a happy place.

Re:be wary (5, Insightful)

turbidostato (878842) | about a year ago | (#44596127)

"If writing games is your passion"

Ask him first how many games has he already written.

If the answer is "nil", then his passion is not writing games. He only thinks so, probably over the wrong information and for the wrong reasons.

Avoid the large ones (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | about a year ago | (#44595111)

From what I've gleaned (I'm also interested in game development), you'd be best to avoid the very large developers like EA, Activision, Blizzard, etc. They tend to consider their manpower as resources to be exploited and discarded if they stop working properly. The hours are horrible and the salaries don't match up. Instead, try finding small or mid-sized studios; the pay might not be the highest around, but the atmosphere and challenges will usually be a lot better. With smaller devs especially, you get to touch a bit of everything and you're closer to "owning" the project. The hardest part is finding such a studio in your area and getting in, since they usually have very little extra money to go by. It's also a riskier proposition since you can get laid off if even just one project doesn't go well because the developer's fate is hanging in the balance of every new game they make.

Then there's a few really rare developers such as Valve which seem to have kept the ethos of smaller developers while sitting on such an absurd pile of money they aren't rushed. Blizzard probably used to be like that but I think the Activision merger caused the corporate to take over. Good luck getting in such studios as a first job though!

Reality Check... (2)

icebeing (458161) | about a year ago | (#44595117)

I'd say your friend is quite fortunate to be wanted straight out of college, but here's the thing: the electronics company only PROMISED him a job when he graduates. As the old adage goes: promises are made to be broken...and in the tech world, so are verbal agreements and temp jobs.

SHOULD the electronics company follow through, he should still take the job, and find satisfaction in getting whatever real-world experience he can get out of it!
I had this idealistic dream of working for Blizzard, EA, etc..and you know what I discovered after I went through the endless programming challenges and interviews with them? Some things:

1) Game companies want MIT-level knowledge, but pay out retarded salaries for the talent, and work the talent to death...all for the glory of being THAT guy that worked on a AAA title

2) For each big game title on a store shelf at Fry's, I see 20 more titles collecting dust

You know what I say to that? BIG WHOOP!

A lot of game technologies are also used in many set-top-boxes, cinema, scientific programming, TV..and (some of) these companies PAY!
Games are interesting pieces of software, but I would rather work on the underlying technologies that make a game come together.

Now, for those game technologists that say I can't hack it, I'd be happy to show you my Linked in profile...I've worked at some NICE companies too, doing similar stuff. I'm allowed to my opinion too ;-)

Now, in the general tech world, job-hunting is almost as competitive as in game world. One really needs to be on top of their programming game with certain companies, and you even have to have some charisma too while interviewing.

Now, if your friend's job lead fizzles with the electronics company, then I'd say he should really pursue Blizzard and follow his dreams. However, dream jobs are He should really think about building up his professional programming experience, and work in the sub-domain he loves.

He'll eventually get there, if he gives it time and determination.

Good luck to him!

It's his damn life... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595153)

Let him be.

Your friend is making a huge mistake (1)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#44595187)

First, 70$ out of college is unbelievably good. I am willing to bet that some people here don't make that much.

Second, Blizzard, or any other gaming studio will be very high-demand low-reward position. Your friend will be knowingly taking less pay for more work.Plus his work at gaming studio won't translate well into broader IT field, a lot of gaming technologies are not used elsewhere. (e.g. programming gaming engine will not help him get a job at CISCO or Google)

Don't try to stop your friend, but make sure he is making an educated decision.

11 year veteran (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595213)

11 year veteran here - I've worked in a number of roles at an independent studio (as a programmer), and my advice to anyone wanting to make games is this: it's hard bloody work, which doesn't pay that much, and you'd be better off working on your own games in your own time. Very rarely do you get to work on games that you are interested in, the last project I was on was a Disney game with a MASSIVE budget. It was hell on earth and I got pretty down about my job - to the point where I considered quitting without having secured another job first. On the plus side - I have gained experience in working with large, complex code bases, and worked under tight deadlines with hardly any budget. I've accepted a programming job outside of games, and I'm counting down the days until I leave.

Re:11 year veteran (1)

sinij (911942) | about a year ago | (#44595331)

Mod up so others can see this AC post.

not enough info (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#44595215)

70 grand? 70 grand in LA or New York isnt shit, 70 grand in Atlanta is a good living, where is this magical electronics company?

Whats the job position? programming a microwave timer may suck, programming the UI to the new BMW might be cool, or whatever

Why Blizzard? They do not generate enough projects to keep every wishful nerd with a BS in the world employed "just cause they like starcraft"

Why are you so worried to convince him when you obviously do not have all the info? Worry about screwing up your own life.

promised a job is not an offer (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44595229)

promised a job is not an offer and they can say stuff like we where banking on a big deal to happen and it did not so we can't hire you. Upper management is moving a different way and we don't need people with your skills, ECT.

I'm making those mistakes right now, myself. (3, Interesting)

E-Sabbath (42104) | about a year ago | (#44595241)

Well, I'm sort of in the same situation. Except that in my case, my friends and I decided to start our own company. We're building a MMO. No publishers.

We're not just out of college, we're veterans in a number of fields, and this is my point.
Education is transferable. If you know how to code, you can start in a good job, and move over later. Or, even better, do your own game. If it was art, I'd say, join a studio. But for coding? Sadly, you're replaceable. But you can replace them as well.

If you've got a good offer, go for it, but don't kill yourself. Go for the job, spend a year or two, and if you don't like it, move on, then come back as a more experienced person, and get back in higher in the food chain. Just out of college is a great time to try out something risky, that looks great on the resume.

But don't let them abuse you. Work hard, work well, but you are not a chew toy. The one thing most people right out of college miss, though, is that every project has to be finished and polished to be done. The stuff you do for class is under too tight a deadline to actually finish, you just get it working. This stuff, follow through on. Ask your boss about what I mean, if you get the job - knowing to ask that question can mark you as someone with a future.

I've had some good education from the following books:

Making Fun is a book about how a game is put together, the various jobs that exist and how they relate. []

Interactive Entertainment is a book about the life cycle of a game, and the various fields of gaming that exist. []

Level Up! is a book on game design. Once you know about what a game is, and how it's put together, this is pretty handy to dig style with. []

They're all a little generic, but they're also solid starting points. []

(For those curious about my personal project, it's a spiritual successor to City of Heroes. The MAN shut it down. Well, we can make our own game! With blackjack! And... forget the blackjack. With superheroes! And costumes! And all kinds of awesome stuff. And the best part is that in the ten years since CoH launched, the industry's come a long way - we can do all kinds of crazy stuff now.)
( if you're interested. )

Re:I'm making those mistakes right now, myself. (1)

julesh (229690) | about a year ago | (#44595739)

Except that in my case, my friends and I decided to start our own company. We're building a MMO.

Everyone's building an MMO. It seems to be the default I-want-to-make-this-kind-of-game genre (just like building an OS is the default for big software engineering projects -- just look how many hobbyist OSs there are out there!). Perhaps you shouldn't let this discourage you, but still worth thinking about.

If we're onto book recommendations, there are a couple more:

A Theory of Fun, Raph Koster. If you read his blog, it turns out there's a new edition due out soon, so may be worth waiting for it, but this is the seminal title on what it is that makes games fun.

Designing Virtual Worlds, Richard Bartle. Bartle co-developed the first MUD, which of course was the inspiration that eventually led to the development of the first MMOs, so this book is actually pretty indispensible for an MMO developer, I reckon. Goes into a lot of nitty-gritty about how a typical MMO actually works.

Re:I'm making those mistakes right now, myself. (1)

downix (84795) | about a year ago | (#44595893)

In all fairness, it is being developed as an MMO to replace a shut-down MMO.

It's About Culture (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595345)

As someone who recently start working for a game studio that is profitable, incredibly player-focussed and protects its culture with both hands, I just want to say that genuinely good opportunities do still exist in the gaming industry - though it would be disingenuous to pretend that they're the norm.

However, more fundamentally, forget gaming or any other domain for a second and demand that the people you work with embody and project as much of the following as possible...

a determination to cross the finish-line together
enthusiasm for the work
intelligence and the ability to use it constructively
an expectation of open feedback in all directions
an effortless affection (or fondness if you don't like 'affection') for those around them
charity of spirit (never starting with the assumption that 'the other guy' is an asshole when things go wrong)

These are a few of my favourite things :-) and looking for them wherever I go has had an extremely positive effect on my quality of life and the quality of life for those in my care (both professionally and personally).

Does he have a job offer in the gaming industry? (1)

Shoten (260439) | about a year ago | (#44595399)

This situation kind of reminds me of the character played by Randy Quaid in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," where his wife explains that he's been out of work for close to a decade because "he's holding out for a position in upper management."

But on the other hand, why is it your job to tell him what to do with his career? It's his life, let him live it for better and for worse. Any mistake he's intent on making is his to learn from, and most great successes looked like suicide missions to other people at the outset.

Use reason.... (3, Informative)

joocemann (1273720) | about a year ago | (#44595419)

... take the bird in the hand (the job offered).... then work at the company making money and gaining reputable XP while trying to apply to blizzard and get in there....

Nobody is going to think less of you for working in your field. If anything, the xp will only help validate your friends' skillset and give more power to the application to blizzard.

Also, who the hell considers turning down a job offer in this economy? I had to win a grant to get my job.

It's fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595429)

I worked at EA Canada on a few sports games. It was, surprisingly, perfectly fine. I heard stories, of course, but the teams I was on were fine. I'm working at an indie now (one that's actualy making money), and it's just great. I'm not going to suggest looking for work in game dev, because there's plenty of not fine teams, but experiences in the industry are not universally awful. I've also heard plenty of terrible tales from other high tech companies, it's not like it's necessary specific to game development. Game dev is higher profile, though, you don't see many payroll software fan sites out there.

Entry level is HARD (1)

evilviper (135110) | about a year ago | (#44595589)

"I have a friend who, when he gets out of college, has been promised a job at well known electronics company with a salary around $70k. However, he wants to instead go work for Blizzard or some other game company as a game programmer."

This is NOT an "either-or" situation. He's not going to die in two years, he's not committed to the job offer for life, and a gaming company isn't going to see electronics work on his resume and blacklist him.

Entry-level is HARD, and a college degree is worth very little without some job experience to back it up. Some jobs, like "manager" are assumed to transfer from one industry to another pretty easily, so aiming low might work out better in the long-term.

Developing a small pile of cash quickly is worthwhile. You have a LOT more freedom to do what you want when you have several thousand dollars in the bank, and can afford to pay your bills for a year if other positions don't work out. Or you may find you suddenly need a pile of cash to quickly relocate for the next available job.

Money can't buy happiness, but I've never seen people with a solid savings nearly as unhappy as those with lots of debt hanging over their head, and suffering through a job that makes them miserable because one missed paycheck is going to destroy their house of cards.

Re:Entry level is HARD (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about a year ago | (#44596341)

Yup, entry level is HARD to get into. I've been trying to get any job to start my career for close to a decade. I even graduated from Carnegie Mellon, and my hobbies are playing video games and programming. I'm doing the Indie scene now since I have no choice of getting an actual job. I code extremely well, but I have a very difficult time getting interviews. I chalk it up to graduating at the dot com bust when they only hired people with experience, and then having not getting any experience, no one ever was interested in me. I'm a 90-120k+ yr quality software engineer, and I'd be willing to work for 35k/yr since my family isn't rich, but I can't find anyone in the world to give me the time of day. I've only had 7 interviews in the past 10 years, but sent out about 5000 resumes and had about 250 recruiters looking for positions for me.

Be aware of the burnout (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595759)

I know quite a few developers who started out in the gaming sector.

They're extremely bright (cleverer than me, and I'm no idiot) but they all burnt out within five years or so from the difficulty and the bad working conditions.

A job offer of 70k straight out of college is amazing : do that for a few years and then tout your c.v. and home built projects around knowing that you'll always have somewhere to stay if you don't find a job doing what you think will be ideal for you - in the end it might not be and the 'grass is always greener on the other side' is an easy trap to fall into during your first 10 years as a pro.

I've worked as a game programmer for over 4 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44595791)

...and my experience has largely been positive. Sorry about the Anonymous Coward posting, but this is my first post on Slashdot.

At my first job the pay was definitely much, much lower than what I could have gotten from other companies in other industries, but I was happy enough to have my foot in the door in the industry. Worked at a relatively new, untested startup. I started at $32.5k a year as a scripter, and was eventually promoted to a full programmer. By the time the company flopped 2 and a half years later, I was making $52k. It was a really fun place to work with a lot of cool people who are still close friends, even though I live a country away from them now. There was one point where the company had us all working overtime and on saturdays for about six months, which sucked, but you have to go into this industry with the expectation that there will be overtime. All in all, it was an awesome place to work.

Second job was at a slightly larger and more established company. Worked there for about a year and a half before they laid off half the staff because they were unhappy with the pace of development. Funny thing is, they've hired up back to full capacity, and development hasn't gone any faster since then. Still, it was a really cool place to work, lots of awesome people, and relatively low stress. Was not forced into mandatory overtime there.

The company I'm at now is about the same size as my second company. Basically the same story as the other two. Some overtime, but by no means the sweatshop stuff people talk about (In my one and a half years here, I've had a six week period where I was asked to work extra hours, and that's it). The pay is good, the people are fun, and I'm working in an industry I love.

The big key here though is that I've never worked for any of the major publishers. I've never worked for Activision, EA, or Ubisoft. The horror stories tend to come from the larger publishers and their subsidiaries. I've worked for smaller companies, and my experiences with them have been absolutely positive. I love my job, I love all three of the companies I've worked for (Even though I've been laid off from my first two, I've got no hate for them), and I wouldn't want to do anything else. At its best, the Gaming Industry is an amazing place to work. At its worst, it's a true nightmare. The nightmare stories are the ones you hear about the most though.

That all said, the hardest part about getting into the Gaming Industry is getting your foot in the door. If your friend does not have an already impressive resume with independent game projects and mods on it, or internships at existing gaming companies, then his chances of even getting an interview at a company like Blizzard are slim to none. I got my first job in the industry because I knew someone who worked at the company that hired me. Sad to say, but getting your foot in the door is more about either who you know, or the independent projects you've already done, than how good you are at programming.

I'd be straight in that job. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596061)

Take the job, get a bunch of money together on a more stable industry for 5-10 years.
Do game dev on the side and build a portfolio of small, simple, fun and "innovative" games. (latter optional)

In 5-10 years, get a job at a smaller game company and actually enjoy it.
Smaller companies tend to have more passion and love for the industry. There are new ones that pop up every so often.
They might crash and burn, but you can hop to the next one that fills the space and repeat.
If there are currently no good small companies around, take up a temp job elsewhere until one becomes available.
Given you never wasted any of the money in the first 5-10 years from your good stable decently-paying job, it should keep you going for a while.

Game companies come around fairly often, so it won't be that long a wait in a temp transitional job to fill the time and pockets.
And if none do? Start your own. You have the portfolio, you have the knowledge, you likely have some contacts with people from other companies and you'd most likely get financial help easily due to all of the previous stuff.
Just make sure to not destroy yourself in the process. Get some project management experience or a project manager to help focus resources. Make crappy popular social/casual games for majority and have longer-term Good Games as secondary priority. 60:30 to 80:20 seems about right.

Fuck large companies, they are basically sweatshops with no fun or passion, only pain and greed. They put people OFF the industry more than they get people on it.
Don't do Big Games, it will ruin your spirit.

In the end, you can't force them to do anything.
If they crash, be a good friend and offer a shoulder and a drink or whatever else they like to do / eat.

Get experience first (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596121)

As someone who recently landed a job at a AAA gaming company, let me say that it was not easy. These companies are very careful about whom they hire and prefer those with videogame industry experience. Having none, I had to come in with 10 years of experience in my field (web stack) and having created a popular mod for a popular videogame on my own time. I'd let your friend go and interview at Blizzard; he will almost certainly get turned away as someone fresh out of college. Then he can go into the "real world" for a while.

I think people are a greater issue here... (1)

bloggerhater (2439270) | about a year ago | (#44596157)

There is one detail everyone is glossing over.

Your first IT job is nothing but a cornerstone for your career. If you find yourself in one position for one year...two years...three are doing it wrong. Most companies have no good reason to give big raises to their engineers without promotion into a "new position." With how volatile the world markets have been over the last decade, it has become even more difficult to grow within a single organization.

The secret to being successful in IT is to continue growing your skillset and never stay in one place to long. Contracting shorter one off projects is a great place for a fresh grad to start because you can quickly fill your resume. This is very easy to do if you were wise enough to contribute to any ((open source!!)) projects while working through high school and college. Especially in states like Colorado that are preparing to open their public insurance market places in the coming weeks.

Once you have the resume to do consulting full time, you just cant beat it. Digital nomad. It's the life!

Sony (1)

jtara (133429) | about a year ago | (#44596159)

Sony is a big electronics company AND a gaming company, so perhaps your friend can have his cake and eat it too. (Or perhaps it's a lie...)

I spent a couple years at Sony San Diego Studio as a contractor, albiet not as a "game programmer". Two contracts doing Ruby/Rails backend stuff, first working on internal software that manages configuring back-end servers and deploying them, and then working on back-end admin and console services. The latter was definately much more fun, since it was working in the same space as the game developers. (Sony produces most/all of their sports-related games at their San Diego Studio. I worked on back-end stuff for MLB The Show and Mod Nation Racers.)

It's a typical big-company tech environment. They pay standard competitive rates to contractors, and I gather the employees are well-paid and get good benefits. It is definately seasonal, with cruch-time around the holidays, unfortunately, but then the place is nearly desserted in the summer as people use comp time then. Everyone seemed generally happy. It feels like any other well-funded, non-venture San Diego tech company. Laid-back, even looser than normal dress code, really not excessive pressure. (Though one particular night rolling-out the Mod Nation Racers beta just before Christmas got some nerves on edge, as it was their first major deployment on Amazon, and didn't spin-up enough servers for demand. Well, and Rails... So, it was a night of emergency surgery to see what could be taken out to improved throughput and response. A couple of normally-unflappable co-workers got pretty frazzled.)

Dunno about the game development teams, but both groups I worked in were big on Scrum. The good thing is the meetings are only 10 minutes. The bad thing is, you have to get in by the daily meeting time. (Which was conveniently scheduled for the sleep-ins, though, so really not that bad.) (Best Scrum moment - a co-worker passing out from locking his knees while standing. Of course, they had to call EMS as a precaution, and I'm sure it was embarrasing. My boss smoothed it over by remarking that he did the same thing at his wedding! The irony is that the passer-out was a big fitness nut, and won some competition at the complex gym, so I suppose even more embarassing...) At the same time, there were the weekly, typical corporate-style meetings where you all fall asleep around a big conference table and somebody wakes you up when it's your turn. But at least these are kept to a minimum.

If Sony is an option, I'd highly recommend it.

Doesn't Matter (1)

The Cat (19816) | about a year ago | (#44596173)

You'll get laid off after the first game ships anyway.

how long... (1)

jameshofo (1454841) | about a year ago | (#44596225)

will you continue to be friends if he hates it, you duty as a grind is to dispense advice (if requested or appropriate). and empower the decisions he does make, it is NOT your duty to make sure he makes the decision you like.

Do the thing you love. Duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596333)

Game developer here. If he wants to make games, then he should make games; they pay just as well as any other software engineering, and he'll be truly interested in what he's doing.

He should just make sure to research the working conditions of any company he's applying to. I've never had any issues with terrible conditions, and have only had a few weeks sprinkled throughout the past decade where I was asked or expected to work more than 40-ish hours. My first large company experience wasn't super great overall, but it wasn't a sweatshop. My current large company is going fine, and I enjoyed several small companies in between. Aim for companies that have lots of married guys with kids, and things are more likely to be sane. If you just buckshot a resume at anything that will hire, then yeah, you're likely to find some shitty places, so be smart about it.

And if he can't find a game job by the time that other one starts, then he can always start at the boring one and move when the better job comes along. The worst thing the engineering company will do to him for leaving early is take back some of the initial signing bonus or moving expenses, so no problem if he plans from the start to give those back.

Working in the Gaming Industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596345)

I've worked as a game programmer for three companies now.

One was a little startup that flamed out in a few months for lack of startup cash. Great ideas, working our tails off trying to get demos that were shiny enough to impress anyone that would give us cash.... and you know what? Nobody wanted to give loads of cash to a bunch of guys with great ideas to turn our dreams into reality. On the other hand, one of the groups we pitched our ideas at was a company (which shall remain nameless) that was about to launch an MMO, knew it was in trouble and needed programmers for Immediate Crunch Time Now, and offered to hire all of us as contractors, because one thing our little demos did prove is that we had some programming skills. So that led to a job as a contractor at a real MMO company

Joining the company right as a game went into pre-launch "Oh crap things are broken" crunch time was the perfect introduction to the stereotypical 80-hour week bull that people complain about. Also incredibly dysfunctional management -- the pointy-haired-guy from dilbert would have fit right in. At the end of my six-month contract, I went to my manager and said "so, my contract is expiring in a week, do you guys want to renew it, hire me full time, or what?", and his response was "huh? nobody told me you were a contractor...". The only way to get a promotion to senior programmer was to get a job offer from another company, wave it at your manager, and says "I'm leaving unless I get promoted today". I could fill a book with management-horror-stories.

Despite the long hours, despite the stress, despite the management suck, despite the fact that I had been making quite a lot more several years earlier when I'd been working for IBM, it was FUN. I got a huge amount of job satisfaction from being able to launch the game, cast a spell at someone, and think "I did that! The only reason that spell exists in this game is because I extended the engine to allow for that kind of effect..." Working as a corporate drone programmer for IBM never gave me that kind of buzz, because I never really got to hands-on use the stuff I created.

From there, I moved to 38 Studios. That was my dream job. Paid well, the people were awesome, and we were working on a really great game. I would tell you that your friend should apply there, except for the part where it went bankrupt last year... but that was the best job I've ever had, great managers, great co-workers, great pay, the hours weren't bad, and the work was exciting. If the people who ran it start a new company, I'll ditch my current job and go work for them again in a heartbeat.

So, the moral here is: it varies by company. 38 studios just rocked all-around. The little startup, well... it had the usual startup problems, and flamed out fast, in a very common way for little startups. And the other one had a lot of the common failures of large gaming companies, including relatively low pay and long hours and bad management, but was still overall a fun place to work. So don't apply to "the gaming industry" -- do your homework, find out about a company, and apply for a job at that company or don't, depending. If it's a local company, chances are someone from your school now works there, so ask them!

$70k not that great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44596487)

I know it's very location dependent, but am I the only one who's not impressed by that $70k figure?
From personal experience, starting salaries on the west coast are closer to $100k now. $70k is closer to what your friend would have been offered 10 years ago.
About 3 years ago I hired a college grad and HR determined that we should offer him $90k base pay.
In Silicon Valley, I don't think you'd get anybody to sign up for $70k.Bwtween rent and taxes a goof chunk of that would be spoken for.

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