Digipen Panel – PAX 2016

Digipen Panel – PAX 2016

A group of folks from Digipen reflected back on their time there and tips for getting into the game industry. Besides the very specific Digipen ones, there’s some general ones that I found to be good tips.

  • There is no real way to keep up with outside friends or family. You will be that busy. Few parties – social circles shrink dramatically if you want to get things done to the high quality you desire. Most didn’t even date.
  • School at Digipen was much harder than traditional college (some had done both).
    • You will not have a social life outside of school – and many breakups occurred.
    • If married, make sure you make the decision together – with all the realities of time explained. Huge – or you’ll likely be filing divorce.
    • All this mirrors what occurs in the game industry after college too. You’re going to spend most of your time with these people you work with. Especially during crunch.
  • You can’t hold a job while at school (Digipen) – one gal quit the job after the first week of classes. Working while at Digipen is not realistic despite the debt you’ll accumulate (which is substantial).
  • You’ll lose most of your social life outside the few friends you make inside Digipen. Even that is tough to maintain. Likely won’t be playing many games anymore – won’t have time.
  • Cross-discipline interaction is really good for you. You have exposure to the language of other areas: artists, programmers, developers, project leads, etc – even if you don’t study it directly. Helps you understand why/what is most important to those other areas and really helps you succeed.
  • Always act professionally. Conventions, planes, bars, etc. You never know who is listening in – high probability that someone will know someone. Especially when heading to conferences – odds are high a good portion of the people on your flights, buses, etc are all going too. Don’t alienate yourself to others by being rude, dismissive, or offensive. The industry is far too small and you’ll get a reputation that can make you unhirable.
  • You’ll work with people that have different opinions. If it doesn’t impact your work, then let it go. Did we mention never burning bridges?
  • Find ways to keep motivated even when things don’t go as you expect. Many times you’ll get stuck working on something you don’t want to. You need a way to stay motivated, working quickly, and with high quality output so you will be recognized and be able to move to the next good thing.
  • 3 keys to a good hire: be personable, do good work, work quickly. Make everything presentable in as best way possible. Being personable trumps the others. You can be the smartest, fastest person around – but if you’re hard to get along with – nobody will want you.
  • For art reels, show your best stuff. A demo reel should be 1-2 minutes of your best work. It’s only as good as the weakest piece. Constantly update it and show new stuff.
  • For designers, show quantity of output.
  • For programmer, it’s about communicating your work/talking skills. You need to be able to narrate how your design works, thought process, and algorithms.
  • Start personal branding very soon. One fellow started 2 years before graduation and it made all the hard work you need to do much easier. Branding includes websites, collected pictures of work, demo reels, posting your work on sites like Polygon Count, etc. All takes lots of time to collect and get presentable. Don’t try to do it at the end – because you can’t and it will show.
  • As soon as you get an assignment and read through it, open a notepad and put ideas in there to start with. Don’t wait because often you’ll get so busy that all you have the day before it’s due is the idea(s) you put in there first. Don’t get yourself into a last-minute corner.
  • Network as much as you can everywhere you can. Every conference, meetup, professional group, etc. That is where your jobs come from.
  • People don’t want to work with someone that is just good – they also want someone they’ll like working with since you’re going to spend so much time together.

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