Comment & Opinion

Getting into games through the back door

Getting into games through the back door

Mark Sorrell is Head of Studio at Rovio London.

The games industry is generally rather insular, and often respects only skills learnt inside the business.

While that is very sensible for some roles, this way of thinking is not necessarily always useful, especially within the mobile games business.

There are many skills which those outside the industry possess in greater depth than those inside, along with the unquestionable benefits of having assumptions questioned and fresh ideas brought to bear.

While we can’t guarantee that other companies feel the same way, certainly at Rovio we are always happy to receive applications from outside the games industry at all levels of the business.

When we do, these are the things we look for and the things you can do as a prospective candidate to make your application stand out.

Be passionate about what we do

There are lots of people who are very passionate about games, and you should definitely be one. That’s not to say that everyone who works in the business already is passionate about it, nor that that passion should be unquestioning or a reason to expect unreasonable hours of work.

You do need to have played a wide variety of specifically mobile free-to-play games and you should love them. Making games is hard and it can easily end in failure. Even the best teams don’t make successful games every single time.

A glimpse inside the Rovio Stockholm office

So while you don’t need to be passionate as a replacement for good working conditions, you do need to be sincerely excited and enthusiastic, to carry you through the inevitable failures and disappointments that pave the way to eventual success.

Be passionate about what we don’t do

If you are being hired from inside or outside the industry, it’s important you have something else to offer too.

This is certainly true of what are usually referred to as ‘creative’ roles, but every role is creative in some way or another and seeking inspiration in the most unusual places is one of the key strengths someone from outside of the industry can have to offer.

What does architecture teach us about how spaces in games are designed? How does philosophy help us understand player motivations? What does the structure of British versus US sitcoms teach us about games as a service and culturalisation?

If you are being hired from inside or outside the industry, it’s important you have something else to offer too.

What does magic teach us about controlling the player’s attention? How can stand-up comedy help us understand timing and rhythm? How does cookery help us understand how we present rewards? How do supermarkets help us understand how to design our shops and how can fashion help us understand luxury and desire?

It’s difficult to think of a discipline or experience that hasn’t got something interesting and useful to say about how hugely mass-market free-to-play mobile games are made.

So think about how the experiences and knowledge that you have can help make better games. What’s the way of looking at the world that’s unique to you? What does that have to say about games and how they are made?

It could be just the right thing to make them even better.

Have opinions

One of the most important reasons to hire someone without explicit experience of the games industry, is because you have fresh opinions about what we do and why we do it.

Rovio has worked on numerous games, including hit title Angry Birds 2

Play big popular games, play small niche games, read about games, have opinions about what works and what doesn’t, and have a bunch of reasons for those opinions.

We don’t have to agree, in fact it’s often best if we don’t, but you need to demonstrate that you’ve given the industry considerable thought. The whole industry. That’s the art and the commerce.

One of the greatest strengths that people from outside of the industry can bring is their knowledge of their own lack of knowledge.

In the games industry, we can seldom afford to care for only one side or the other. Have as strong an interest in why and how particular games are fun and compelling as why and how their free-to-play systems work.

Have questions

Having questions is possibly the most important thing of all. One of the greatest strengths that people from outside of the industry can bring is their knowledge of their own lack of knowledge.

All too often inside the industry we think we know how things work, or what the best solution to a problem is, or what our audience want, when we’re really just relying on comfortable answers.

While it’s important to remember that 90% of the questions you have we’ve almost certainly already asked and answered, there will always be those beautiful questions that haven’t been thought of, the angles that haven’t been considered or the answers staring us in the face that we just haven’t seen.

So stay curious, question without fear and hopefully together we can discover something truly new.

And remember, If you’re wondering if you should apply or not, we always hope you do.

Rovio is hiring now, in Espoo, Stockholm and London. For more details, no matter your background, please have a look at www.rovio.com/careers.

This was part of the MGU course Mobile Games University: How to get a job in games. For more articles in this course click here.

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