Happy New Ye... whatever, I'm too lazy for this. 新年明けまして・・・ああもういいや。いつも通り日本語文は下です。
It's a new year, and by now I should have already started my Game Designer job at DeNA(ngmoco), but due to some unforeseen VISA errors, my employment has been delayed until Jan 21st. That in itself has been a really frustrating experience. I already ordered my flight and prepared to move to Japan before Christmas... but oh well.
If anybody's ever thinking about finding a job in another country, research VISAs first. This is a must, or it will be a huge pain in the ass later. That story's for another time.
I think it would be good to start off my blog with a shortened intro of my career so far.
How I first got into the Game industry, then got promoted(during university), then decided to move to Japan *Part 1*
I actually never wanted to work for the game industry. Or that thought just never came to me until I started at EA. Initially, I wanted to be a high school teacher of some sort, but the opportunity came by randomly and I took it.
Here's my career path so far. (Age in brackets)
Dishwasher (18) -> Paintball Referee (18) -> QA Game Tester (18) -> Assistant Producer (19) -> Game Designer/Director (21)
After writing this down, I didn't realize how fast it progressed (Dishwasher! Dishwasher!). For the past 2 years, I always busted my ass off for that 1 candy placed in front of me. Sort of like how you would madly grind to beat bosses in an RPG. And by the time you finish the game you're suddenly level 50.
My path isn't actually too unique. Lots of people get their foot in the door as a QA game tester. As a QA, you touch on all portions of the game development cycle. So as people's career progress, they tend to evolve into their own colors. From what I've seen, most people either get hired from another industry(most typical for SE and Designers), or move up from QA positions. If you have no specialized skillset like programming or visual designs, this is probably the easiest method for you to set your foot in.
One of the things you realize after entering the industry is that they always
need people. Not only that, they always need good
people. I hadn't been more surprised to find out how inefficiently things run, or how incompetent some people are at their work(of course there are those that are excellent
). I should probably remind you that you're more likely to be better than at least some people in each company you apply for. The difference between a job offer or not is how well you can market your strengths to the company. Anyways, let's move on to the first part.
First step into game testing at EA:
Place was Vancouver Canada, year was 2010.
It happened when I was 18. I just finished 2 full semesters of university degree, and was taking a long winded summer break, not really doing anything productive. This tended to be the case for unmotivated, non-goal driven individuals who enter higher education just for the sake of it.
Eat, sleep, play games, maybe hang out or maybe work out. That was the routine.
My parents were nagging me to stop wasting my fucking time(a huge virtue I'll learn later btw), and to get a job. I had a side hobby for collecting replica BB guns. To fund this and to make my parents shut up, I started looking.
I didn't have shit on my resume at first. Seriously. The best I had was 3~ish months of taking pizza order calls at Panago call centre. This was during high school and my friends were the ones who referred me to it. I ended up getting fired from this job for being absent without notice most of the time. They didn't scream at me or anything, it seemed a lot of their employees hated working there. My friends quit 1~2 months in.
At first I was shameless enough to actually apply at this Pizza Chain again (haha), then since I couldn't find anything anywhere, I began looking on the local Japanese Classifieds(since lots of Japanese restaurants wanted people who were bilingual). This was a good place, there were lots of waiter and restaurant related jobs. I preferred retail but I just took the first thing I could.
So I started Dishwashing at a local Japanese food retailer. This shop was relatively famous for making good pre-packaged Japanese food(real Japanese chefs). I travelled 1 hour each way from home to wash dishes for 50 cents above minimum wage. At the time, most of my friends couldn't get a job doing anything at all, so this was better than nothing. People I worked with in the Kitchen were very nice to me, but you can imagine it being quite boring shoving sanitizer at dishes for 8 hours.
At the same time I still looked around for better jobs on Classifieds(mainly craigslist). After a month I found a paintball referee position at a new paintball field down in nearby city (1:30 hour trip). With good amounts of motivation, I wrote a bitching cover letter and sent it. Later I had a quick interview. It turned out that the employer liked me, and we were off to a good start. At the time of the interview, they were still building wooden houses in an indoor hall (imagine your high school Gym, but 4 times larger, with a city inside it). One of my best friends worked with me as well, but after 2~3 shifts, we were laid off as the business itself wasn't taking off. I'm sort of unhappy to say that they are now doing very well haha.
Now without a job and 1 month left before school, I needed to do something. There really isn't a job that will hire you for 1 month. I looked into Craigslist again anyways, and coincidentally. Very coincidentally, I found a job posting for a game testing position. It didn't say which company candidates would work for, but sure, I liked games, I wanted to play games, and getting money at the same time? Fantastic.
I pursued this opportunity furiously. I wrote a 600 word cover letter where I talked about how I liked this game, that game, and why I would be an asset etc. Miraculously, it made sense. But I didn't think anybody would read it from top to bottom. After a few revisions, I sent my application via E-mail anways. (later I realized they didn't read it, they just liked the length).
A week later, on a Friday morning, I got the call. The lady recruiter wanted to interview me within the hour at the EA Canada office nearby my parents' house(10 minute bike ride). Somehow I wasn't too worried, so I walked for 40 minutes there.
Lots of surprises when I got to the office. The Lobby was reaaaaally fucking nice(and big). LCD displays everywhere, there's a pod shaped display too. I told the receptionist(who doubles as security guards) that I was here on an interview, and they told me to sign-in on a mounted touch screen computer nearby. I did so, and 5 minutes later I was greeted by the recruiter lady. She walked me around the place, then we literally chatted about the weather for 5 minutes in her office, and I was bracing for the interview to begin. At this point I was getting nervous, because after 5 minutes of chatting in her office, she hadn't asked me any work related questions.
Suddenly, a QA manager poked his face into the office(I guess the HR lady notified him via her PC). He looked at me a few times, asked me if I'd played soccer before(To which I said 'casually with friends'. He asked me this because I would be working on FIFA). He then exchanged some remarks with the HR lady and left. That whole encounter took 1 minute at most - and apparently that was the entire interview.
The HR lady asked me how long I can work for. I lied and said that I was putting off school to work here, so semi-permanently. She then proceeded to hand me the 1 month work contract, told me that I'll be working for FIFA Online, explained my compensation, told me to sign on the papers, and instructed me to come to work the next Wednesday.
Yes, that was it. It wasn't even an interview.
It was so easy, I never took any game design courses, she never asked anything about my education, or really, anything at all. There I was, and my foot was in the industry...
So to reflect, here are the things that I think I did right and I did wrong:
Successful / What I did right
+Always looked above for better opportunities. Opportunities are available if you look.
+If I wanted something, I pursued it relentlessly.
Failed/ What I did wrong
-Not much in this part.
・Don't try to mimic what your friends are doing. (It's good I never did this). My friends tried to find jobs and stopped after 3~5 failed applications. I just kept going.
・You can achieve surprisingly a lot just by trying. Seriously.
That's it for now. See you in part 2.