Please dispel the myths: what do you do at work every day?
Development direction is a mix of leadership, management and strategy. Every day varies widely. Some days I am negotiating contracts with outsourcers, others I am working with people on their personal growth plans and others are caffeine-infused, let’s ship this game, days. I build multi-year team plans for both headcount and deliverables for the five SKUs a year we produce.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I worked in the film and commercial industries for eight years and switched to games just over three years ago.
What skills did you have that made this sort of work possible for you?
I am multi-disciplinary. I have a computer science degree, but I worked my way up on the art track. Having a combination of a technical background and good eye has helped me a lot. I now work mostly on the business side where my analytical, strategic and personal skills are essential.
Talk about the less-glamorous work you did before jumping into games. Did any of that experience help you at all?
I should talk more about the time that I sold toy bulls at a combination rodeo and stock car race for extra cash, but I have been lucky (and worked really hard). Before I started in games, I had a glamorous eight year career in film and commercials.
Did your education help you get where you are? Or should people hoping to be in your shoes simply drop out, and get to work?
I have a BS in Computer Science and MS in Visualization Sciences. I was recruited out of my masters by ILM to begin work on Twister, so the degrees definitely helped :-). I recommend people earn at least a four-year degree. It will give them more flexibility in their career over the long run. I have known a few people to come into the industry and make it really big without a degree, but they tend to be the exception.
In 2007 what do you think the salary range will be for a Director? I mean from a junior position all the way up to an Executive Director level, what’s the range?
This is a tough question as it depends on specialty and company. A junior engineer often makes more than a junior artist or producer. Executive compensation is tied to a company’s performance through stock and bonus rather than a straight salary.
Some game developers laugh when they hear the word “Royalties! ” Are royalties real? Should I take that seriously if I’m offered them as a part of my employment package?
It depends on the company offering them. Candidates should research what was done in the past on any sort of royalty or bonus offer.
How competitive is the market for the sort of work you do?
Although teamwork is a fundamental part of our jobs, people in this industry are competitive by nature. People who eschew jobs where they need to compete and work smart to get ahead should rethink a career in games.
Within your current role, are there opportunities to transition to other areas of game development, should your interests take you there?
Of course! The games industry is growing too fast for anyone to be constrained.
Fast-forward 10 years: where are you, and what are you doing career-wise?
The industry is changing too fast to make any predictions. What I do know is that I will be working hard and having a ton of fun.
What advice would you give to people interested in doing what you do?
There are many ways to becoming a Development Director. A person can start in almost any capacity and work their way up. The most direct route would be to begin as a project manager, but most DDs I know started another way. Pick a job you are passionate about doing, the rest will fall into place.