Building a Career as a Game DeveloperAn Interview with an Expert

An image reminiscent of an iconic video game like super mario brothers with ladders, levels and diamonds

This interview is adapted from an Ask-me-Anything (AMA) that Jason did on Reddit. It has been excerpted here with his permission

Q: How did you get to work at Blizzard Entertainment? Why did you leave? What courses did you undertake at university? What really got you into designing games?

I studied to be an entomologist for a few years and left there to follow my then hobby of hacking and go freelance. Spent a long time freelancing and gaining skills then applied at Blizzard. I waited around 6 months and got a job as a Night Crew Game Tester which is a temp job. Spent a few years climbing from there to get where I was. I left to make indie games, a big risk but I wanted to be creative in my job and so far I love this. I have always been an avid DnD DM amongst other pen and paper games. I just really love making worlds and seeing how other people go through them. There is a certain rush to putting your ideas on paper and having someone else experience them.

Q: What is your favorite experience working at Blizzard? What was the worst part about working at Blizzard?

Blizzcon is bar-none my favorite experience. A lot of people don’t realize that a majority of the staff at Blizzcon is composed of Blizzard employees. My favorite time was running Line Coordination for Diablo 3: RoS when the public first got their hands on it. In terms of the worst, I wouldn’t say there is anything uniquely terrible to Blizzard specifically. It has all of the advantages and drawbacks of any corporate office.

Q: What is your best advice for an indie developer who is hard at work producing a game?

Play your game early and often. Don’t wait for it to have proper art or anything other than gray blocks. If your game is fun as gray blocks it will be fun with fully realized graphics. I just started my indie development adventure myself and our first game is up on Greenlight now. Start small, do something you know you can finish, play your game, and have fun.

Q: Do you prefer the way that the indie games are developing by being more unique and taking an interesting approach to how games are presented? (Like replayability and changes between runs in Undertale)

I really do prefer it honestly. I love the risks you can take and the experimentation you can try as an indie studio. For a major company you always need a massive blockbuster to be relevant. But for us as an indie if our game makes 5,000 USD we are profitable so we can do really wacky things and stay afloat. There is a lot of free creativity in that.

Q. SO, You’re at PUZZL-CON 2017 and you catch wind of a person that crack any cryptographic puzzle on earth in record breaking time with the greatest of efficiency. “Impossible” you think to yourself, “I have to meet this puzzle wizard”. After a brief search you spot this individual running frantically out the back door. As he exits, a piece of paper drops from his tote. It’s a resume! You’re eyes widen as scan it over. “NOW IT ALL MAKES SENSE!” Under the Education section what would this resume look like?

Education: Dropped out of college studying Entomology to pursue my career. Honestly doesn’t matter as much as experience.

Past Employment depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. A portfolio helps more than anything here but even the smallest jobs matter. I worked along-side people who had worked at super-markets as their only previous job as well as people who just left JPL.

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Jason Thor Hall is an indie game developer. He previously worked at Blizzard Entertainment in a variety of roles. He recently started his own indie game development company, Pirate Software, and their first game is on Steam. You can follow Jason on LinkedIn, or on Twitter or check on the status of his latest games. Also, read about Thor's upcoming RPG.