Working from Home as a Game Developer
An Interview with Work-From-Home Game Developer
Can you tell me more about your work as a Game Designer?
Certainly! I design video games, that is, I try to figure out what to put into the video game to make it nice and fun to play. I design the mechanics (or rules) of the game, and create the quests or levels for the player to enjoy. I also test the game, playing it to make sure that it isn’t too hard, too easy or boring. My job is to make sure that the game is fun!
I also have a say on the art, animation, music, and sounds that are used in the game. I just let the artists create whatever they want, but I have to make sure that everything fits with the theme of the game and nothing looks out of place.
Note that I do not write the code that makes the video game function. The programmers do that, and we discuss a lot to make sure that the mechanics are implemented the way they should be.
How did you go about starting this? What inspired you to start a work from home setup?
I had a quarter life crisis *laughs*. I resigned from my job because I wanted to explore other options available to me. In the meantime, I wondered if I could do odd jobs off the Internet, so I started searching for virtual job websites.
I found a website to work from home where you get paid for submitting articles on various topics. I was amazed that I could make money without leaving my bedroom, and I got hooked. I was not making much though, so I kept my eyes peeled for other similar opportunities.
One day, my boyfriend saw a post on Facebook from an acquaintance of his, advertising that the company he works for, a virtual game studio, was looking for a new game designer. I sent my resume, and luckily, I was hired.
What is your typical workday like? How many hours do you work a week?
I check my email for new issues to be addressed, then assign it to the appropriate person. I also check for issues that were already resolved, and make sure that our team is more or less on schedule. Throughout the day I communicate with my teammates to discuss the tasks, and sometimes there’s banter too.
I find that I am able to concentrate better at night, so I do most of my creative or intensive tasks then. Throughout the day, when my team’s chat room is quiet, I find time to take naps, do chores or cuddle my dog.
Because of this odd working schedule, I don’t really know how many hours I work a week. We have core hours, from 10am - 5pm, when most of the company is available to correspond with, so we are encouraged to be online then. This also depends on the state of our project; sometimes we work weekends when we’re trying to hit a deadline, and sometimes we find time to take vacation leaves (our company lets us have as many as we need, as long as we don’t abuse this privilege).
How is your workspace like?
Oh, my workspace is very cluttered! I have power sockets and chargers all jumbled up next to my laptop, because I test my game on several devices (iPad, iTouch, Android phone). I also used to keep a notebook and pen for notes, but have since realised that it is much more efficient and neater to just keep everything in Google Docs. Here is a picture of me for our company picture day, where we were supposed to show off our workspace (and miscellaneous pets or children, if any).
Did you have any kind of training or schooling to do this kind of work?
Not really, but I would say that my Computer Science degree helps a lot; I can understand the programmers better and can somewhat gauge whether a new game feature can be implemented before the deadline.
How do you get your day going? Do you have any tips on how to stay organised and productive while doing this kind of work from home
What works for me is to do the easiest task first, that way I feel like I accomplished something and get motivated for the next task. In my case, it would be downloading the latest version of the game to see the cool new features and changes that have been implemented the day before. Seeing them in the game helps keep the job exciting!
I use Google Docs and other online tools a lot! I keep track of tasks and who they are assigned to, as well as schedules and deadlines. I also keep notes and documents about the different parts of the game. That way, whenever I need information about something, (and trust me, there’s too much information to memorise everything!) I can easily view them with a few mouse clicks.
Also, don’t be afraid to take breaks! If you’re too tired or unmotivated, you will never be able to accomplish anything. Go away and rest or do something else, and come back fresh and ready to work. This is a great perk when working at home as you have full control of your day.
As a game developer, do you have any particular tips/ hacks/ essentials to do this kind of job from your home?
Be open to suggestions from your teammates, and learn to communicate with them. Communication is very important especially when you don’t see each other regularly. Learn when to use chat, email, or other online tools for communicating and organising tasks. And learn to use your online tools, it will make your life much easier!
How do you market yourself?
Technically, I don’t, since I’m currently in a full time position. But if I have to, I just make sure I stay in contact with other people in the industry and try to keep up to date with the latest info. Also, a well written resume is always a good way to get noticed!
What is the income percentage you bring in?
I have a set monthly salary from my virtual company and I earn roughly the same as my boyfriend, who is a senior software tester.
What are the challenges about working from home and how do you overcome it?
You can get tempted to bring your work with you, literally everywhere you go - when leaving the house, to the dinner table, or even to the bathroom! You can be tired after an evening out but still continue work when you get home. Or work while you’re sick! This can cause you to burn out which leads to… Not working at all! Since nobody’s keeping tabs on you, you can get tempted to sleep or watch TV all day.
Like in all things, balance is key. Take breaks when needed, but set goals to achieve by the end of the work day.
What are the biggest perks of being able to do this kind of work from your own home?
You have much more time to do things that are important to you! You don’t have to take into account the time it takes to travel to and from your place of work, and you don’t even have to be concerned over what to wear! Since you schedule your day, you get to do things when it is most convenient for you, hence being able to get them done much faster.
What advice would you share with others who are interested in doing something similar?
Try to learn more about the industry, and if you can, attend industry events. This is one way to get contacts that can help you find similar opportunities, as well as learning about and being able to set expectations on what the industry is like.
Having a decent Internet connection and/or computer would also help. Working from home is still possible without these, but make sure you get them the earliest chance you get!