Skip to content

Category: Opinions

Things I cannot accept anymore

Many game companies after the first interview send you an assessment to complete. You have usually between 4 hours and 10 days available to complete the assessment. Some company gives you free time, as long as you complete it.

There was that TV show on Netflix called Vikings. Among the many storylines, there is one about a person who has a serious handicap. He manages to use his disadvantage to become the king.

I have never passed a single test. Every time I get these assessments my mind goes automatically in “you are working for free” mode. I sent the result of my assessment and someone (I imagine her with a bored face and a cup of horrible machine-made tea) skimmed my assessment. And of course, it was a no. My bad will meets with the bad will of the reviewer, what do you expect? That is one handicap I have. And I made it a strength in recent years!

I have developed and hired outstanding designers for companies. True talents. Within 3 hours with a dashboard and a laptop with a game engine running and a spreadsheet, I can run a complete interview. The people I have hired are still there, crushing it.

When I am on the other side, nowadays I want the same. You send me an assessment, I say you “give it to me”. Then I read it carefully and write down exactly what I should do to complete the exercises and a time and cost estimation. I send everything via email, it’s better than simply rejecting the task. Writing all of this down often takes me 2-3 hours.

Again, nobody pays me for that. And of course, it doesn’t work. Don’t follow my suggestion if you really want that job. I am in a different position nowadays. I am not “open to work”. I work as a game designer every single day, I just don’t let anyone decide if I have a job or not. I want to work with you if you want to work with me, simple as that.

Assessments are free to work that no one pays. They are made to filter people out. They do not consider diversity and they are made to exclude. Companies love to claim “diversity and inclusion”. Well, this is part of it.

I am quite happy as a freelancer, a “warrior without a king”. Still, I don’t close myself up to any opportunity. But I need to feel that the company wants me, not the other way around!

Generalists are the concierge of the industry

I hear this sentence from a content creator on TikTok. Somehow, it makes me sad. Part of that is true, though. The industry needs for specialized talents, normally.

But many of us are generalists, not specialists. I don’t know if I prefer systems, gameplay, level or narrative. I like game design in general and I believe I am pretty good at it. Am I useful for the core industry? Maybe that content creator is right, maybe I am not good to stay in a big company.

Or maybe is completely wrong. We can see that many experts consider the generalists like me a great asset in a team. Maybe we are not good to finish the definitive job, but we moves easily across departments.

In the end is a matter of ego. If you are a generalist and you want to make everything alone, I have bad news for you. You need to work on it or go solodev (which is something I always consider, not for this reason). If you are capable of working with others, you can make a great generalist!

Be a professional

There was a time when companies decided if you were apt to join the games industry or not. That time is well gone.

I see a lot of messages on social networks, especially LinkedIn, by people looking for the next gig in a company. Someone is looking for the first job. Which is normal and good, LinkedIn was created exactly for that reason.

But, you cannot permit to stay at the border of the river waiting for your opportunity to pass. You have to be what you want to be first. Don’t just look for a job, do the job.

Many years ago it was impossible or very hard to do something without working for a company. Companies acted like a filter, they decided somehow you were worth or not. That is not the case anymore. You have all the material to do what you like to do. In case you have to pay the bills, there are nowadays alternatives to do that.

Be a professional first, then companies will look for you! It’s not the other way around anymore.

We will live more!

Any technology and platform, like all human things, has a beginning, a development, and an end.

Some of the technologies we use today to make games, and the platforms we distribute them on, will be gone in 3-5 years. It’s hard to keep up with time, which is why so many video game creators from the past no longer deal with it.

If our intention is to try to last longer in the industry, we must develop a true love for the profession and also try to avoid situations that can restrict our potential.

  • I’m not a mobile level designer, I’m a game designer
  • I’m not a Unity developer, I’m a game developer
  • I’m not a realistic-style concept artist, I’m a game artist

Specializations are great at the beginning of a career to find your first job. If your personal brand says “casual games economy designer” and it works, that’s fine.

But inside, in our moments of study and passion, we cannot and must not limit ourselves. Trend passes and the company that develops that particular technology doesn’t survive. If we love the main branch of our work, the generalist thing, there is no problem.

We will be able to see the practical benefits even in a completely different environment. We will live more!

Indie Dev Day recap

This beautiful week was Indie Dev Day. I have seen this fair born and evolve, this year the growth has been astonishing.

Cities like Barcelona allow us to follow our passions. There are many entities that allow people to try and make their way into the industry of their dreams. We have free rights, healthcare is the classic example, so we can try without running too many risks.

What is talent? I did the math. I counted 101 stands with Spanish studios. Let’s say 1 out of 5 (I am being optimistic here) manages to find success.

What is success? As a talk from The Game Kitchen rightfully said: “Success is when you earn 1 euro”. You make the game, a bunch of people during years. Your time has a value, maybe you have salaries. Expenses. Then you start selling the game, and part of the revenues go to the platform and publishers. Eventually, you recoup and maybe you earn the first euro. Profit. 1 single euro. Can you do that? Well, you had success.

Now 76 teams, made out of 5 people on average, will not have success. 76×5 = 380 talents. Why talents? Because they struggled for success, they learned things the hard way. And, my bet, is they will be very grateful and compromise employees for companies. They have been on the other side, making hard choices.

I had the opportunity to try various games presented in more than 80 stands. There are three main trends:

  1. Conceptual games of simple artistic expression. They are presented as an installation rather than something with a commercial release.
  2. Content-based games. A story to complete, levels to pass. Time and energy are invested in content that is only experienced during a moment. You need a great vision.
  3. Games based on repeatable systems. Especially rogue-lite and coach co-op games. Games that invite you to play and repeat, and above all to connect with the community. Online, to understand which are the best builds (rogue-lite). Play with your family and friends at home (coach co-op).

These games I have to say are my favorites. Especially if RPGs, the genre that accompanied me to this profession.

Recommended games to check out:

Remote or face-to-face?

Large corporations and Venture Capital investors are returning back to face-to-face or hybrid. Very often there are also interests in real estate investments that lead to that choice.

Other companies see remote working as an advantage. They can:

  • find qualified people in wider geographical areas
  • offer to employees quality of life.

The two positions do not need to be in conflict. Too often I read sentences about one or the other position that make me smile. There are common points on which to work:

  • It’s good for everyone to know that there is a place, an office to go to. It offers professionalism and an optimized space for work, which not everyone has. It is mentally reassuring. I believe it also improves loyalty, somehow.
  • We all know the problem of climate change and we know that a significant part is due to transport. Being able to reduce contaminant transport is one of the measures we must take, as humanity. There are people who deny this problem, and I respect it even if I don’t share it.
  • We are social beings whose evolution has been built on cooperation. Human contact is necessary in any case. There are people who are more or less introverted, in different situations. In all cases, it is good to think about how to improve the environment within the company, and its culture.
  • We all need time to take care of our private life, our family, and the people and animals we love.
  • We all want the companies we work for, or clients, to be successful. In this way, our work and salary will benefit. The problem arises when there are abnormal growths that cause a lot of stress to employees. Those aren’t healthy, and I’m convinced that big investors don’t like them either.

More issues

Having talent from large geographic areas means access to very distinct salary ranges. This can become good or bad depending on how you use it.

  • It can be beneficial for smaller companies, or in areas where there is no developed ecosystem.
  • It can be great for some professionals who would otherwise have a hard time finding work.
  • Employees in areas of higher density, where rents and expenses are high, may feel in danger.

My take

Neither face-to-face nor remote work is dead. On the hybrid solution, I reserve my doubts, since I don’t have enough data and I have never worked like that.

We need to shift focus to the betterment of our society. Working to build companies that add value from an ethical and human point of view. It is not a matter of remote/face-to-face, it is a matter of vision. How can you create value and make this World better? That is the question.

How to find a new job

I’ve been reading about a lot of layoffs in the industry lately. Many people give advice on finding a job and share their experiences. It’s great to see everyone working together.

Someone is capable of arming a portfolio to make the leads of the most renowned companies envious. Someone else manages to work in a bar gradually creating his game in his spare time. There are people who are very good at making new contacts and making themselves known. Others prefer to write or record videos. There are many ways and there is no need to get anxious and try to cover everything.

  • Do you have anything to say?
  • do you have something to show?
  • Do you have the opportunity to meet someone?
  • do you want to earn money doing another job at least for a while?
  • do you have the possibility to keep yourself without entrances for a while?
  • have an idea for a game?
  • Do you know which companies you would like to work for?
  • Do you have any idea of the specialty you want to acquire?

As far as I’m concerned, it’s hard to find universal advice to give to everyone. Each person is a world, everyone lives in a different context. Make contacts, have a portfolio, be kind, learn something every day, and dedicate yourself to a small project every month. They are all valid advice, but also very general. The human being is not a machine that receives instructions and executes, there are many factors at play.

Here’s what worked for me:

  1. think about making contacts rather than making a portfolio.
  2. be omnipresent at local events and always try to help before asking for help.
  3. ask for help.
  4. immediately move away from realities or people who don’t want me.

I don’t have an online portfolio, except an old link. I prefer to have a blog where I show my thoughts. And I do it because I don’t care to be evaluated for my technical skills. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, least of all skills that can be acquired in 10 minutes of a YouTube tutorial.

The right context for the right ideas

A short while ago I met a friend who holds a manager position in one of the companies in my city. He told me that new ideas are one of the hardest things to come by.

Starting from that sentence I began reflecting on innovative ideas’ meaning. And I have to say that if I meet this person again, I would have my answer instead of listening as I did.

Every day on the various channels I frequent online and offline I am exposed to so many ideas. Some seem brilliant to me. Others, at least at first sight, do not surprise me. But then I didn’t read well or that person didn’t express well what he had in mind.

Ideas are not lacking. So what is missing from many companies that want to innovate? More ability to discern is lacking.

Discerning which ideas are the best is what is missing. To do that, you need to establish a process. Most games fail because they have no audience. But how come they have no audience?

Very often it’s because we put the workforce on things they either don’t care about or don’t have the skills to do.

We all know that match-3 puzzles are a bottomless pit. These are games that can earn a lot of money. But do we have the ability to create and operate such a game? Does our clique like to do this? Or would they rather make a graphic adventure but are forced to make candies that explode?

  • Discernment means the ability to make decisions in n informed and aware way.
  • Awareness means not neglecting the intentions and abilities of our team.
  • Good marketing and game design is not enough, you need everything in the right context.

Weird recruitment practices

There’s a weird trend lately.

I receive messages from companies looking for talent. They find my profile very interesting and that they have a great opportunity to show me.

I say that I work as a freelancer but listen to everything. If an interesting project comes out why not? Every game designer wants to do something great.

We organize a call and they start questioning absolutely everything. Some don’t even read my resume well. The other day: “So you started working as a game designer last year?”

Someone asks me for absurd specializations. “Are you a JIRA specialist?”.

JIRA? JIRA is a tool, not a technique! What the heck does it mean to be a JIRA specialist?

I describe my experience in detail, I am 40 years old and also have some white hair. And some companies give me homework to do as if I were a kid! Unpaid work. 10 days assessments with pitches, feature briefs, configurations, flowcharts, wireframes, asset lists… what? Are you looking for talent or for free work?

And then you see that job offers there forever. They cannot find the right fit. If we start treating people like professionals, not kids, talent will emerge.

Try this instead:

  1. look for interesting profiles and treat them like true experts, not someone to filter out. Start your relationships by giving people an A, the world will change.
  2. make meaningful questions with the purpose to start a professional conversation. In the real work environment, there is interaction, not solutions coming from one single person.
  3. if you find the person convincing, hire the person for a trial period. Only by working together, you will find the right fit.

I am sure you will also save a lot of time and money.

More creative less product

Product managers are a type of profile centered above all in business. It is true that many have design knowledge, but their role requires identifying and mitigating risks. When a new project is led by product managers, it is much better to dedicate oneself to making a +1 game, that is, a game that improves a few things on some other successful game. In this way we will avoid all the frustrations that come from the personal anxieties of those at the top.

A creative director, on the other hand, is naturally inclined to be open to exploring all the ways to arrive at a certain type of experience. When a game is run by a creative director who does his job well, the initial part is fun. In that case it is good not to forget the Pareto principle. Take 80% from something that already exists and create a new 20%. It’s not a norm, there are so many creative directors who have amazing ways of handling a project and inspiring the fantasies that need to be recreated. Some take from other sectors, such as cinema, theater, but also martial arts and so on.

I would like to see more new titles in mobile managed by creative directors and not by product managers. I miss the weirdness, the silliness and all the surprises that games that come from more creative minds give me. I’m sure features like shops, daily bonuses, achievements and special offers could come out of the pop-up hell they’re relegated to. Creativity should not be underestimated.