My column this week is some advice to the young people considering a career in AAA videogame-making.
Something I really wanted to put in the column:
A couple of years ago I saw an ad for Full Sail University or one of the other game colleges. It said something like, “80% of graduates find a job in the industry within a year!” I was dumbfounded. Given the cost of going to one of these places (the price of a house and a couple of the most valuable years of your life) those are horrendous odds. The cynic in me read that as, “1 in 5 of the people who come to our school find the whole thing was for nothing.” I would never risk two precious years of my life on anything that risky.
I didn’t put it in the column because I can’t find the source anywhere. The game colleges apparently no longer offer post-grad placement info beyond, “We will help you!”
Also the anecdotes suggest a system where the college develops a relationship with a studio (stuff owned by EA, usually) where they just send them waves of grads who will work crunch-mode hours (80+) for months on end until they burn out, at which point there’s another wave of grads chomping at the bit, waiting for their turn at living the dream. So even if the placement rate was 98%, it would still be a horrible gamble, since leaving the industry in disgust and disillusionment is arguable worse than not getting a job at all. The actual success rate – the number of people who find good jobs with hours and pay that allow for a normal life – is probably really tiny.
But I can’t begin to back any of that up, and I didn’t want to build a point around a single barely-recalled data point. I mean, I can’t back any of it up, but I tried to stick with stuff that’s more or less accepted as common knowledge.
Also: If you DO work in the industry then please tell your story. If it was awesome, say so. If it was horrible, say so. Young people are making life-changing decisions and the only information we have are the gushing promises of game colleges and the occasional “development hell” scandal. Your story might change someone’s life.
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