Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The other day I decided to write a brief monograph of the "xyz I Have Known" genre, to be entitled "Game Industry Employment Advertisements I Have Known." I took a scientific approach, beginning my work by classifying and categorising the peccadillos contained in typical game industry job ads. That is to say, those nuisance things that put me off applying for the job for no reason other than a fear that if I were ever to meet the person who penned the advertisment I would feel compelled to punch them in the face.

During this process I soon came to find, however, that what I thought would suffice for a minor collection of irritations to be casually jotted down, was in fact an entire field of study in its own right, abounding in instances of collossal stupidity, ignorance and in some cases even lunacy.

Given this reappraisal of the nature of my task, I have decided to "break it up into bits and stuff", prefaced with an announcement of my intention to serialise what is already an essay of a few thousand words into vignettes, the first of which will appear presently on my blog.

The "Only Lunatics Need Apply" job ad

Do you live/eat/breathe/excrete games? Are you 110% absolutely, totally, insanely dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make a great game?!?!

Well, my first choice answer would be grow up and fuck off and my second might be that maybe I do like games and related leisure activities, and that's why I like to be home from work at a reasonable hour so that I can actually play them.

I call like to call a spade a spade: anyone who writes an ad like this is a fucking tool.

You may say, quite rightly, that it is not enough to point fingers and throw stones. In these post-Biblical times, you argue, we must also strive to understand "where people are coming from". If psychiatrists hadn't striven or strove or whatever, they may never have discovered that male people are coming from Mars and that (thanks to advances in modern etymological science) lunatics are coming from The Moon.
So, in the spirit of peace and human-extraterrestrial understanding, I will attempt to
divine the possible causes and motivations that lead to the penning of such advertisements as the one that follows below. After all, only after ascertaining the cause of a malady can one devise the correct way in which to treat the symptoms (in the spirit of empathy the treatment that I would prescribe would, naturally, be quick and humane).

The "You Have to Be Great Despite the Fact We Suck" job ad

Would you like the chance to work for us: a self-important, no-name company who's done absolutely fucking nothing apart from a couple of ports and a budget title?! ?! We're looking for highly experienced, exceptionally talented game developers who've shipped at minimum of 3 triple A games to join our poxy little team!

So here I put my empathic powers to the test by imagining a scenario in which some upper management guys plus the HR guy sit around together nutting out their recruitment strategy. One of these lads is undoutledly a very clever little chap with an MBA or something because he tells his colleagues about this really genius negotiating principle of aiming high and being talked down - something he learnt at Harvard Business School or from reading the shopping section in the Lonely Planet guide for Thailand.

"OK, it's like this: if we aim for, like, John Carmack, we probably wont get him, right, but well at least get someone whos done a bit of QA testing!"

Hmmm. Well I'm sorry to have to point out the harsh reality of the modern world; it goes something a little more like this:

No, you're not going to get John Carmack, but at least you might get someone who's done a bit of QA testing and now thinks they're John Carmack.

Because quite frankly, a two horse studio with post-adolescent management and string of B-grade titles that requires candidates to have credits for at least 2 triple A games can, sadly, only appeal to 17 year old boys with dissociative personality disorder. Everyone else is just going simply write you off as, well, the jumped-up little oiks that you quite clearly are, I'm afraid.

Your girlfriend's little brother and his entire Word of Warcraft guild may be impressed by the fact that you're a game developer but really, try and have some fucking perspective.

The "Fantastic Opportunity to Downsize Your Career" job

As a candidate for this associate producer role, at a studio of little note located half way across the world, you will have several years' experience and at least 2 game titles shipped in an associate producter role, leading a team of at least 40 people.

Stop me and slap me around if I'm talking out of my arse here, as I'm not a producer, but what the fuck? If you are in fact an associate game producer with a few years' experience and you're good at your job, you will no doubt aim for a producer role for your next position.
Of course, if you're a crap producer who's going nowhere in a hurry, this job has clearly been advertised with you in mind and I strongly encourage you to apply for it.

The "Must Have 10 Years' Experience, a PhD, and a Post-graduate Diploma in Non-industry-standard or No-brainer Software" job ad

Microsoft Project skills a must.

I went to the trouble of doing all the built in Project tutorials just to work out what all the bloody fuss was about. I like a challenge, and I had the impression that $100,000 a year offered for a top-of-the-class MSProject user meant that MS Project must be some sort of l33t skill compared to mere hobbies such as C and sound engineering. MSProject is surely a bitch to learn, I imagined, like an artist switching from Soft Image to 3DS Max. But oh crappo its just all Gantt charts and timelines and dependencies and shit! Just stuff project managers are supposed know about anyway because they're project managers. The software itself is straightforward enough so that a mere child of 10 or a even producer could figure it out. Or are we only hiring dipshits these days?

You must be proficient using Soundforge, and an obscure non-industry-standard clone of a popular piece of sound mixing software.

Oh for fuck's sake it's like requiring an experienced chef to have used a particular brand of knife. How about: "experience with digital sound editing/processing and non-destructive multi-track editing tools"? But oh fuck off no we must write "Soundforge" because the studio manager downloaded a cracked copy once for fun and it looked weally, weally difficult.

Tards, tards, tards. These execrable job ads are a disgrace. A mere developmentally disabled dog of 5 could do better.
I'll leave it at that for part 2.
The take-away idea from this session is: ..tards!

Often candidates are invited to browse the company website for "career opportunities" in order that one may be encouraged to "join the team!!". In this way, a game studio's site often serves as a sort of permanent job ad.
My employer's
website, for example, attempts to ensare the elusive game development job-seeker with badly translated English text and a headless woman with big tits labelled "too hard for you!".
Well, I mustn't quibble - it obviously worked a treat in my case.

The "We're Looking For a Few (More) Good Men" ad

Websites that have photos of the entire company proudly displayed in the "team" section of the studio's website. Fine, you say - but there's a bizarre twist. Every single photo is of a man. No explanation is furnished, not even an acknowledgement in fine print at the bottom of the page that yes, this is a bit weird. There's something creepy about a medium sized company that's all white men between the ages of 20 and 45. It's not their fault or anything, but most people don't go about splashing their faults all over their website now do they.
I always wonder why the don't just lie like big corporations do: from the legal arse-covering (we are an equal opportunity employer) to the touchy-feely (we are conscious of the fact that we lack female staff and we hope to change that) to the buck-passingly convenient (we'd like to recruit women but they just don't apply).

The strangest exemplar of this type of site is the GANG (Game Audio Network Guild) website. It's changed somewhat since I first saw it, and thank God for that. The GANG management committee section had a horrifying page of staggering 40 or so men grinning out from the page at you, as if to say look at us! We're all men! Yippee!; as if they'd just felled a stag and a brace of pheasants with their bare hands.

This man-imagery overload cements women's worst fears. The only industry that's perhaps more bloke-infested than the game industry is the music industry. Or maybe deep sea oil mining. Well whatever, it is positively festooned with men. You put industries like this together and you've got more androgens than you ever knew what to do with and a combined collection of at least one million fantasy character figurines and unfinished model aeroplanes.

And why go out of your way to acronymise your organisation's name into the word gang? Because gang references concepts like gang bangs, ganging up, or gang warfare? And you can tell that somebody stayed up all night on Mountain Dew to wrench this acronym out of their arse because Christ: Network Guild?? At the least, ugly, at worst vaguely tautological. Ok that's a cheap jibe but would I feel compelled to make nasty cheap jibes if it weren't for the fact that their website gave me the creeps? It makes one wonder what their GANG clubhouse would be like. One would climb to the top of the tree ladder only to get nerfed at the door by a bunch of man-nerds wielding plastic light sabres enchanted with +10 resistance to Girl Germs. Well I don't actually know as it's not something I care to speculate about for too long. Seriously, I think GANG has done some great stuff and I'm sure they're all are very nice people and all, but I'm not writing this to be nice, so, y'know...
Let us at least pretend that we don't model our industry organisations after the
Vienna Philharmonic, if we can manage it.

There is something a little bit special Australian game development job ads. Often when I am perusing them I cannot help but be reminded of Emily Howard, the rubbish transvestite who is so unconvincing that she feels compelled to go up and down the High Street telling people, "I'm a laaaady!"

And how can one tell that she's a lady?
"You must know that I am a lady... I press flowers and stroke kittens and swim in rivers... wearing dresses and hats."

Contrary to what you may be thinking, Australian game studios are not populated by hairy middle-aged cross-dressers. They are, however, headed up by men who are always at pains to tell strangers that they are in fact "World Class".

The "We're World Class! (Unlike Those Amateurs Down the Road)" job ad.

Ah those provincial little "world class" Australian studios with their "international hits" - as if most development studios around the world don't pretty much make games for the US and European territories as a matter of course.
But they're not to know that, the little dears. After all, they're only Australian! It's as if one has been sent off to the colonies - ach, these games are just as good as the ones they make back home in England, sir. Oh pish posh.

The "world class" moniker seems to be a serviceable little term, useful for implying that other Australian developers - who are presumably only "Australian class" - are not of this world and therefore crap (or extra-terrestrial - both inferrences are damning for a studio who wishes to attract talent or venture capital). The unfortunate side effect is that it makes the user look like a cretin of the highest order.

It can even make one begin to feel a tad disoriented. "Where is the world?", one cannot but ask. Korea? Montreal? What does this mysterious world of world class game development? What do? I think I'm coming over all faintsy-waintsy.

In conclusion, this is a term that is all at once unconscionably empty, cringing and pompous, and any jumped-up accountant-come-studio manager who enlists its help in order to intimidate or impress me deserves a perfunctory slap across the family jewels (with a world class Made-In-China wooden ruler. None of that Australian rubbish).

Of course, noone is more world-class than Ubisoft, hiring as they do nimble-fingered Romanian orphans to do their QA work.

The "Don't Blame Us: Our Recruiter Wrote It" job ad

Ah, recruiters, recruiters. (Or recruiters, recruiters, recruiter, recruiters, recruiters, recruiters, I might say if I had the phone number of Steve Balmer's happy pill man.) Their colourful job announcement antics merit a section to themselves.

Well all know them well: when you need them they don't return your emails/calls/death threats. When you don't need them, theyre forever clogging up your inbox and phoning you at work so that you don't miss out on exciting, irrelevant and inappropriately fantastic career opportunities.

Some people detest the vulturey, parasitic existence of game industry recruitment agents and take to loathing them as a sort of tooth-gnashing side-interest. I, however, hold a zen-like calm and mature attitude towards them that is no doubt due to the fact that my moral framework coincides strongly with that of Emmanuel Kant. Kant said that women cannot be held responsible for their behaviour because women are not rational beings. One can only imagine that his female friends were game industry recruiters.

The "Exciting Opportunity to Work In Sunny Oops-Sorry-Can't-Tell-You-That" job ad

Location: Australia

Location: Mid West USA

Location: You are standing in front of a white house. To the west a small path leads to a-oh for Christ's sake just tell me which city the fucking job is in.

Don't let me get started on this job-o'-mystery bullshit that recruiters indulge in because I'm saving that for later. I'll exercise my celebrated self-discipline and focus on the matter at hand. And what, you are waiting for me to explain, is in fact the matter with this style of job advertisement (while I may have stolen that pun from
Hamlet, considering that most of my nerdulous peers seem to lift all their bon mots from Star Wars I don't feel too much of a loser about it).

Despite my reputation as a champion Trivial Pursuit player, I am ignorant on the subject of the Mid West of the United States. I get the bit about it being in the middle and to the west, and stuff. But despite my ignorance, I get the impression it is of a non-trivial size. Strictly speaking, and from a geographical point of view, it no doubt covers quite a large area: including for example Mid-Mid West, Upper-Mid West, Lower-East-Mid South-West, etc.

Well basically, the implication that I am so desperate for a job that I would be willingly lead blindfolded into a intra-continental lucky dip irks me somewhat. This cynical assessment of my current situation may well in fact be true, but there's no need to irk me about it.

Though I cannot claim to speak authoritatively about geographical inadequacies regarding countries I may have visited once on a school orchestra tour, I feel somewhat of a pundit on the question of how reprehensively wrong-headed it is to advertise a job simply stating it is located somewhere in "Australia".

Its clear that international game industry recruiters have rarely ventured beyond Lower Dorking or Chavstoke or East Slagdon or wherever it is in miserable provincial England they live. If they had, they would have no doubt noticed that Australia is in fact a rather large-ish continent with a not insignificant collection of time zones, climates, cultures, etc.
There you are, a nice bit of trivia for you all. I know you curl-me-up-in-front-of-a-nice-warm-DVD-of-Babylon-5 types think Australia is actually a large beachfront town with kangaroos and Tasmanian tigers and but lets do some
serious geographical research and and inform ourselves a little bit more about where our clients do business.

I also know from personal experience that misconceptions abound about Australia . For instance, little French children are always asking me if I have a pet Kangaroo. I say no, but that I am rather fond of Kangaroos cooked saignant in a red wine and shallot sauce. You might think that a comment like that would upset children, but remember that the French have a more pragmatic, mature attitude towards food and that French children
eat their ponies after tiring of them.

How could one have any doubts that there is a lingering perception that the whole of Australia is one big Home and Away set when one continues to hear of American and British citizens being recruited by studios in Canberra. If you were offered a job in Kazahkstahn, wouldn't you at least read some linux kernel hacking newsgroups to get an idea of the environs first before you signed the contract, put you children though quarantine, and so forth? Even Lonely Planet will endanger their profits in order to be up front about what a shithole Canberra is, and yet still they come. It is sad that simple and easy precautions like looking at pictures on seem to be perfunctorily de-prioritised and swept aside by the hustle and bustle of modern life. I find myself at a loss for any other plausible explanation.

Here I take a brief respite from my section on game job ads that suck written by recruiters, to again ponder, as Jeeves would say, the psychology of the individual. Recruiter, that is.

Recruiters cannot be summarily summed up and dismissed by shallow stereotypes, gross generalisations and cruel caricatures. They positively refuse to be pushed, stamped, filed, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. They are people just like anybody else, and as such come in at least 3 types.

Given the subtleties of the task, how can we get to know the personalities behind the advertisements? It is widely thought that to understand a man, you must analyse his oeuvre, or output (in much the same way that a doctor analyses a patient's output - it is the same principle). The output of a game recruiter is of course these execrable job advertisements, and through simple textual analysis it is surely possible to discover what makes any given recruiter tick (preferably a bomb gaffer-taped to the underside of their mingey little desk).

The International Recruiter of Mystery

The international recruiter of mystery is the recruiter we have already encountered, the one that advertises jobs mysteriously located in either the northern or southern hemispheres. But they are much, much more than that. Their personalities are remarkably multifaceted. Brimming with facets. I met a recruiter once and it seemed to have more facets than was seemly among polite society.

Well anyway the point is, there is more to this mystery of the mysterious recruiter than meets the eye (otherwise it would be less like a mystery and more like a plate of cold peas).

Allow me to draw your minds back, deep into the past. Yes that's right, close your eyes. Try to imagine the world as it was back then. Can you see it now? The bilboard at the bus stop that's completely black except for a plain white message that simply says "What is X?". Take time forward a little now to the next one, yes it's changed now hasn't it - it's the same but the text is different. Think, think what does it say?

"What is X? The truth will be revealed on April 21st at"

Brilliant, brilliant, marketing strategy. The really clever-clogs thing about viral marketing is that it was so space-wastingly pointless and did absolutely nothing to raise awareness of the actual product being advertised (unless in a cunning twist the product was really after all the marketing director's cock). You, mere putty in the hands of corporate marketing genius, were supposed to find it all so devilishly intriguing that you'd go and visit their website only to be further disoriented, causing you to band together with other confused lamers on mailing lists set up expressly to mediate speculation about what fuck it might be all about while simultaneously striving for world peace. You were to spend your leisure hours under the campaign's spell, frantically trying to nut out this condundrum, all the while marvelling at the fiendish cleverness of marketing men.

Undoubtedly lesser species of marketing people, known as common or garden sales people (saleus cretinus vulgaris), took inspiration from this phenomenon. In fact I'm sure of it, because game industry recruiters have clearly snatched, grabbed and beetled off with the idea. The seem to be irrevocably convinced that nothing sparks the bloodhound-like instincts of a game developer like a good old mystery. And surely, they reason, nothing creates an air of mystery about their product so successfully as not telling anyone which city the fucking job is in, what the salary is (that's you, Datascope, because think you're fucking special, don't you), what the company is and what kind of project you'd be expected to work on.

Every time I read a recruiter's nasty little screed I feel as if I'm reliving the opening of an episode of the Prisoner.

Who can tell? Smoke and bloody mirrors.

Mystere boule de fucking gomme, as they say in France

Ooh look! What's that behind you?

What type of project on what platform?
Pick a card, any card! Don't tell me what it-

And after years of polite enquiries as to the identity of Number One, I would ultimately be treated to a shabby rendition of "dem bones dem bones dem dry bones" and the sobering knowledge that Number One was in fact an autistic monkey all along (sorry for spoilers).

Let it never be said that I scorn a good mystery, but I feel at pains to point out that I, old fashioned as I am, do rather prefer murder mysteries. Especially murder mysteries in which the developer gets to murder the recruiter for being an obstructionary pain in the arse. On the Nile.

Recruiters will tell you frankly that they are merely trying to protect their competitive advantage and their business. But frankly, if you feel compelled to protect your business in the manner of the Scarlet Pimpernel rather than a simple purveyor of goods and services, perhaps you have no business being in business at all.

The Recruiter of Many Talents

Occasionally one comes across a game industry employment annoncement that is so brimming with childlike fancy and maladroit, feverish use of inappropriate buzzwords that one is in absolutely doubt that was written by a recruiter or a games journalist (sorry Kieron, not you - the other one). Hence this seemingly unnecessary poesie does in fact serve a purpose: job seekers may immediately dismiss at least a third of the nonsense that the ad contains as rubbish that the company hiring would no doubt never have written.

But what do these ads tell us about our old friend, the psychology of the individual? It is clear that this kind of hyperbolic hysteria belies a sense of creative frustration felt by the recruiter. No opportunity for a creative outlet that these eager beavers can get their little mits on, however small and trivial, is left untouched. This phenomenon can also be observed in the way real estate agents and game industry marketing executives feel bereft if they don't leave their paw prints where they aren't wanted. But let us not be overly critical. Let them have their Sunday frolicks. It would be cruel to begrudge these lackadaisical telemarketers their 10 minutes in the sun.

Still to come:

The Recruiter Who Knew Too Much

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At 5:08 am, Blogger Askinstoo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:32 pm, Blogger Courtney said...

This post is by far the most awesome post ever written about game job ads. Particularly the "Looking For a Few (More) Good Men ad" section. I just love team photos of a bunch of 20-something guys grinning like idiots. Even better are the photos of a bunch of 20-something guys and one good-looking girl - the receptionist, who doesn't know anything about video games, but was hired to fill the quota and give the men something to look at to keep them from straining their poor eyes at the computer all day.

I hope you don't mind, I linked your post at my own blog for game career seekers. I imagine it will show in your 'links to this post' section soon, but I wanted to tell you personally, since the contextual blurb tends to be a bit informal.

Thanks for being awesome.


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