Position: Creative Director/CEO of Simteractive
I am a video game developer and I run Simteractive, a mobile game development studio specialising in simulation games. Right now we are busy working on Eden Isle: Resort Paradise, a management simulation game where you build your dream resort. Since we’re a small company, my role involves a wide range of activities and I get to wear many different hats. Depending on what needs to be done and what stage the project is at, I could be writing a game design document detailing how a new feature will work, setting up a Facebook ad campaign or running playtesting sessions to get feedback on the game. The main part of my job is essentially to lead the game development team by working out what the game will be and what everyone needs to do to make it happen. For Eden Isle, that means working out the answer to questions like: What does the player do in the game? What can the player build? How does the player earn money? How does the player progress in the game? Eden Isle is currently in soft launch in Canada, which means we’re testing it out with a small number of real players before the worldwide launch. Every day I check on the analytics to see what people are doing in the game – how many people are playing, what people have bought in the game etc. With my game designer hat I am constantly coming up with improvements I would like to make to the game but with my project manager hat I have to decide which ideas to prioritise.
What does it take to be successful?
My work philosophy is that you should find something that you love to do, where you enjoy the day-to-day work involved with it and not just the idea of it or the end result. Of course, that’s easier said than done! Sometimes it can be hard to know exactly what a job involves. And it’s rare to start off with your dream job right away. Often you need to make sacrifices, such as working in a location you don’t want to work in or do work in a discipline that isn’t your favourite in order to get experience to eventually get the job you want. To be successful in the games industry takes determination, focus and hard work. It is a difficult industry to get into so only people who are really determined that they want to make it their career will end up working in it.
My undergraduate degree is in Psychology. After that I did a conversion course – a higher diploma in Computer Science in UCD, followed by a Masters in Games Technology at The University of Abertay, Dundee. When it comes to game development education it’s important to stress that there’s no one set route into the industry. When you look at the career paths of people in the games industry they’re extremely varied. The other important thing to stress is that if you do a degree or a course, it’s not so much the qualification that matters, it’s the the skills you learn and the portfolio you develop to demonstrate those skills. Unfortunately with so many people graduating from game degrees, it’s not enough to graduate with good marks, you need to go above and beyond to develop your skills, particularly by putting a big effort into any individual or group projects.
Game designers obviously need to have a good understanding of game design concepts including different knowledge of the various genres, game mechanics and what makes them fun. Other important skills are problem solving, creativity, communication skills, technical awareness, logical thinking and teamworking skills. It’s also important that game designers have the ability to consider the big picture of how each aspect of the design fits with the game as a whole, being able to think through the consequences of different design decisions and what impact they will have. Game designers also need to be able to put themselves in the player’s shoes and have a good sense of usability and a sense of the feeling of fun and enjoyment the player will experience. I would also mention tenacity - coming up with an idea for a game is fun but finishing takes a lot more work and perseverance.
I was one of the co-founders of Imirt, the organisation representing Irish game developers. Imirt is a transparent, volunteer-led organisation aiming to showcase Irish game developers nationally and internationally and to provide opportunities for networking, community growth and development. For more information see www.Imirt.ie. I also give talks and guest lectures on the areas of game design, working in games and the business of game development. I have spoken at Develop in Brighton, the European Women in Games Conference, State of Play, Coder Girl Hack Day, Coder Dojo Coolest Projects, Higher Options, Q-Con, Bread & Butter, TCD, DIT, BCFE and Pulse College.