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David Littman's Blog: Getting into the video game industry

A virtual Daniel Alfredsson tries to beat a virtual Ryan Miller in NHL 09.

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A virtual Daniel Alfredsson tries to beat a virtual Ryan Miller in NHL 09.

After last week talking about the process of making a video game, today I’m going to discuss how to get started in the industry.

If you are a parent reading this, don’t underestimate how much of a positive influence video games can have on your child’s life. Video games require and teach concentration, learning, teamwork, hand-eye coordination, confidence, memory, sportsmanship and problem solving.

In particular, playing a hockey video game can teach your child the rules of the game, correct positioning, strategies and new ways to score on a goalie. A former teammate of mine told me his son learned about the offside rule by playing our NHL video game. When he went to his first tryout as a six-year-old, he was the only player who did not go offside. He made the team.

Here are some tips for fellow video gamers out there who want to get into the industry.

If you want to be a producer or designer:

Be an expert in something.
It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be hockey, football, guitar, music, chess, Dungeons and Dragons, snowboarding, anything. There is a video game for almost every activity out there. If you are an expert, you will have the advantage when applying for a job on that game.

Play video games. Read about video games. Write game designs for video games.
When I interview someone for a job at EA, I always ask them what their favorite games are, what they like about them, what they would change, etc.

Work on leadership skills.
Producers are leaders of the team, or leaders of groups on the team. It is all about teamwork. As the leader, you still need team input when it comes to designing features. The more input the software engineers (SEs), animators and artists have during the design phase, the more passionate they will be while they are implementing the design.

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Read books about business, finance, marketing, design, teamwork and leadership.

Be pro-active.
EA never would have hired me if I didn’t call them. There are video game companies in almost every major city in North America and Europe. Apply to be a tester. Work your behind off. Act and dress professionally. Be proactive while you are there. Send an email to the producer of the game you are testing with your ideas on how to improve the game, or a new idea that no one has thought of. Do not say, “this game sucks” or “this feature sucks.” Do say, “here are few things that I think can make a good game even better.”

For any job in the video game industry, go to a good college.
Obviously if you want to be a software engineer you need math, calculus and all of that good stuff. If you want to be an artist, then major in art, graphic design, etc. If you want to be an animator, you need to be a good artist and learn to use 3-D animation and modeling tools such as Maya.

A native of Flushing, N.Y., David Littman was drafted by the Sabres in the 1987 NHL Entry Draft. He spent four years at Boston College before turning pro in 1989. Over the next 10 years, Littman would play in the ECHL, IHL, AHL and NHL (with Buffalo and Tampa Bay). The 40-year-old currently works as a producer for the wildly popular EA Sports NHL series of video games. Read his other THN.com blogs HERE.

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