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Educational Feature: ‘How I Broke Into Video Game Development’

Educational Feature: ‘How I Broke Into Video Game Development’

January 15, 2008 | By Jill Duffy

Though employed in the game development industry now, Steven Yau didn't just stumble into his career. It took him a number of wrong turns and missteps before he reached the point where he is today. He shares his story and retrospective advice in a new article on

In this excerpt, Yau believes he's ready to go job hunting in the video game industry, only to end up having his ego crushed and his programming skills going to waste working at his parents' restaurant:

"After passing my [university] course, I started hunting for jobs as any self-respecting graduate would. There was one slight problem though: I absolutely had no idea what the hell I should be doing to apply.

I pulled together a portfolio using some of my best assignments from the BSc program, and started posting my CV on various job web sites, both generic and specialized for QA or programming jobs. Looking back, my portfolio was really poor quality and illustrated that I was Jack of all trades and master of none. It is no wonder that no one would give me an interview based on my samples.

What I didn't realize at the time is that there is a difference between talking to companies and agencies when applying for jobs so, and I ended up talking to agencies much more. The difference in general is that when a company hires from an agency, they pay a fee to agency. So if a company has a choice between two applicants of equal skill, one from an agency and one who applied direct, it makes more financial sense to hire the applicant who applied directly. ...

Luckily, I did manage to get a couple of interviews at games companies, one for a QA position and another for tools programming. Unfortunately, that's when I realized how little I actually knew about game development.

For the programming position, I had to take an exam. That test was the worst shock for me. Trying to answer the questions was a real struggle, and it showed to the person who scored it. As I was questioned about the test afterward in an interview, it started to sink in just how poor a programmer I actually was, despite the decent grades I received at university.

This was a huge blow to my confidence. What were the last three years of studying for? What did I learn? Did I screw something up?

I started to slum it for a while, helping out at my parents' takeout restaurant as I've done for the past decade while trying to figure out what I could do with my life."

To find out how Yau managed to turn his ship around, read his story on

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