November 18, 2017

Alumni Caleb Jacobs Gives Tips for Landing an AAA Game Job

Tips for Landing an AAA Game Job

Game programming alumni Caleb Jacobs landed an awesome job working as a Gameplay Engineer for First Strike Games in Seattle, WA. Caleb believes his degree in game programming and experience at UAT in working on a team helped him prepare for his current position.

As the gaming industry is a very competitive market, Caleb wanted to share his tips to get noticed in the industry. 

“I just started this job and I can’t definitively say what combination of factors got me the job, but I can say that some of the following are probably the most likely contributing factors.”

  • My resume was one page, clean, simple and to the point.
  • My website displays experience in a range of coding contexts and on a range of mechanics including more complex items such as a 3D fog of war system and an AI state machine.
  • A degree in game programming (obviously).
  • In all correspondence, I acted extremely respectful, friendly, confident and positive.
  • Thinking before speaking in all stages of the hiring/interviewing process is paramount. One wrong phrase, word, or tone of voice can quickly spell the demise of your chances.
  • I expressed great enthusiasm for working with them, working on their project, a thirst for knowledge and experience (this is crucial, especially when you are new to the industry), and enthusiasm for game programming and video games, in general.
  • A careful balance of acting too aloof versus too desperate must be maintained. You must act as if you really want and would love the job but potential employers will be scared away if you act desperate or neurotic about it. At the same time, you must seem to want the job and appear to go above and beyond to get the job.
  • It most likely helped that I have no gaps in employment on my resume.
  • On the at-home coding assessment, I went above and beyond and was very deliberate in designing my code to be very eloquent, adequately-commented, self-documenting, extensible, and modular as well as enhancing the project with extra quality-of-life features that made the mechanic more polished.
  • When asked for an example of a failure I had an example ready to go (it wasn’t made up but it was carefully selected). The example I selected could be boiled down to being over-zealous and making a miscalculation that was very relatable. I also made sure to explain how I realized my failure, and how I fixed it and the lengths I took to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. The failure you give should not be something like getting to work late (sure, it happens to most people at some point but it’s not a good thing.) It should be something that doesn’t even necessarily SEEM like a failure until you explain why it ended up being a failure. By doing this, you subliminally cause the interviewer to think, “Wow, I probably would have done that (failed) too.” But the example is still a failure so you have effectively explained how you failed without making it feel like it was a TRUE failure. Practice talking about your selected failure to close friends and family to see what they think.

Note: I DO love game programming and I am excited about working here. I don’t tend to be very expressive emotionally so I made it a point to show enthusiasm and excitement. It wasn’t fake, but it WAS showcased where it would normally be hidden. No one expects a programmer to necessarily to be super bubbly but people are usually naturally drawn towards people that act positively and seem to have high charisma and this will semi-consciously effect most people to prefer you over the applicant with flat-affect and no expression.

first strike games

Caleb works as a Gameplay Engineer for First Strike Games

What else is good stuff for breaking into the game programming industry?

  • Learn source control. All of it. Every aspect. Practice and stretch yourself. Specifically Perforce as it is quickly becoming commonly used by game studios.
  • Learn networking. Most games have some multiplayer aspect. Don’t kid yourself, coding experience in networking (like multiplayer games) is very important and worth its weight in gold!
  • Focus on C++. This includes learning popular engines that implement C++. Regardless of what anyone says, from all accounts, the vast majority of game devs use C++ on some level.
  • Make it a point to learn some specialty (more than one is great too) whether that means shaders, UI, engine building, etc.ca

It’s great to hear about an alumni landing their dream job in game programming! Thank you Caleb, for offering tips for future game students to follow your lead and break into the game industry!

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