People have a certain impression of what being a game designer is all about. The usual reaction when I tell people what I do for a living is "OMG, that is soooo cool!" and more often than not followed by a "you dont look like a gamer!" -_-
Most of the time, they will ask me how I ended up in that field, how did I "score" such a job. And I tell them I've been playing games for as long as I can remember, that for many years I wrote and ran events and fiddled for quite some time with graphic design programs, level editors, etc. which in turn allowed me to build a decent enough portfolio that got me accepted in the game design program at the Ubisoft Campus. From there I was given the choice to do an internship in a video game company or do the school project. I went with the intership and got hired there, until the day I moved to the US to work on UO.
Since my joining the UO team has been announced, it's funny the number of people that didn't use to give me the time of day who suddenly think I'm the sweetest person under the sun. But beyond that, it's incredible how passionate those same people are about game design and how they feel they would be the perfect fit. Invariably, they ask for some sort of a hook up. "Can you get me in? Can you push my resume if I send it to you?"
Now here is where I get offended. It's not the fact that they are trying to use me to get where they want to be because I understand that sometimes you've got to be ruthless to get places. If that's what you have to do to get your foot in the door, then better shameless than sorry. No, what gets to me is the fact that these people do not actually care about the profession, and often they dont even care about the game or have quit playing it.
It's all about the glamour. Being able to brag about having "the cool job". When you ask them what they think the job entitles, they have no clue. They give me ignorant remarks such as "adding stuff to the game?". When you ask them what their qualifications are, why they think they deserve an interview more than the next guy, most of them fumble. Have you ever been a DM? A what? A DM, you know a Dungeon Master? Errr no? Hmmm, ok, have you ever writen fiction? Short stories? Fantasy tales? Quests? Puzzles? Errr no, none of that either. Wow, ok... Have you ever tried to create your own map with the map editors that come with certain games? Hell no! That looks too complicated. Sheesh, lets see. Have you ever done anything game related at all? Graphic design? 3D modeling? Scripting? 3D animation? Been a QA tester anywhere? Something? Anything? Oooh you Beta Tested a couple games and you feel that should suffice to qualify you as a game designer? I see.
So hmmmm, assuming that by some sort of miracle I do manage to get you an interview, how are you going to convince the team that you can do the job? You don't know? Haven't gotten to that part yet?
This is not a game.
All the people on the team, be it the artists, the designers, the engineers, the testers and yes even CS (despite all the bad press they get) are really hard working, passionate and creative people. We don't play games all day. We WORK.
You want to work in games, earn your place. It doesn't have to be with a billion diplomas or years of experience. But it certainly has to be with undeniable passion and commitment. You cannot just wake up one day and expect to be handed over a game design job (or any other job) without some sort of credentials or verifiable talent or skill. You can't afford to go to school or there are none in your area teaching that field, then you build yourself a portfolio at home. Start playing with the map editors that come with your games. Start learning programs such as Maya and 3DS and Photoshop. Take advantage of the free online scripting programs. Start writing some fiction. Start setting up some player run events. Do the work for a bit to see how that shoe fits. Once you know what kind of work we're talking about, then you can ask for the hook ups.
Stop asking for free rides.