Welcome to another week of Ask Kotaku, where people are fed up with their jobs and responsibilities. You need a way out, and I can offer some hope for you (hopefully).
**If you want advice on anything at all, send me an email at Tina at Kotaku dot com for next week's column.**
Regarding Work and School
Moving on from a game design career when you hate it
After about ten years, it's clear that becoming a game designer was, to quote GOB Bluth, "a huge mistake". It's impossible to find a job, and if you *do* find a job, there's no stability, very little pay, and very little opportunity to be creative without having your worked stomped on by corporate suits who know less than you do. Unfortunately, game designers have little in the way of transferable skills - I'm not qualified to design anything other than games, nor am I qualified to work on games in any capacity other than design. In fact, as the games industry evolves and designers are becoming more and more specialized, I find I'm becoming less and less qualified for *design* jobs (despite being an accomplished level designer and UI designer, I now no longer qualify for either job), narrowing my job prospects yet further.
I can't find any information online on how to move on from a career in game design, as every google search I can think of only returns articles on how to *become* a game designer (it is still considered a "dream job" for some god-forsaken reason). Do I have any options other than starting from the bottom in some other career path? I've started applying for producer jobs, hoping my experience as a lead designer can at least land me an associate producer job, and I've started studying programming in case I have to start from the bottom anew, but ideally I'd like to get out of the games business entirely.
Man, that's rough. Despite how hopeless it seems, though, you have a few options.
You're already looking into programming, which is great, but honestly a lot of other people have a head start on you in that department. Fortunately you already have a head start in other ways, namely that you have a job and experience in the general field of video game development. I think looking into producer roles is a great idea, too, because your experience will be to your benefit.
You could always start your own independent company or work with another one that has more control and a more comfortable work setting. Maybe you haven't found the right company yet. I'm sure you've tried a few options, but it can take longer than you'd think to find the right fit.
But have you thought about marketing? It'd be a drastic change, but it sounds like that's what you're looking for anyway. The games industry has a wide variety of roles, and someone with actual development experience would be valued in any of them. Of course, try to develop any other skills you have so that you can seem more well-rounded if you want to make the jump to other in-house or outsourced positions that relate to games and the making and promotion of them.
If you want out of games entirely, you could always take your development skills—particularly UI design since you mentioned it—to other fields. UI design isn't limited to games, after all. Maybe even think about freelancing for some time. Consulting? There are so many options. Many of them won't be for you or they won't be feasible. But you do have options.
And worst, worst case scenario, save up some money and, yes, start from the bottom at some other career if that will make you happy. Obviously try to shoot for something somewhat connected so that the climb is easier but regardless, eventually—and probably quicker than you would expect—you'll climb that ladder, too. And five years from now, you'll be a much happier person. But consider your options fully first.
What game developer employers look for in an applicant
Gaining an interest in games dev. recently, I've been prying into that field. I'm a sound engineering student, without much experience (yet) in both fields. Having knowledge about the industry's workings, what do you think I should be focusing on? What do devs look for in a worker? Or am I just walking down a doomed path?
They're looking for people with the right experience and for people with talent. It can be hard to get your foot in the door when you're just starting out and want to gain experience but every opportunity is asking for applicants to already have some amount of experience. I know the feeling. We've all been there at some point.
I suggest internships. It's not ideal, I know, but you can sometimes find paid internships. That way you'll build connections, gain a bit of experience, and even have some credits to your portfolio. Imagine contributing to a AAA game (or any game really), even in a small way. It'd do wonders for you in your next interview. You'd be able to speak to the experience of working with a team in a very specific environment.
These days, it's the employer's market. They have their pick. It can be hard to set yourself apart from the hundreds of overqualified applicants. The best thing you can do is keep working and building a portfolio and your rolodex (or the modern version of that).
Deciding between going back to school or continuing to work
Do you think at this day and age, the economy not being the best yet with unemployment issues and salaries being so low these days, is it worth it to get a Master's degree and potentially get more in debt knowing you may not find a good job even with the Master's. I graduated with my BS in 2008 and while I've had a job since a graduated I've been looking for a better paying job for about a year now with no luck. I already owe a lot of money to Sallie Mae and would hate to add to that debt if I can't find a decent paying job.
You're right that it's not a great time to find a well-paying job. But you also don't want to put yourself further into debt.
I'd say that you should calculate your future plan. Decide what job you want to aim for with this potential future degree, and weigh your options. Determine if getting a Master's degree would likely land you that job. If it won't, I'd continue working. If you think it's a position that necessitates a Master's degree and a position that doesn't have thousands of job-hungry poor souls flocking to it, then you should invest the time in school.
Not knowing your particular situation, I'd say it seems like the most solid plan would be to continue working and looking for higher-paying jobs, or to ask your current employer for a raise. If you've been there for a year and working well, it's only fair. And though it can feel draining to be searching for a year for a new job, some people have no job and have been searching for longer. And I don't foresee the job market getting significantly more comfortable any time soon.
I know that's probably not what you want to hear. But I am a personal believer of taking minimal risks. It's why I'm not a betting man. Ok I'm not actually a man either.
Making music for video games
One question I've always had is how do you break into writing music for a game. Or at least providing music for one. I've had some success in the past ( remixed for Queen, had music placed on tv shows etc) but have always wanted to write a score for something be it game or movie. I've got no idea where to start on something like this. Can't say I've gained much experience writing scores for actual films and games, but my friend likes to write scripts and we've worked on scoring his ideas for fun. Music for fake films if you want to call it that.
Starting out with your friends is a great idea. Once you guys being creating, you'll have something to show to future potential employers. I've mentioned this quite a bit on the site before, but your portfolio is your strongest weapon. You need to keep adding points to it.
Also your stuff is great! I've been listening to it while writing this column :)
Getting a job as a games writer
How do I make it into the writing scene? I have been trying for many years, (short stories, reviews, articles, etc.) but have not had any luck.
I am currently trying to use tumblr as a blog for my video game reviews, but I don't feel it is the best medium to use for it. I have tried other websites, like gamespot, and still no help. Do you have any advice that could help?
I've discussed a few pointers on this already, so I'll just summarize them: continue to build your portfolio, don't get discouraged, make connections.
But I have a specific tip for you. Don't write reviews! Write features. Express your opinion and your voice. Everyone writes reviews. They're frankly boring to read as an example of someone's work and don't give a sense of your style as well as a feature would.
Choosing a major when you have no clue what to do
How I can decide what I want to study in university? It seems impossible for me to know what I wanna study and do for the rest of my life ( I would prefer to do my career for the rest of my life, because I want to move up in that field and earn better money, because I have experience), because I can't try to jobs beforehand, so I'd like to get some views and opinions on how I can decide my future career path. Also I don't feel that any career interests me, just I want to make some big money, so this is definitely a problem, so please Kotaku help me with this problem!
Normally I'd suggest internships because it gives you hands-on time with the environment and work you'd be doing in specific careers. It's how I was sure I loved writing. I started an internship at Condé Nast and haven't looked back from my writing career since.
But since you're already working and it doesn't seem like you'd have time in between to experiment with internships, I'd say research a whole bunch of career choices.
Make a list of things you think might interest you. Read about the jobs online. Watch videos and interviews; consume anything about it that you can. Reach out to people who work in those fields and ask them about what it's like. Read books on the relevant subjects and topics. Go visit the workplaces if you can. When my oldest brother was a kid, my mom really wanted him to become a doctor. But the second he stepped into a hospital he hated it. He knew it wasn't for him.
The best you can do is try to take in everything about what that job might be like, and decide if it's for you or not. Worst case scenario? Just major in something generic. I did media and communications. It worked out fine for me. Your major doesn't tie your fate.
Finding the drive to leave the house
I have issues finding the desire to go outside. All I ever do is sit in front of my PC either watching Youtube videos, playing games, or just browsing the internet being bored. Yet I could go outside, enjoy the sunshine or do things. Yet I don't, and I don't know why. I just need get off my butt and do something, but I can never find the drive to. What should I do?
It's not abnormal to not find the drive and energy to go out and be active. But you basically have to force yourself, will yourself into doing it.
It's like exercising. I used to be a swimmer and fell out of it years ago. Once you fall out of the habit, it can be hard to break back in. But a month or so ago I decided to force myself to try it again, and now I go every week. In fact, I'd feel guilty if I missed a week.
It's all about creating habits. For me, I know it helps if I have a buddy to encourage me to go out and do things. So I'll look for fun events in the city and invite my friends. That way I know I have to stick to the plan. I go swimming with my dad. That way, if I am feeling lazy about going, I know I can't back out because I have an obligation not only to myself, but also to him.
Once you get into the habit, you won't want to get out of it. It'll feel like second nature. And your week will feel empty without getting up and doing something.
Moving out of your parents house when you support them
I’m looking for a bit of help when it comes to moving out of my folks house. Since I was eighteen I had the blatant desire to move out and be as independent as soon as possible.
I’m twenty-one now and in that time all I’ve managed to do is get a great gal and a steady job. I’m pretty set when it comes financially but that’s also my crutch. My family sometimes relies on my pay checks to make ends meet for auxiliary entitlements they own (my sisters AAU Basketball membership, Cable bill, and sometimes the occasional gym membership) and I’m totally cool with helping out it’s just I feel if I move they’ll see that as a sign of my resignation from contributing to the family. And they’d be absolutely right.
Also, I don’t pay rent as what I help out with is “rent” enough, believe me all that shit adds up. How do I approach this? What do I say to my folks other then, “pay for your own shit!” you know? What’s the best way I can dump my family and live my own life?
This one is very difficult, because either way it means something has to give. But maybe this shouldn't be an immediate cut, but a more planned out one. Hear me out.
For one thing: it might feel like 21 is too old to live at home anymore. It's not ideal of course, but it's not by any means a terrible thing. Everyone has different circumstances. I think I moved out just around that age. Some friends of mine only recently moved out of their parents' houses and they are around 25. It often has nothing to do with your financial status, it can be for a million other reasons.
In your case, your family relies on some support from you. It might not be fair to you, but they're family and they need you. You need to wean them off of you. Start helping them set up other means of income. Be it jobs or investments or assistance from your siblings. Discuss a stipend situation with them that feels reasonable for you. Reasonable enough to where you can start saving some of your money to set yourself up in an apartment within some timeframe. This might take months or a year or two years. I understand you are probably tired of the wait. But a lot of life is waiting for things to pan out as you assemble a means to make that happen.
Tell them that it's important to you to begin your own life, but that you don't want to abandon theirs or the life you had with them. Tell them that you need to start to think about moving out and how you're going to accomplish that. Set boundaries and voice your concerns. You shouldn't shock them with an immediate cut, but they of course can't continue to rely on you forever. This is a conversation that needs to happen sooner or later, and the sooner it happens the sooner you'll be able to set a plan in motion to eventually gain some independence. They love you and want you to be happy, too. It just might be scary to them to lose you. Keep that in mind when you have the conversation with them.
What is the single most epic song you've ever heard? I'm curious about what song the Kotaku staff regards as most epic...
I guess this is a Life question? Anyway: this one is really hard for me because I LOVE music. So I would really prefer to spend a few hours sifting through my library and my playlists before I say anything definitive and potentially tarnish my usual methods of music-sharing.
But I'll risk that and go with my instinct. Because what immediately comes to mind is M83's "In The Cold I'm Standing." It's mostly because when I listen to it I get into a really deep train of thought. I get lost in it. So it might not fit the actual definition of "epic" in terms of length, but it's emotionally evocative enough for me to have it warrant that title:
This one—Jesu's "Wolves"—is on the lengthier side, and similarly powerful:
"You Don't Know Me" by Apparat was always a favorite of mine, as well:
Really I could keep going! I hate to only show three examples, but I'll keep from flooding this page and show you selections from the other writers. If you want me to dedicate an Ask Kotaku just to music, I would be more than happy to in the future. And that would certainly be epic itself.
Now on to my colleagues, many of whom could also not contain themselves to one song. Seriously, I had to cut them off. Like a musical bartender.
Fahey: Faith No More "Epic"
Okay, my real answer is Homeworld by Yes.
Evan: John Williams' theme to the 1978 Superman movie never fails to make me feel like a Kryptonian under a yellow sun but it also makes me teary-eyed because I can remember how I felt seeing Christopher Reeve fly across the screen when I was six years old.
In terms of video game tunes, I love "Creation - The State of Art" by Ken Ishii from the Rez soundtrack. It's got an urgent thump and a vast sweep that pulls you along but also has smaller sonic details that reward closer listening. It's my deadline music that I play when I need to focus on something.
Chris: Rex Tremendae by Mozart.
The Legendary Theme from Gitaroo Man.
Or maybe The Sun Rises from Okami in terms of games.
Kirk: Good lord, that is a big question. Focusing more on "epic" than just "good"... Here are three:
Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, Finale
(I don't love Bernstein's take, but still.)
Jeff Buckley, "Grace"
(Mainly for the scream at 4:30.)
The Mars Volta, "Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)"
(This tune is a true fucking epic, especially the version from De-Loused, and it features some of my all-time favorite rock drumming.)
But I like and listen to a lot of epic music, so I'd have to do at least ten to feel like I was scratching the surface. (Editor's note: Exactly!)
András: The Fleets Arrive from Mass Effect 3. It was the one moment the whole trilogy was building up to, and the music was suitably epic.
Owen: Men of Harlech (the version by Bryn Terfel, Gareth Jones and the Welsh National Opera Orchestra)
Pines of the Appian Way—Respighi
Going the Distance—Bill Conti (Rocky soundtrack)
Luke: Jerusalem, by Sleep.
52 minutes of grandeur.
Jason: NOFX - The Decline
Eric: Flash Gordon by Queen, heck just Queen in General.
Ride of the Valkyries by Wagner
This song used to give me nightmares and visions as a child, I remember a daze like feel feeling watching "What's Opera Doc."
Richard: When it comes to "epic," I feel the need to aim for the classical side (often with an accompanying choir). The "Winter" section from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" is one of my favorites.
And you can't go wrong with Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony."
As for game music, I'd say the most epic I've heard is "What Becomes of Us," the theme song to Final Fantasy Type-0.
Stephen: Not really this:
But probably this.
...which isn't actually called Ric Flair's theme song! Thus Spake Tharathustra. It kicked ass in the movie 2001, too.
Ash: Serge Gainsbourg's "Cargo Culte"
There's more. Way more, but these jumped out at me.
Gergo: Makoto Fujiwara - SDF Macross opening theme
Ogura Kei - Hikari No Hashi O Koete (Legend of the Galactic Heroes ending #1)
You May Call Me Father from the Bayonetta OST
Regarding Games and Gaming
Final Fantasy XI's anniversary
Just curious, since I didn't see it get much attention from Kotaku or other sites. Some fun facts (sorry I don't have references handy):
-Original release date in Japan: May 15th, 2002, PS2 & PC
-Expansions since release: 5
-Add ons: 6
-Current platforms: PS2, Xbox 360, Windows PC
-The most recent expansion, Seeker's of Adoulin, is the final commercial title to be released for the PS2
-Monthly active subscribers: approx. 500,000
-Most profitable Final Fantasy title to date for Square-Enix