At the campus of the University of California Riverside, Bill Merrill the Principal Engineer at Amazon, gave a talk on the gaming industry to undergraduate students. Seeing as how some people reading this site may want to join the game industry themselves I thought it be a good idea to share the video. Disclaimer: Sorry about the blond haired man throughout the video.
For those of you wondering what the gaming industry is like and what it takes to reach the top, Merill offers insights not often spoken by developers. The Topics covered range between subjects such as the infamous crunch, women in gaming, and applying for a job at gaming studios.
Getting into the Games Industry
Something Merill states to the audience composed of engineering students from Computer Science to Electrical Engineers is that what game companies look for the most in students is a portfolio of work. Game studios don’t really care about a written resume or what school you graduated from. “We don’t care if someone went to MIT or graduated from community college with an associates degree or a GED…doesn’t matter.” They want to see the gaming projects you have worked on. A small indie game project that may not even be complete speaks a lot more to a game studio than a high grade point average.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard those words before. Even in the tech industry Google representatives share similar values. They want to see the side projects you’ve worked on more than what classes you have taken.
Merill also brings up another common worry of engineering students, programming languages and specific tools. Unity uses C# as its main programming language, Unreal uses C++, which language should you mainly focus on? Which engine should you lean towards? Well according to Merrill it doesn’t matter unless you are specifically trying to get into an area that requires that one programming language or tool. If you want to get into Data Science you’re more than likely going to need to learn Python but when it comes to video games the skills tend to carry over.
That being said one thing you should look into is memory management. Merill shares that one of the biggest trends in the last decade is mobile gaming and developers have only recently realized they have been creating inefficient games that greatly reduce battery life. Meaning developers are having customers with less time to enjoy their game. Similar restraints are also found on consoles. Sure consoles are evolving rapidly but in order to get the biggest audience you’ll want to have your game work on everything which means optimizing your game.
“We really struggle to attract female engineers.”
–Bill Merrill Shares that the games industry and tech industry tend to struggle when attracting female engineers.
During the Q&A session Bill Merrill opened up with some of the faults of the game industry. “We really struggle to attract female engineers” Merrill said when speaking about the games industry as a whole. His frustration comes with a reflection that half of the worlds talent isn’t being picked up not only in gaming but in the tech industry.
Merrill’s views are not wrong. Not to long ago a Google employee renounced women in tech and minorities. A document was shared around the company detailing how women and minorities don’t belong in the company. Sure Google fired the man but that didn’t stop the controversy. Just recently Google employees went on strike in order to better promote diversity in the company.
On the more humorous side Merrill debunks myths and states that developers aren’t just bros without shirts on high fiving each other all the time. Sure that may be obvious but some people still believe that making games is just… well fun and games. It isn’t. From personal experience taking a VR course at UCR I have a friend who shares his frustration in making games “It’s better to play games than to make them.” For those reading and wanting to get in the games industry because you like to play games just know building a game is not the same as playing one. If you want a tiny sneak peak check out our old C# tutorial series.