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INSIDE THE MINDS OF FEMALE GAME DEVS © 2014 Yoh Services LLC | A Day & Zimmermann Company


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WHAT’S INSIDE 03 Gaming the System 10 Game Devas: Inside the Minds of Female Game Devs

14 Evaluating Game Development Job Posting Metrics

GAMING THE SYSTEM By understanding the unique psyche of game developers and designers, studios and publishers can attract the world-class talent needed to create blockbuster titles.

When it comes to one area of the American economy, throw out everything you think you know about hiring. While U.S. employment has been slow to rebound since the Great Recession of 2008, gaming and interactive entertainment are growing at an exponential rate. Today, gaming is a $67 billion industry worldwide, expected to grow to $82 billion by 2017. And the sales success of blockbuster titles dwarfs traditional forms of entertainment. For instance, earning $800

Š 2014 Yoh Services LLC | A Day & Zimmermann Company

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million in its first 24 hours of release, Grand Theft Auto V outdrew the movie with the strongest opening of all time, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which earned $483 million on its opening weekend. But the industry is far from an easy nut to crack for both studios and talent. Major studios and publishers are engaged in a high-risk roll of the dice, financing millions of dollars of upfront expense on the hope that a title catches fire. Their independent brethren, while smaller in scope, face many of the same risks, with success or failure resting on shallow pockets and short fuses.

GAME DEVELOPERS & DESIGNERS’ LOVE FOR GAMING IS MORE THAN SKIN DEEP For their part, game developers and designers are a unique, highly in-demand breed of professional, notorious for their outsider perspective on business and life. After all, no mom or dad ever pointed their progeny to a career coding the artificial intelligence of an invading army or illustrating the scabbards of alien weaponry. For those in the gaming industry, their lifelong pursuit is part vocation and part avocation. Their job is also their lifestyle.

“These are people who pay their own way to attend tradeshows and conferences on weekends and holidays because it’s what they love to do,” said Vik Long, Director of Yoh Interactive. “If you’re going to be in the game industry, you need to play, but you also need to be passionate about games—how they are constructed and what makes them great. That’s something that is impossible to fake at a job interview.” © 2014 Yoh Services LLC | A Day & Zimmermann Company

Identifying, attracting, and managing this talent is a recruitment challenge like no other. In order to fill their development pipeline, publishers and studios need to recruit from a small, highly competitive talent pool. Here’s a blueprint of what publishers need to know about attracting these rare and valuable professionals.

1. IT’S ALL ABOUT PASSION, BABY. Every game developer and designer aspires to conceive and develop the next big blockbuster. In that respect, they’re constantly searching to be a part of the teams that will build the games of the future. At big publishers, that means the next Call of Duty, Halo, or Grand Theft Auto. But these pros are also attracted to the independent publishers crafting one-off wonders that can generate tons of revenue all while taking off from shortened runways. Publishers need to be able to paint that picture and present themselves as the next big thing, ready to articulate a grand vision that runs through their entire recruitment process, as well as the company as a whole. That vision is critical to recruits, many of whom have

their pick of assignments and will only go where their talent will impact the gaming community as a whole. What’s the Word?

2. THERE IS AN “I” IN TEAM. The irony of great game developers is that while teamwork is important, they also aspire to personal recognition and success. They all quietly seek to someday join the ranks of Shigeru Miyamoto, Cliff Bleszinski, Will Wright, and other legendary developers. But success in this business rests with the quality of the team. Game design and execution is as monumental as a medieval cathedral, calling upon teams of skills and talents.

“I f you’re going to be in the game industry, you need to play, but you also need to be passionate about games — how they are constructed and what makes them great. That’s something that is impossible to fake at a job interview.”

Game developers know that individual success stands on the shoulders of others—animators, musicians, producers, coders, artists, and scores of professionals. “I’ve been on teams where everyone is in their own world and working as individuals, and I’ve been on assignments where the team is the focus, instead of individual aspects or accomplishments,” said Kevin Campbell, a Quality Assurance Senior Test Lead at Airtight Games. “Teams that place an emphasis on morale seem to be the more successful because the

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people in this industry have a sense of community. Game play conditioned them to interact and engage, and they want to extend that tradition at work.” Smart publishers and studios create a team-based culture through effective management, and also by offering the perks that appeal to this intense drive to belong. Sometimes it’s as simple as sponsoring in-house game tournaments to celebrate the very passion that drives the industry. Or it can be more fun. “Scotch o’clock” is how one West Coast publisher marks the end of the workweek, which brings the team together to sip, socialize, and enjoy rare Scotches in a Friday wind down designed to help everyone check in on progress and direction.

3. CAST NETS FAR AND WIDE. Perhaps the most startling aspect of interactive gaming is the range of talents needed to produce a killer end product. Technology drives development, as does animation and art. But talent draws from just about every imaginable discipline, including music composition and scoring, writing and storyboarding, voice overs and narration, acting, artificial intelligence, and the need to understand an array of computer programming languages. And then there are the business aspect of the industry—finance, management, human resources, investor relations, promotion, and marketing. It’s that unique nexus of business, technology, and the arts that provides boundless opportunity for many in the industry. As Caesar Filori, a Senior Producer in Digital Publishing tells it, “The gaming industry provided a path for me to pursue my two great passions in life. I’ve always loved games, and had worked as a game designer and a producer. I also was pretty hardcore into music, sound design, and all of that. Then, a few years back, a friend of

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mine at a major game publisher heard of someone who was looking for an audio director, and that they needed someone who not only understood audio production and sound design, but also had project management experience. I was able to overlay my development background with my music experience and was ultimately selected for the position. After I got the job, I discovered that my boss was in my favorite band at the time, and we ended up doing a music project together that we still do to this day.” we ended up doing a music project together that we still do to this day.” Publishers that branch out their searches to the edges—where gaming intersects with the arts—will find a wealth of passionate, highly engaged talent eager to lend skills to new titles and productions.

4. THE POWER OF LOOSE CONNECTIONS. The competitiveness of the gaming community makes it difficult to constantly draw from the

same talent pool, especially as demand soars for professionals who hold similar skills. After all, there are only so many people who know Objective-C or Java and still live within the gaming community. Consequently, publishers and studios need to start looking outside the obvious to areas that could bring new talent into the industry. “Cross-platform collaboration is opening the industry to new blood,” said Michael Schauble, National Sales Director with Yoh Interactive. “The drive to play anywhere, anytime, on any device, is creating opportunity for professionals from cloud, SaaS, and mobile to join the community; if they also share a passion for games, their playability, and their functionality.” It’s a talent pool that has, until now, been overlooked, but because of player demand, it is now being mined for highly capable professionals with the talent to improve the user experience.

Community Matters “Teams that place an emphasis on morale seem to be the more successful because the people in this industry have a sense of community. Game play conditioned them to interact and engage, and they want to extend that tradition at work.”

The game development community is a highly incestuous web of talent coming, going, or considering their options. Managing the fluidity of this talent pipeline is a skill unto itself, beyond the capabilities of most publishers and studios. Rapid

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growth and an increasingly sophisticated audience is requiring publishers and studios to reevaluate their talent acquisition strategies in order to identify, attract, win over, and acquire talented and passionate team members. Their ability to do so will determine which studios rise and fall on the ebb and flow of player interest and demands—and along the way create the great interactive games of tomorrow.

Š 2014 Yoh Services LLC | A Day & Zimmermann Company

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WHAT WOMEN WANT Š 2014 Yoh Services LLC | A Day & Zimmermann Company

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INSIDE THE MINDS OF FEMALE GAME DEVS Nearly half of gamers today are women, and women over 18 play more games than boys under 17. But they’re not just playing the games, they’re building them, and in doing so, leading the charge in creating memorable user experiences, highly engaging mobile gaming, and blockbuster console games. With the growing influence of women in gaming, we thought it would be interesting to talk to two women that are making it happen in the industry today. We call them “game devas.” Here’s what Tiana Los, Senior User Experience (UX) Designer with Yoh, and Liz Kirby, a 3-D environment artist, had to say about working in the gaming industry.

YOH INSIDER | What excites you about working in the gaming industry?

© 2014 Yoh Services LLC | A Day & Zimmermann Company

Tiana Los: I thrive on variety and the fastpaced environment. The gaming industry is constantly evolving and incorporating the latest technology while pushing the boundaries of the gaming experience. Games are no longer relegated to the couch or computer; the gaming experience can be continued or enhanced with the web and mobile experience. It’s exciting that I have the opportunity to work on extending the gamer’s experience online via web and mobile.

Liz Kirby: Working on games! Being able to make games professionally is just so exciting in itself because I’m doing what I love for a living. The sheer amount of talent that surrounds you in a game studio is also exciting. I’m humbled every day. I remember meeting somebody who had worked on my favorite childhood game, and screaming on the inside with excitement.

I was able to talk to him and hear firsthand stories about the game’s development, and it was just so cool.

YOH INSIDER | What are the key skills or talents needed to be successful in the gaming industry?

Tiana: Hard skills and talent are crucial to landing a job in the gaming industry. However, soft skills such as flexibility, communication, and collaboration are essential to success. Key skills are determined by the role; however, attention to detail and accountability are universally expected. It is extremely useful to have more than one set of skills. For example, I often rely on my user experience and user interface skills, which are related but are considered two separate disciplines. I have extensive front-end development skills, which I might not use in my current role. However, my development skills provide a deeper understanding when challenges arise.

Liz: You have to be extremely adaptive and keep up with the latest trends and technology. I also can’t stress this enough...but networking. You need to be good at networking. Even if you’re already in the industry, knowing somebody is more than half the

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battle in getting your next gig. The industry is small, but it’s highly competitive with thousands of hopefuls trying to enter every year, so visibility is essential.

YOH INSIDER | What advice would you give to an aspiring game developer?

Tiana: First and foremost, be passionate about games. Education is good, but actual experience and a portfolio are most important. Concept art, 3-D modeling, animation, audio, user interface, and development are a few of the many fields within game development. Pick an area of game development that sounds exciting and learn all that you can. Thanks to free modeling software, game engines, and online resources, anyone can become a self-taught game developer. The only cost of excellence is your time and dedication. Research game companies and the open employment positions to find out what software experience and skills are desirable for specific roles. Portfolios and personal game projects indicate that you are a driven candidate and have a record of completion. Never stop learning. The game industry

is constantly growing, and so should your skills. What’s the Word? Liz: Always grow your skills, ALWAYS. Don’t settle, don’t drive yourself into a niche, and keep up-todate with the latest tech. A number of artists tend to focus on one thing. I have interests I stick to, but in a work environment it’s very limiting if you can only do one thing. I’m not saying environment artists should also be able to rig and animate (though it does come in handy), just to try a wider range of subject matter. (And learn a game engine! Even if you’re an artist, learn a game engine!) Also, network like crazy! Be good to the people around you, be a regular on a forum, or go to big events like GDC, just don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, be seen!

“Never stop learning. The game industry is constantly growing, and so should your skills.”

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Š 2014 Yoh Services LLC | A Day & Zimmermann Company

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Successful recruiting in any industry requires a strategic approach that helps a company connect to the skilled professionals that are critical to the company’s success. While social media recruiting strategies help accomplish this, they are still maturing. Most social recruitment today is used to augment what has been a keystone in recruiting for years; the job posting. The video game industry certainly leverages the job posting, but they, at times, must pay a hefty premium to post jobs on digital properties believed to be frequented by the targeted talent marketplace. Is the premium worth it? Do game studios and their hiring managers gain an adequate ROI when posting to a game industry property or job board? To answer the question, it is important to understand the metrics that should be employed to evaluate the performance of a job posting.

Š 2014 Yoh Services LLC | A Day & Zimmermann Company

STANDARD JOB POSTING METRICS There are typically five metrics used to evaluate the performance of a job posting. Show Them the Money 1.

Site Traffic: The average number of monthly visitors to the site


Post Conversion: The percentage of those visitors that actually click into a job posting link


Cost Per Click: How much each of those clicks costs


Cost Per Qualified Candidate: The cost to identify one qualified candidate


Cost Per Hire: The cost of making a hire

The video game industr y certainly leverages the job post, but they, at times, must pay a hefty premium to post jobs on digital properties believed to be frequented by the targeted talent marketplace.


certified or degreed professionals exclusively in the health care industry. The recruiting process and the talent supply and demand are similar in nature to the acquisition of technical or creative game development talent.

The table to the right covers the average highest price for a single job posting across s i m i l a r s i t e s. Th e re a re fo u r c a t e g o r i e s : Major Job Boards: These are the big brand online job boards that have set the direction of the market since internet recruiting began. High-Performing Niche Boards: These online properties narrowly focus on technical talent and skills from mid-level to higher-end positions in ‘traditional’ tech fields (e.g. enterprise IT ). Game Development Industry Boards: These are online properties that offer a job posting or advertising package that is targeted exclusively to technical or creative game development talent. Health Care Industry Boards: To provide perspective we’ve included boards that are focused on recruiting

On average, game development industry boards perform better than major job boards from a conversion ratio perspective, but not as well as other comparative niche focused boards. At face value, the premium required across game development focused sites is extraordinarily high, and appears to suggest that return on this talent acquisition investment, if there is any, would be modest at best. Is this an apples to oranges comparison? Maybe, but it is important to consider that the same job on a major job board would result in a higher number of candidates. We would have paid less for more candidates but the quality of candidates may not be in alignment with what we are looking for in the open position. Therefore, we must determine what

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t h e e x p e n s e i s o f r u n n i n g t h e n e ce s s a r y qualification process to sor t through the hundreds of applicants from a major board vs. the handful of applicants from a niche board. Studios and hiring managers looking for technical and creative game development talent must also make an effort to determine, with specificity, the difficulty in connecting with and acquiring the skilled professionals that they require. Is there a large barrier for the studio or its leadership to engage and manage the targeted talent community beyond their current footprint? If it is, then the talent acquisition cost may be worth the investment. First, it helps the hiring manager fill the talent demand, but it also creates new connectivity into the talent community itself. By determining the value of this connectivity, the studio and hiring manager can better evaluate if the cost to achieve the awareness and access is worthwhile. Ultimately, the evaluation of job board ROI has more to do with the employment brand and the talent acquisition process. If both are strong, the studio is able to make a more educated decision on when they will and will not invest in posting a job at a premium.

Š 2014 Yoh Services LLC | A Day & Zimmermann Company

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Yoh is here. Yoh is there. Yoh is virtually everywhere. All in and busy going all out, doing everything it takes to take you where you want to go – forward. How? By foregoing the talent pool in favor of our own sea of talent, helping you find just the right person for the job or just the career you’ve been searching for.


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