In the Long Run (Games Career Seminar)

Notes on a panel discussion moderated by Henrik Jonsson (@IonSwitz) of Goodbye Kansas

  • Panelists
    • Brie Code (@briecode)
    • Osama Dorias (@osamadorias)
    • Dr. JC Lau (@drjclau)—technical producer
    • Raph Koster (@raphkoster)—Game designer
  • Our business is making joy; we’re part of “the joy industrial complex”
  • Why is it so hard sometimes, then?
  • How can we make the process better?
  • How to get in to your first job?
    • Got in through a friend who got hired as a contractor
      • Luck needs preparation—wouldn’t have gotten the job if not doing the right thing in the first place
    • Self-taught freelancer (didn’t do well, but it was good enough to build a portfolio)
    • Pitched existing skills as applicable for first job as a tester
  • How to leave a job?
    • Always stressful and unpleasant
    • Had to leave a job because too nice—didn’t fight for salary/respect; people much more junior making more, and they wouldn’t rectify it (6 years in)
      • Leaving, made 2x first job
    • Being a woman in a workplace dominated by men—if there are fewer than 30% women, they’re liable to experience all the bad behavior you might imagine
    • As a programmer, never had to be afraid to leave
  • What made you leave a company?
    • Made a mistake where he started highlighting his soft skills as as his best feature, said he could work with anyone
      • Felt like this isn’t appropriately valued in the industry
      • People get promoted based on hard skills, which are not what you need in management
      • Manipulative teammate realized he prided himself on this, and refused to listen to him
    • Didn’t know anyone in the wider industry, didn’t realize what a big deal the success of first game was
      • Was on the chopping block for layoffs despite being lead designer
      • Management felt like he was too opinionated
      • Org didn’t understand what they were doing, the value of online games
      • Strange experience to only gradually become aware of how big a deal what you did was, and then to be ignored by the organization for it
    • Spoken and published a lot about advocacy, diversity & inclusion, etc.
      • Became the person on the team who would take all issues up to management
      • Wound up being the mouthpiece for the whole team… but not included in any of the management conversations, so got siloed
      • Just got too hard to maintain relationship with manager
    • Got a management job based more on being a woman than skill at doing so
      • Better systems programmer than a manager
      • Perpetually nervous and miserable speaking in front of people (every day)
      • Producer showed her the ropes of his job—didn’t want that for her own future
  • How did you find out who you “are”? How do you change roles over time?
    • The choices you make are rarely career-defining—might influence the next job, but not the rest of your life
      • You are not your career
      • You are not your job description
    • In most setbacks, there are opportunities; when the game changes, you can find new ways to play
    • Never felt like she needed work/life balance; feels like she is (and wants to be) her job
    • Like to talk about skillsets more than job descriptions/titles
      • Skillsets are pliable—can be leveraged to a lot of different jobs
      • Describing yourself in this way is more vague, but maybe more useful
      • There are things you care deeply about, but which don’t fit a role
    • Have to carve out a space for yourself, the things you care about within an organization
      • Leverage your skills to slide into new, expanding areas (new hardware, new genres, etc.)
    • Professionally, who you are is what you do
      • Pick up other skills, can transition into other roles
      • If you’re interested in a new role, learn the skills and pitch yourself
      • Leverage your skills when a new opportunity becomes available
        • Make it happen, make it work!
        • Put in the time & effort
      • Who you are is who you want to be—don’t let titles stop you
    • I make games because it lets me do everything—art, math, programming, music, philosophy/ethics, community management
      • We’re all different people depending on who we’re talking to, situation we’re in
      • Don’t stand still—find new things to do/be
  • Your support network
    • “Third culture kid”—grew up not living in any one place long enough to feel like any is your own
      • Can leave you feeling anchorless… or like you can live anywhere (profound similarities, etc.)
      • Sense of shared experience, games/game playing/game making as a shared culture was important
      • Most important point in his career: talk with a manager who asked “are you happy here?”
        • Flew him to Oregon for a game design retreat to meet big names in the industry—”this is your group, these are your peers”
  • Innovation happens outside of what we already know
    • New people
    • New technologies
    • New audiences
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