The truth about life inside the game industry according to a pair of EA’s rising stars

When you’re on the outside looking in, the game industry is a difficult environment to gauge. Tales of killer crunches, legendary knees-ups and creative ecstasy abound. But where does development fantasy end and the reality kick in?

We asked Dennis Brämvall, a junior gameplay designer at DICE, and Lizette Stenqvist, a graduate VFX artist at Ghost, what it’s like to work in games.

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“I think with the success of Battlefield, DICE has really matured as a company and learned how to value those working here. There’s a lot less crunch, good flexibility and plenty of healthy food and activities,” says Brämvall, who was taken on by EA six months ago while in the latter stages of his MSc at the University Of Central Florida.

Brämvall is now designing levels for Battlefield 4 and is aware of how fortunate he is to have a stable, enjoyable job. “Probably the worst part of the industry,” he says, “is a lot of extremely talented people you care about don’t get picked up, even though they deserve to be.”

Ghost is based in Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg, and was set up to create games using the Frostbite 2 engine. Its first project remains a mystery, but Stenqvist has been there a year now, having graduated from digital learning institute Hyper Island. “I truly love the fact that we’re creating worlds that people can escape to, and even though I’m sometimes just making the dust puffs, I’m still a part of it, and I’m damn proud of that.”

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Stenqvist believes that one of the most important things when trying to get hired is your ability to communicate. “It’s not just about a good showreel, it’s about being a person that people want to work with. It’s a good idea to talk a bit with the people at the company first. Get to know them and their wishes.”

Brämvall concurs: “Without a doubt, the most important thing to learn is how to network and connect with people. Coming out of school, companies won’t hire you based on credentials, they’ll hire you for your potential, talent and willingness to learn. Prove to people first that you’re a cool person with the right mindset – you can pick up the tools later.”

That’s not to say there isn’t an edge to be found in learning a tool, and Brämvall believes Unreal Development Kit is a good choice. “Some companies will ask you to make something for them when you apply, so it’s good to have that one engine that you know your way around. And UDK is well-respected all over the world.”

But don’t become so focused on getting your first job that you forget to take full advantage of your time in university. “Students need to let go of the ‘It’s just school’ mentality and put some thought, effort and love into their work,” says Stenqvist. “Don’t look at it as an assignment, see it as an opportunity to evolve. See your classmates as great resources of knowledge and use them to brainstorm ideas and just have fun.

“For me, school was a great simulator for workflow, constructive criticism, tricky situations, people management… I especially loved that it helped us form a network before even entering the industry. The contacts that I made back in school are still valuable to me, and we keep each other updated on everything from graphics and jobs to housing and meet-ups.”

Source: Edge Magazine