Interview

Jobs in Games: AppLovin senior developer Kellie Knight explains the value of learning from failure

Jobs in Games: AppLovin senior developer Kellie Knight explains the value of learning from failure

The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.

The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field.

To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the screen, and help others who may be keen to dive in, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry with our Jobs in Games series.

This week we spoke with AppLovin senior game developer Kellie Knight.

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Kellie Knight: As a senior game developer at AppLovin, I get the opportunity to collaborate with my teammates on the SparkLabs team where I flex both my coding and creative skills regularly. Right now, I'm pretty focused on working with our partnerships team, which allows me a chance to work with a wider group of my AppLovin teammates.

Over the years, we've learned that playable ads can increase IPMs by 200 per cent or more.
Kellie Knight

I work on a lot of playable ads at AppLovin, which are unique interactive experiences that allow users to engage with a key part of the game. This gives us the opportunity to highlight a key portion of gameplay, and help increase conversion rates for game developers. Over the years, we've learned that playable ads can increase IPMs by 200 per cent or more.

How did you first get into games and how did you progress into the role?

I grew up playing video games, so I've always had a passion for them. The idea of combining computer science and design, and using it to create a fun and interactive world has always appealed to me.

When I was younger, I loved to build things. I dreamed of designing rides for Disney, and when playing The Sims, I would spend more time building houses than having my characters live in them.

When it was time for college, there was a brief moment where I questioned whether or not I was going to major in computer science and was intimidated by the idea, but I ultimately decided to jump in and go for it.

After I graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, I joined AppLovin as a game developer and have since become a senior game developer on the team.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

Growing up, I always bounced between interests whether it was music, acting, art, or science. It was hard for me to decide that one thing I wanted to make a career out of. I juggled numerous ideas, including biology, astronomy, and architecture, but in the back of my mind I always knew that my love of games was constant, so that's why I eventually took the plunge and decided to become a game developer.

I've always found myself getting lost in the world of games. Whether I was being immersed in a rich world of an RPG, or building things in simulation games like Planet Coaster — I've always been enamoured with the idea of creating worlds. Games combine science with art to create entertaining experiences, which I think is why I am so drawn to working on them.

What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

I started at Santa Rosa Junior College and eventually transferred to UC Santa Cruz where I majored in Computer Science: Computer Game Design. There, I took classes that taught the fundamentals of game design and programming and made tabletop, PC, and even VR game projects.

I think it's important to know fundamental game design principles and programming paradigms like object-oriented design. But most of all, the best way to practice is to just make games; try different engines, experiment, and join online communities to share your progress and get feedback. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to make the next big indie game on your first try. Just have fun!

What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?

One of the best aspects of my job is the collaborative environment. While we're all working on individual projects all day long, it's sometimes hard to come up with new ideas on your own, but here we're able to brainstorm together and evolve our ideas into something new.

I knew that as a woman going into a traditionally male-dominated field, there were going to be some eyes on me and I would likely be the minority in my educational/professional setting.
Kellie Knight

I also feel very lucky to have the opportunity to offer design input into the playables I develop. When I first started, I assumed I would always be strictly following a game mock-up that someone else made, but now I am able to independently conceptualise my own playable concepts from scratch and bring them to reality.

One of my favourite parts of the process is planning out the design of a playable and coming up with the most optimal way to code it.

Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?

I knew that as a woman going into a traditionally male-dominated field, there were going to be some eyes on me and I would likely be the minority in my educational/professional setting.

Thankfully, I was educated in a space where I never felt like I was discriminated against, and since joining AppLovin, there has never been a moment where I felt like I was unequal.

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

I wish I knew that it's okay to not be perfect. AppLovin is my first job getting out of college and when I first started, I had a lot of self-doubt and I worried that I would mess up or that my coding skills wouldn't be up to par with what was expected of me.

I can be a huge perfectionist so I had put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself, but as time went on I kept telling myself that it's okay to ask for help and it's okay to make mistakes as long as you fix them and learn from them.

By bringing my all every day and focusing on doing my best, I built the confidence in myself to eventually get over the fear of not being "good enough". I've learned so much during my time at AppLovin and everyone I work with has been so helpful and supportive; working here has really allowed me to grow and thrive.

What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

Be adaptable to new technologies and paradigms. The industry is constantly changing, so it's important to always stay up to date. Here at AppLovin we're always trying to optimise our workflow and the performance of our creatives, so it is vital that we stay quick on our feet with trends and technologies.

PG Connects Digital #1 is the best of our Pocket Gamer Connects conference in an online form, with an entire week of talks, meetings, and pitch events taking place from April 6th to the 10th. You can register for the online event here.


Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is the staff writer for PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @Forde999 talking about Smash Bros. and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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