Wednesday, February 27, 2008

GDC Swag

At GDC, it is a steadfast tradition that the booths at the expo offer swag to potential customers and hires.

Some booths offer buttons. Other booths offer pens, candy, notepads, toys, gadgets, cloth bags, plastic necklaces... and T-shirts.

However, none of the booths I visited had any women's styles or sizes of shirts.

I stayed hopeful, though. At each booth with clothing available, I would ask, "Do you have anything for women? Or any men's sizes that would fit me?"

The answer was no. Most booths had run out of everything "small" and "medium" on the first day of the con. Size "large" had disappeared soon after. By Thursday, the only size most booths had left was "extra-large".

The folks at one booth, though, had a story to tell that's worth repeating.

This particular booth had, in fact, stocked a significant quantity of women's style shirts - you know, the kind that are just a touch narrower at the waist. The kind that keep women from looking like amorphous barrels.

Anyway, a small group of women discovered this rare stash on the first day of the con. So pleased were they with their discovery that they proceeded to inform other female conventioners. A crowd of women soon appeared at the booth, nabbing every last shirt.

Alas, I didn't make it in time.

So, my thoughts on the matter are these: If you are in the position to stock a GDC booth with swag, do not underestimate the number of smaller-sized attendees. And, if you want more women to attend your booth, by all means offer clothes tailored just for them!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Prepare to be Tested

When I was first hired in the games industry, it was based on the merits of my portfolio. At that time, only one of the companies I applied to gave me a test. I saw it as an unusual hurdle.

This time around, however, it became the norm. Virtually every potential employer gave me one or more tests; I ended up taking over a half-dozen of them. Some tests took me only 2 hours, others took me over 2 days.

So, at this point, I feel adequately informed to offer some advice to those seeking game design work.

1) Don't be offended. If a game design company says you must pass a test (or even several tests), don't act shocked. Don't make the assumption that the company doesn't like you, even if someone else who applied there wasn't given a test. Simply, if the company is one you want to work for, take the test.

2) Be timely. Do not take more than 6 days to complete your test. If you're really interested in the company, be done in less than 3 days. If they ask for the test to be completed in a certain number of hours, finish in under the time limit. If you have schedule conflicts, discuss them with your potential employer so you don't have to rush.

3) Be clear and concise. Companies aren't just testing your game design skills - they want proof of your ability to communicate effectively. You must walk a tightrope with each of your answers. You cannot afford to ramble, yet you must explain your thought processes and math choices.

4) Research. All but one of the tests I took was "open book." If you come across something that you're not sure about, Google is there for you. Cite your sources as needed. Plagiarizing is just as unwelcome here as on any test.

5) Edit your work. When you're done with the test, go do something else, then come back and edit your answers with a fresh mind. You'll at least catch some typos (well, I sure did), and you may come across answers you'll want to rework. If it's a timed test, save a few minutes at the end to give your answers a once-over.

6) Pace yourself. Read through the whole test before you start answering questions, so you have a good sense of what you need to do. Design tests can vary widely in content, though the core of most tests will have you design a game, level, or quest/adventure. In general, if you find yourself spending too much time on one answer, come back to it later. You may find that you have fresh insight after working on other questions.

7) Don't worry. Even if you aren't offered employment, by working through the test, you've learned more about game design and you've become a better game designer.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Kicking Stereotypes in the Face

Normally, trips to ye olde gaming store are a straightforward ritual: I cast my eyes around the store for new inventory while I gab with friends.

This time, however, it was my first time visiting a gaming store in a new city, so I scoured every shelf.

After going over tons of games and minis, my eyes landed on a book - a book with pink dice on the cover.

Now, I fear pink in the same way that most goths would fear a daisy-print blouse. Yet, I felt compelled to pick up this book. I simply could not fathom it was real.

I turned it over and over in my hands, trembling, trying to disbelieve it out of existence. No, really, here it was - Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the Dungeon's & Dragons Game by Shelly Mazzanoble.

I hugged it, and I hadn't even opened the cover.

Then I did crack it open. Seeing words written by R.A. Salvatore put inside a pink border made me chuckle - he and his wife wrote the introduction. Then I flipped through and found a recipe for Initiative Rolls. That sealed it. I had to buy the book.

In a nutshell, Shelly speaks right to you about what D&D really is, and why it's fun for both genders (especially women, thank you very much). Her fantastic sense of humor and liberal use of cultural references bring her stories and explanations home.

More to the point, Shelly smacks a Chuck Norris-sized roundhouse kick to the face of the gamer stereotype.

It is so refreshing, empowering, and downright enjoyable - I can't help but recommend it to everybody.

Personal Update

I feel it's important to find fiero in my own life, not just build it into games.

For those reasons and more, I've moved up to the San Francisco area to work at Backbone Entertainment.

With all the job hunting and moving, I had put posting on the back burner, but no more!

So, unless something else comes up (and trust me, I hope nothing else does for a while), I'll be posting more frequently now. Like, more than 0 times per month....
These postings are mine alone, have not been reviewed or approved by any employer or company, and do not necessarily reflect the views of anyone but me.