As you may well know, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a job in the UK gaming industry. Development of technology in the last 5 or so years is utterly mind-blowing and considering a small majority of the advancement is linked with gaming, you have to ask the question; where next, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo…?
The e-skills 2011 Technology Insights report suggests that game developers on the whole are getting older. The problem any university grad with a First in C++ has, regardless of how innovative their ideas, is that they are young, and therefore ‘inexperienced’. In any industry worldwide, the task of finding employment is an uphill struggle, and employers are looking specifically for experience before really considering anyone. This means that they expect you to have worked for a company over a period of time, learn first-hand the skills they need, and have proof to whoever you’re asking for employment, that you’re what they want; a simple CV/reference check will not do. Now obviously, the revolving problem with this process is finding the experience, which consequently means impressing the employer at this stage… which, more often than not, requires experience.
This killer process means that for the hundreds of potential future game programmers and script writers being churned out of the lecture halls, the next step is simply not there. Now, if staff members are “getting older”, this means that they are employed, and over a long period of time. Statistics show that this job range takes commitment, and not all youngsters these days have the umph to deliver the expected results, ironically, because apparently we’ve grown up with the access to games. The average week of a typical game designer is not a ‘9-5’, 40 hours a week job with paid overtime. Instead, you’ll be expected to work anything up to 12 hours a day minimum, including weekends. On a crunch deadline, something like 60 hours a week is to be expected for up to a year.
So it’s tough to get in, and tough to stay in. But is it tough to do the work when you get there? The simple answer can be found by looking at how far the UK has come in the past few years: Microsoft and Sony have certainly taken a shine to developing new software, specifically the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. Compare the graphics of Heavy Rain (2010) to The Sims (2000), and there’s a significant difference. This is due to many features such as quality of TVs, HDMI capability and HD gaming in general. The demand for new games has inspired many new ideas and concepts, which go further than what gamers would have imagined in the past – for example, the versatility of Nintendo’s Wii was shocking when first released, and has now taken a back seat. All of these factors mean that invention of an inspiring new game will be hard come by, considering the many applicants of jobs in the past decade.
The upgrade abilities of the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 mean that instead of having to buy a new console every few years, you can simply upgrade, make it better, and all for free. This innovation has had a serious impact on the sales of hardware, dropping by $100million in 2004, and consequently on software, with a rise of 8% in the same year. As new games are developed, and better quality is established, gamers nowadays are able to just buy the game, which means that developers of new consoles are excessively out of work. This is also effected by Sony’s great idea to make previous Playstation consoles’ games compatible with their PS3, meaning customers can play all their old games, instead of having to set up 3 different consoles.
Another reason why game developers are holding jobs back, in my opinion, is because of the sharply spreading Apple App community, whereby home-grown developers will create a game, such as the brilliantly addictive Angry Birds, and sell it to Apple for a small profit. It takes less effort on Apple’s behalf than it does for Microsoft who has to employ, instruct and trust employees to deliver results. The benefits of this system are heavily outnumbered by the disadvantages it fabricates regarding those who are qualified, yet severely unlucky in their area.
The subsequent result of graduates not having experience, especially for manufacturers “struggling to find staff”, is that they won’t get employed, but this is ridiculous on a number of levels. As expressed in Dan Pearson’s article on www.gamesindustry.biz, there are a lot of applicants who are dying to work for their dream company, but are being turned down. Yet the games sector’s “third biggest worry” is a lack of grads. Hello? Are you all blind? The dreadful truth is that yes, they are. There are so many students willing to put in the hard work, devote their lives to their passion, regardless of work-load and long hours. I believe the industry has some serious thinking to do if they think that stating they have a shortage of workers, then turning down a thousand enthusiastic young gamers, is going to keep them floating. This kind of blindness will inevitably end in falls in demand, a bad reputation and being overtaken by another similar company.
I speak for everyone in this desperate situation when I say; pull the finger out, give graduates a chance to impress you, and reap the rewards of the next hit release when someone you once wouldn’t accept produces you a $billion franchise.