Friday, 10 April 2015

Working in the Games Industry

I've gotten some questions about my daily work, so here's a post on what I have learned about working in the games industry so far. The text is both in Finnish and English, because some of the terms are quite tricky to translate.

I'm a Bachelor of Media graduated from Tampere University of Applied Sciences. I'm applied to the University of Tampere to do a master's degree in media studies and I'm now working on my thesis and if all goes well, I'll be a Master of Science in a few months. For the Bachelor studies I was on a program concentrating in graphic design and media, including games, but mostly about how to produce high quality material for the internet, books and magazines. The students were encouraged to work on their own projects too, which included many games.

I've been playing games ever since I was a child, but wasn't a very dedicated player. My favourites when growing up included Willow The Great Adventure, Kirby, Baldur's Gate 1 & 2, Planescape: Torment, Sierra's city builder series, Age of Empires and Grim Fandango. As an adult I've played countless hours of all Diablos, World of Warcraft, Farmville 1 & 2, Hay Day, Gabriel Knight, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, all Dragon Ages and Indigo Chronicles just to mention a few favourites. I take pride in playing many different genres, I think it helps me understand what games are generally about. The only genres that are not really my cup of tea are shooters, racing games and sports games, but I would gladly try out any of those genres too.

I'm not a super good player, my reflexes are not very quick and I get bored easily with tricky puzzles. I can understand easily what most games are about and what is the thing that appeals to players, even if I personally don't find them enjoyable. I think this is more important for my profession than being very good at playing games.

My main skills are in designing solid systems within given time frame and resources, good general knowledge of games of many types, being able to quickly switch from one task to another, and producing good English texts. And easily becoming interested in almost anything.

I started out in the industry by applying for a trainee position in a mobile games company. They needed people to test games and I needed to complete my studies, which required a period of training. I after my few months of training, the company asked me work for them full time. Testing is an important job, it may sound like just playing games all day long (yes, it's a part of it ;D) but I can assure you it's far from fun when you have ten people in the same room playing on mobile phones with sounds on, and you have to play the same game over and over again. Well, at least I'm pretty good at backgammon after testing the hell out of Sonic Backgammon and I my typing speed on mobile is superb after playing Star Wars games that needed you to repeat patterns with the number keys ;D

Testing is a great starting position, as you get to see many games in different stages of development. The best testing position you can find is an in-house one. Many companies use outsourced testing, which is not bad, but you can understand the development process better if you work directly with the development team. Any testing job is a good start.

After the testing job ended because the whole studio was shut down, many people founded smaller companies. I got on board one of these to work as a graphic designer. I also worked on my tabletop roleplaying projects at the same time on my free time and went to many game industry events to network. The company I worked for was very small, only four people, and because the CEO was also the game designer, he didn't have much time after the CEO duties to work on the game, so I helped out where I could. Design really felt like my kind of thing, because of my fascination with how things work.

Colossal Order, my current employer, was at the time looking for someone to work on the design of their first game, Cities in Motion. Previously two designers had been working on the project and I was leased from my them employer to be the third one trying to get everything done. Lucky for them and me, I have a passion to get things done and to use as much of the work already done as possible. Cities in Motion developed into a very nice public transportation simulation.

When Colossal Order offered a permanent job for me I immediately took it. I love how this company works, we have a great atmosphere, great, talented people and we eat lots of cake. Sometimes designing is all about just sitting and staring at your screen trying to come up with a solution for a problem, but other times it's hectic work trying to produce text or write down tables on how the game should work. We have a team of thirteen currently, which means people get to do many different things according to their skills. I've done everything from painting loading screen to presenting the game to journalists at convetions. I love variation and new challenges, so for me different tasks work perfectly!

This post is meant to be an overview into my education and work, I hope it helps to understand how working in the games business generally happens :) If you have any questions, I'm happy to answer, just comment!


  1. Kiitos tästä! Tosi mielenkiintosta :)

    1. Ole hyvä! Peliala on aika erikoinen, mun mielestä on tärkeää että alan sisältäkin jaetaan tietoa siitä miten hommat toimii. Se on ainoa tapa saada uusia hyviä tekijöitä mukaan :)

  2. Minäkin kiitän tästä! Peliala on tosiaan harkinnassa itsellä ja erityisesti graafinen suunnittelu :)


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