Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Laure De Mey, Programmer at ustwo games. Read more about Laure in this interview:
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Ewa Kurek, Quality Assurance Lead at Wargaming. Read more about Ewa in this interview:
Hi Ewa! You are the Quality Assurance Lead at Wargaming. How does a typical workday at the studio look like for you?
How a typical day at wargaming looks like really depends on the stage of development we are currently at. In the early stages, I take part in planning, design sessions, tech estimations and any other meetings, where issues or risk areas can be identified early. In the later stages, just before a milestone ends, QA tends to go into full battle mode 😉 it’s all about verifying a feature’s functionality and giving fast feedback, as well as making sure that everything works as intended.
You have been working in the area of QA for almost seven years now. What is it that inspired you to work in QA in the first place?
I grew up with video games and I always loved trying to find a way to cheat the system or pushing the game rules with unexpected actions. I was very curious if there was a way to break the game, so looking for holes in systems was always like a personal challenge to me. I know that sounds awful, however, it is fun at the same time – it is like solving a puzzle in my mind.
What would you say are some helpful skills a person should have when they want to start a career in QA themselves?
Patience: Your patience will be tested thoroughly. Let’s say that you don’t have any debug tools and you have to check if a bug got fixed – in the final boss fight, insane mode, spending a decent amount of time on it – just to learn that actually, the responsible programmer forgot to push the fix to the correct development branch… Oops, I guess you have to try again. 😉
Empathy: Finding issues in somebody’s else’s work plus delivering the news that a task needs to be revisited can be slightly disturbing to your colleagues. Doing it in a positive manner and with the main intention to help make the product better, should be your main motivation.
Assertiveness: There is always some kind of time pressure, hence what tends to be postponed and cropped is the polishing/bug fixing phase. Quite often, development overflows the sacred feature freeze phase, and you might not have enough time to ensure that the quality of the game is good enough. QA should have enough confidence to say no to such situations and ensure we have enough time to test and get all the outstanding issues to be fixed.
Thank you for your time Ewa!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Alice Rendell, Senior Narrative Designer at Massive Entertainment. Read more about Alice in this interview:
Hi Alice! You are a Senior Narrative Designer at Massive Entertainment. Having worked both as a Narrative Designer as well as a Game Designer in the past, what is it that drives your passion for storytelling in video games?
I really believe that games are able to tell unique stories because we can use gameplay and systems to elevate the narrative experience, which is something that just isn’t possible in more traditional storytelling forms like film and TV. I personally love exploring how gameplay can evoke emotions, the way a character moves through the world can be loaded with just as much narrative as a cutscene (sometimes more so). The different ways we can use gameplay to tell stories is something that truly excites me. I don’t believe games have reached their full potential yet on how to do this, and that is something I definitely want to be a part of.
For a blogpost on Massive’s website you have talked about your experience working on indie as well as AAA productions, going into some of the “AAA myths” some people might have. Could you share the most common statements and your personal experience with them?
The main comment I hear when talking about AAA games is the idea that as a developer, you have to compromise your creativity, either due to large team sizes or because of a more corporate structure. My experience has been the opposite. For the indie games I worked on, we very often didn’t have time, tools or resources to create what we wanted to, and compromises on design and narrative were constantly being made. That of course still happens with AAA games, but as there are far more resources available I find that I am able to push the vision of what we can do because we have the team and the tools to support it. I personally find this allows me to be more creative, as I really get to do a deep-dive into the best way to tell stories in the game as opposed to spending the majority of my energy thinking of workarounds.
You are also vocal about mental health issues such as burnout, something you have dealt with in the past as well. Speaking from your own experience, what has helped you recover and how could other members of the industry lower the risk of experiencing a burnout themselves?
The problem with burnout is that the stress levels in your system are so high that you end up running on adrenaline for months at a time, which actually makes you feel like you are on top of everything. I didn’t realize anything was wrong until I started getting chest pains, and at that point it was too late and I was already burnt-out. There is a burnout evaluation test online which is good to take every couple of months, regardless of how stressed you think you are, because sometimes burnout can creep up on you with realizing it.
The biggest help for me coming back to work after burnout was being able to set strict boundaries for myself. My perfectionist nature mixed with my passion means I have a tendency to take on too much, and say yes to everything regardless of how busy I am. It was important for my recovery that I listened to my gut and say no when I felt like something would overload me. Also reminding myself that my work doesn’t need to be perfect 100% of the time; pretty damn good is also entirely acceptable!
Thank you for your time Alice!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Enya Tack, Project Manager at Wargaming. Read more about Enya in this interview:
Hi Enya! You are the Project Manager at Wargaming’s Berlin office. What is it that inspired you to take your first step into the games industry?
Being an avid gamer, I did not have to think twice when I got the chance to work in the games industry. I was in college when the community team of a game I played a lot at the time reached out to me and asked if I was willing to work for them and move to Berlin. I followed my gut feeling and accepted pretty much right away.
I want to give players the best possible gaming experience, which is exactly what I expect when I play games myself. The thought that people will play the game I work on and get enjoyment out of it is very fulfilling for me.
Last year you gave a talk during the Quo Vadis conference, where you spoke about the process of managing a game project spread across two separate Wargaming offices – one in Berlin and the other in Shanghai. As a Project Manager, how do you approach such a challenging task?
I am very grateful to have gotten the opportunity to talk at Quo Vadis. I appreciated sharing my experience and learnings, and hope other teams can learn from it!
It may sound cheesy, but communication really is key. Being so far away from each other can make it hard to be on the same page and share the same vision, so you need to make sure to keep yourself up-to-date on everything.
The challenge is to find the right channels to communicate and to make sure communication is efficient and balanced. You don’t want to spend all day writing emails or in skype calls, because then you will get no work done. But the teams should also not be afraid to reach out and ask questions, or to have a quick call when something is unclear. We use mails for heavier topics, group chat channels for quick questions, and also have regular play sessions to get a clear view of features that are being worked on.
I also think it’s very important that as a Project Manager, you avoid creating unnecessary bottlenecks by taking on all the communication. Show your team how to properly reach out to the other studio and give them the resources to do so, making them more independent and empowered in their work. We make sure the relevant team members are always added to CC and to use group chat channels as much as possible, so everyone can follow along and does not need to rely on me to get all information.
In the end it’s all about keeping the conversation open and creating an environment of trust.
In the past you’ve also appeared on the official World of Warships Blitz Youtube Channel, where you have held livestreams and announced new ingame content. Generally speaking, how important is it as a Project Manager to have a good amount of self esteem, any tips on becoming more confident in yourself?
As a Project Manager you need to put yourself in the middle all the time, question everything and take the lead when necessary (and let go when necessary). This does require a good bit of self esteem, but also a great deal of empathy and self awareness. You will get to work with a diverse group of people and not all personalities will match yours or the rest of your team, so you will often need to get over your own ego. In my opinion that is only possible if you are comfortable and confident with yourself and your skills.
That isn’t to say you should not question yourself! It is healthy to think critically about your own actions. Is the process you put in place 6 months ago still up to date? Do you have your priorities straight, or do you need to re-adjust? Are there new bottlenecks created that need fixing? Don’t be afraid to ask yourself and your team questions to keep on evaluating yourself and your work.
There are a few things that helped me improve my self esteem:
- Know yourself, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and make the best out of them. I know exactly what I am good at and know how to use my strengths, which in return makes me feel more confident at what I do.
- Get to know your team and the people you work with, for example by going to lunch together or playing games as a team. Talking to someone, giving feedback or asking questions, is just so much easier when you know the person and will make you feel more comfortable as a whole.
- Set clear values and realistic goals: what do you want to achieve? Splitting up your bigger goals into smaller steps is a great way to get started. Being able to move a task to the “done”-pile is so very satisfying!
- Own up to your mistakes, fix them and learn from them. It is never fun to make mistakes but acknowledging them and coming up with a solution is a good learning experience and will only help you grow.
- Help others! Nothing will boost your confidence more than knowing your work and your actions helped someone else.
- Get yourself a mentor, if possible. Someone who you can sit down with on a regular basis to go over your performance, possible issues and doubts, someone who can give you unbiased advice and feedback, but can also point out the things you are doing well so you can build on that.
Thank you for your time Enya!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Jess Hider, Technical Designer at Rare. Read more about Jess in this interview:
Hi Jess! You are a Technical Designer at Rare, where you currently work on Everwild. Can you tell us a bit about your role in the team, what is it that a Technical Designer does?
As a technical designer, I come up with features and mechanics that support the vision for our game, but instead of exploring them purely on paper, I’m happy to jump into the game engine myself and start prototyping them out.
For me, this is an incredibly powerful tool to have as a designer. The sooner you can get the concepts out of your head and into someone else’s hands, the better. You learn so much more when you are playing what you are thinking. It also means you can show others what you are thinking, getting them to experience for themselves where your head’s at, which can make it far easier to explain new concepts. You avoid the whole, ‘It’s kind of like this and this, but without that bit and with this extra-ish bit on top’ and can simply be, ‘This is what I mean’.
Your resume shows you’ve already been involved in very different areas of the games industry such as art, animation and community management. What is it that led you to become a Technical Designer at Rare?
Ah yes, my journey definitely jumps about a bit! But now looking back on it, I’d say it was all of my experiences leading me towards Technical Design – I just didn’t know what Technical Design was.
I’ve always been interested in telling stories. I think at the age of twelve, after a stop-motion animation project at high school, I decided I wanted to be an 2D animator for Disney. Fast forward a few years and I’m at Abertay University studying hand-drawn animation amongst other things, and it’s all going well until Disney announced they were closing down their hand-drawn department, and a couple of years later, Studio Ghibli did the same. By that time though, I was being pulled into the world of games rather than films, because it had an intriguing challenge to me – how do you tell stories when a player could go anywhere and do anything?
And that’s something I’m still exploring. One of our core pillars at Rare is ‘Players Telling Stories Together’. How do we enable players to tell their own stories? How do we build spaces where players can be true to themselves and play the way they want to? Finding ways to answer these questions has me skipping into work each day. (Sometimes literally, there are witnesses!)
As I transitioned more into games at uni, I started diving into all sorts of areas – art, animation, vfx, scripting – so by the end of my degree I could build out my own little games in Unreal, taking something from concept through to playing it on my phone. Kudos to Abertay for making the course flexible enough to support this scope of learning, and then to 4J Studios for giving me a taste of how it all applies in a studio environment, because having that broad knowledge of the games pipeline is so useful in my work today.
Being able to work with other disciplines is crucial as a designer. You may have a vision of where you want to go, but if you can’t bring others with you on that journey towards it, then the vision is basically useless. A good start for being able to work with others effectively is understanding their position and their needs, so if you’re able to literally put yourselves in their shoes and try your hand at their processes and pipelines, you start understanding where their requests or frustrations are coming from.
Another part in being able to successfully share your vision is good communication skills. You need to be able to put your ideas across in a way that’s digestible to others, and as I’ve learnt, that often means changing up your communication style to suit your audience – everyone is unique and prefers information in a different format.
For that, I’m grateful for the time I spent as a Community Manager at Epic. I was working with such an array of people (colleagues, devs, corporations, media) and in so many formats (presentations, social, conferences, emails, blogs) I had to step up how I communicated with others. I’m very grateful to Dayna Cowley and Mike Gamble for being wonderful mentors and pushing me forward in this area, because I use these soft skills every single day as a designer.
Without these communication and networking skills, I wouldn’t have ended up at Rare. My Rare journey actually began five or so years ago, when I met the illustrious Louise O’Connor at a Ukie Student Event at EGX. She was sharing her journey of being an animator in the industry and, being a nervous student, I finally worked up the courage to go and talk to her. Over the next few years we reconnected at many different industry events and ultimately it was these encounters, plus some prodding from other Rarians, that led to me joining her team.
Even though my career looks a bit all over the place, everything I’ve done has helped me get to where I am, and the skills I’ve learnt along the way are all things I use in my role now. If you’re reading this, and aren’t quite where you want to be or aren’t even sure where that is, I want to say; whatever you are doing now, don’t discount it. Everything you are doing will help you get to where you want to be – but the path may only be clear when you look back on it.
What would you recommend as a starting point for artists who want to dive deeper into the more technical areas of art, but are afraid to do so?
I’d recommend taking a look at shaders or materials – they’re a very visual representation of maths as art. I enjoyed maths at school, but when it came to things like vectors, I could calculate them but I never truly understood them. But what I loved about materials (especially in Unreal) was I had a way to visualise vectors, and other types of maths, and suddenly things started to make a lot more sense.
There’s loads of great tutorials online to get you started; if you’re using Unreal you have their Introduction to Materials Playlist, I find Klemen Lozar’s twitter particularly inspirational, and I also have a tutorial website with some simple tutorials to get you started.
Thank you for your time Jess!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Erin Yvette, Voice and MoCap Actor. Read more about Erin in this interview:
Hi Erin! You are a voice actress as well as a mocap actress for games and commercials and can be heard in games like The Wolf Among Us, Oxenfree and Firewatch. First off, what is it that inspired you to become a voice and mocap actress?
I started performing on stage as a young kid to burn energy, but I ultimately caught the actor bug. I struggled in college to figure out how best to pursue a career as an actor, bouncing from NYU for musical theater to UC Berkeley for theater — it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to do my first VO role (Molly in Telltale’s The Walking Dead) that I considered voice-over as a possible career path. It’s one of those hidden careers where you stay mostly anonymous and unrecognized, for better or worse. When you hear radio or see TV commercials, you don’t think about the voice actor in a recording booth reading a tagline twenty times, right? Animation loves to amplify celebrity names in castlists, but rarely does so for the working VO actor. Games are actually pretty good at recognizing the contribution of their voice and capture artists, but it’s certainly not a road to “fame.”
Voice acting was my “Goldilocks” acting path: it was just right for me. It’s not glamorous or dependent on my appearance like on-screen acting, nor is it as underpaid or location-dependent as on-stage acting. Also, I play & love games! Voice acting, especially in games, is an incredibly fun and versatile form of expression and I’ve been fortunate enough to make a career out of it. Performance capture is also my happy place when I’m lucky enough to do it, as it lends itself well to my theater training — I’m on my feet, interacting with the space around me and with other actors.
How does a usual recording session when working on a game look like for you, and how do you prepare yourself in advance?
VO sessions for games typically don’t allow for prep beforehand. In fact, I often don’t even know the name of the game before I step in the booth (I’ll only know it by a temp working title like “Bacon” or “Squirrel Nutz 2.”) If I do know the game’s real title, I’ll research everything I can that’s been released about it or any titles previously released by the studio. The less they have to explain to me in the booth, the faster we can work and the deeper I can dive into the character. If it’s p-cap, I’ll have the scripts in advance to memorize and I’ll begin to develop where the character lives vocally and physically, and may even get to rehearse with the director and other actors before we shoot. Regardless of how much I know going in, I always show up with my voice & body warmed up and ready to play.
Game sessions move quickly and are an absolute blast because the worlds are so varied, the narrative may be branching, there may be multiple characters you’re voicing that all need distinct voices, etc. But they can also be quite vocally stressful. If you’ve ever played a game with characters shouting “MORE AMMO” or “HEADS UP,” remember that the actor likely recorded that line, and every other projected line you hear, at least three times in the booth. It adds up. So sometimes we leave the booth sore, sweating, and in need of some vocal rest.
What would you say are the first important steps someone should take when striving to become a voice actor themselves?
Like any acting medium, the most important skill is “acting.” There’s a misconception that having a “good voice” is all it takes, but even those who made a career off their “good voice” (ie: H Jon Benjamin, Kristen Schaal, Patrick Warburton, etc.) are fantastic actors and improvisers. VO-specific classes are a great way to learn because they’ll get you in the booth & in front of the mic so you can get that experience in a safe environment. But other ways to study the craft are singing lessons for breath support and vocal endurance, improv classes and/or stand-up to further refine your acting chops, scene-study to help with quick character development and cold-reading skills, and dance to help with broadening your physical range. But the easiest way to learn, in my opinion, is critically consuming the media you want to be involved in and seeing where you could fit in it. If you want to be in games, you should be playing games and noting the performances and what you most connect with in them. Also, don’t skip the cutscenes!
Thank you for your time Erin!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Eva Widermann, freelance concept artist and illustrator. Read more about Eva in this interview:
Hi Eva! You are a Freelance Concept Artist and Illustrator and previously worked on productions such as Hearthstone. Not only do you work on games, but also on comics and book illustrations. How much differs your workflow as an artist depending on the industry?
It depends on the project. Sometimes I get a briefing for a Cover or a comic and I get to read the manuscript in advance to get a feeling for the story. Often the main characters already exist and the world is visually developed and I have to match a certain look. My work on the Star Wars Rebels Comics for example was filled to the brim with references of space shuttles, costumes and uniforms, weapons… there is a huge fan base reading the comics and every little mistake I make (and my AD or Director doesn’t notice) will be out there and discussed. So, gathering a ton of reference material is usually the first thing I do when I work on a comic. Drawing comics is intense work and a lot of art has to be produced, so you kinda have to be fast enough to make it pay off later. It needs to look good, but you don’t have the time to be perfect. It’s similar with Concept Art, you spend more time exploring and sketching and researching than refining the art to a high level. Book or game illustration, however, is different: Initial sketches and layouts don’t need a lot of attention and just have to deliver the look and message of the art. But the focus and effort goes into refining the illustration until you and your client is happy.
Before working as a concept artist and illustrator you’ve worked in the field of graphic design. What made you decide to switch professions?
I had a great time working in the advertising industry, however, I just missed drawing. I always loved video games and roleplaying games and every time I looked through the core books and saw those fantastic artworks I thought: “Someone out there did those illustrations here and it’s probably just a human being like me, so it must be possible!” I learned a lot as a graphic designer which did benefit me for my entire career as a freelance illustrator, so I will be forever grateful for the experience, but I would never want to go back to the advertising industry. It was just not my world and I am glad I followed my heart.
Going freelance can be quite scary if not planned out correctly. How can artists who want to become self-employed prepare in order to avoid some of the risks?
As I mentioned already, starting out as a graphic designer did help me a lot with my illustration career. For the first few years I worked part time as a graphic designer and spent the rest of my day building up my illustration career to a degree where it started to be profitable for me and I was able to go freelance full time. It’s so important to learn how to deal with being creative under a lot of pressure – and the advertising industry was a great teacher for me there! Also, being an illustrator is – in my eyes – not being an artist. I am a service provider, a medium, someone who takes the vision of another person and puts it on paper or screen. I rarely get the chance to create anything for myself these days but that’s okay. Freelancing was actually never on my list but it just came with the job I dreamed of and I learned to manage myself better. I would absolutely recommend getting help from a tax consultant if this is not your cup of tea. I never have time to do my tax, so I am happy someone else does it for me. Self-Promotion is important, but you have to explore different ways because Social Media is being flooded with people showcasing their art, it is a jungle of pictures and it’s not easy to get noticed. Your art has to be marketable and appeal to the mass but you don’t want to be easily replaced either. Some months you earn a lot and some months you barely make money, so you have to make sure you always have some savings. Looking back at almost 18 years of freelancing I have to say that one of the most important advice I can give is watching your physical and mental health. All too easily you get drawn into a spiral of self-doubt and burnout and you become obsessed with your work and you forget to go out for fresh air, to meet friends and have adventures, which you NEED in order to be a creative person!
Thank you for your time Eva!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Gwen Frey, Founder and Primary Developer at Chump Squad. Read more about Gwen in this interview:
Hi Gwen! You are the Founder and Primary Developer at Chump Squad. Before creating your own studio, you’ve already worked on games like Bioshock Infinite and The Flame in the Flood. What made you decide to start developing games on your own?
My very first job was working at a startup in San Francisco. From the moment I took that job I knew I wanted to run a company. Some of this was hubris, but I looked around at all of the tech companies in Silicon Valley and starting a company just seemed so easy and fun! I was watching venture capitalists give millions to either highly disorganized “idea” people or to men in suits from Harvard, and neither one of those was working out for these investors. The startup I worked at shut down 6 months after I took the job, and I spent the next 6 years working in online games, and then in AAA, but I never forgot about my time in San Francisco. I always knew I’d start my own company one day.
My first opportunity came after Irrational Games closed. I was suddenly jobless again, but this time I had experience making successful games. I also had a large number of talented developers that had lost their jobs at the same time. I banded together with 5 other people and co-founded The Molasses Flood. In under 3 years we founded the studio, lined up some funding, and shipped The Flame in The Flood. This was not easy and there were a lot of ups and down, but I am insanely proud that we pulled this off. The Flame in The Flood is on every console and has been played by millions of people around the world. I love The Molasses Flood and honestly had no intention of ever leaving… but then I did.
After The Flame in The Flood launched I had started a game at home in my free time, and I absolutely fell in love with it. Unfortunately, the game I was making was a narrative puzzle game. I adore single player games, puzzle games, and rpgs, but what I was making was is in a genre that tends to lose money. Financially successful indie games are usually highly-systemic, roguelikes, or multiplayer games. Publishers and business people generally aren’t interested in puzzle games, and even now I have difficulty getting certain deals because of the genre. “Is the game replayable” is the first thing someone asks when I email them about the game. Back when I had started development on this game we were looking to grow The Molasses Flood, and we could not take the risk of investing in a puzzle game. It was especially risky because the person that wanted to design the game was me, and I’ve never been involved in game design before. I was always focused on the art, or on the business of game development. There was just no way to make this game at the company I co-founded.
But I strongly felt that I needed to make this game, so slowly over the course of a year I wound down my role at The Molasses Flood and I formed my own studio, Chump Squad. This way I could take on the risk, and have fun making exactly what I wanted to make. It was difficult to do this, but I’m extremely happy that I decided to go it alone. I’m proud to say that I completed and launched that narrative puzzle game, Kine, in October last year. You can play it on the Epic Game Store, any console, and on Google Stadia. Please check it out!
You began your games career as a technical artist and technical animator. Where are the differences compared to “usual” artists and animators, and why did you specify in these areas?
Everyone in my family is a programmer. I wanted to be an animator, but I never thought I would pull it off. I actually went to the school of Film and Animation at RIT (a programming school.) I always assumed that I would give up on art, switch my major to programming, and then go get a real job. Halfway through college I met a group of aspiring game developers and we made games together in our free time. I loved doing this. In fact I spent so much time making games at college I couldn’t keep up with my animation classes. In order to make my workload more manageable I convinced my professors to let me focus on character rigging. I would rig characters for other students so that they could focus on animation and I could focus on just rigging. I really enjoyed setting up characters, and knew I could do this significantly faster than the other students because I had written a bunch of tools in Python to automate the process. This worked out extremely well, and led to my first job being a “tech art” job rigging characters in video games. As soon as I got that job I spent a lot of time writing tools to automate the art processes at that studio… and this pattern just sort of continued throughout my career. I tend to get to a place, find there is something that no one is doing that should really get done, and then I do that thing. Sometimes it is a system that people know they need (someone has to figure out how real time cloth works in UE3) sometimes it is a tool that people don’t realize they badly need, and sometimes I just make art. I love having a very undefined job, it gives me a lot of freedom.
Chump Squad’s first title, Kine, was released last year. What is some useful advice you would like to share with people who are also interested in developing games on their own?
This is a very difficult question. Different people need completely different advice, and giving the wrong advice is often dangerous. For example, if someone says they can’t seem to focus on their work then that could mean they haven’t formed solid work habits and they need to set a time to start and stop working each day. On the other hand it could also mean that this person is burned out and they need to step away from work for a while. If you don’t know that person you could give them the wrong advice, and the wrong advice could hurt them. This effect is amplified because as humans we often seek out the wrong advice! We look for advice that confirms what we want to believe rather than what we need to hear.
Going further, business advice is often regional (going to GDC is easy if you are American, and harder/pointless if you are South African), and design advice is only useful if it plays into your specific advantages and disadvantages as a designer. I’m not kidding when I say this: There is no universally “useful” advice. I wish there was, it would make questions like this easier 🙂
Thank you for your time Gwen!
Gwen’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/direGoldfish
Kine’s Website: https://www.kinegame.com/
The Dialog Box’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/dialogBoxCast
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Valentina, Studio Narrative Designer at King. Read more about Valentina in this interview:
Hi Valentina! You are the Studio Narrative Designer for King. As both a Narrative Designer as well as a Game Designer, your tasks seem to include a vast field. Why have you decided to specify in two fields instead of just one?
Narrative design is the connective tissue between writing and game design, so it’s a cross-functional job by nature. Not a lot of companies have dedicated narrative design positions, but all games could benefit from somebody with that skill set. So it’s not unheard of to be a narrative designer and writer or a narrative designer and game designer (officially or unofficially). In my case, I just ended up in companies who hired me for this exact combination of skills. While working on point-and-click adventures, most of the studio writers also designed the puzzles and game progression to tell their story. And working on mobile games, my narrative design skills were a bonus on top of my game design duties, which turned me into the narrative advisor of the studio. These two crafts are not as separate from each other as they seem, although the exact balance of tasks has varied from job to job.
You started out your career in the games industry as an Internship Writer for Daedalic Entertainment. Can you explain to us how you got the job?
Frankly speaking, I just got lucky. I had just switched universities and some in-between time for an internship, which I didn’t want to waste. Daedalic had an open position for a game design intern, so I applied despite not having a finished degree yet. It turned out that they had already filled that position, but they were in need of writing support. Since I had mentioned writing in the hobby section of my CV, they offered me that position instead. I wasn’t going to say no to that. It was a combination of timing and nice people giving me a chance.
Before landing your first gig in the games industry, you’ve studied Game Design at the Mediadesign Hochschule. Would you recommend getting a degree as a start into a games career?
Most people working in the industry right now never got a game design degree. But it’s changing, as more schools offer specializations and students aren’t few. I’ve observed that job descriptions ask for degrees in a relevant field every now and then. But it’s certainly not the only way in. Game design degrees are fairly new and many schools are still figuring things out – it’s important to not go in expecting to be spoon-fed and given a job guarantee.
Personally, I found that getting a degree was a great way to learn many different aspects of game development, especially outside of my realm of knowledge and comfort zone. It’s a team effort and speaking a little bit of everybody’s ‘language’ goes a long way. Getting a degree is also a way to make connections in the industry and explore your interests a little more. Maybe you come out looking for another job than coming in? And since many jobs require portfolios, this is a time where you can create pieces and get feedback, without too much of a hurry.
That said, a game development degree isn’t the only way in. I would recommend visiting local game development meetups, especially if you choose to study in another field (e.g. graphic design or computer science) or not at all – there are many things unique to game development that go beyond the usual scope of a craft. There’s plenty of time to learn that on the job too, though. As a side note, getting a degree in something helps with work visas in the beginning of your career, but in the end, it’s more about experience, connections and portfolio. Study or self-study what interests you, start your own projects, make connections. Most importantly, see what learning style suits you best and make your decision accordingly.
Thank you for your time Valentina!
Valentina’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/val_tamer
Valentina’s Website: https://www.val-tamer.com/
King’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/King_Games
King’s Website: https://king.com/de
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
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