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How to fail @ Hiring Designers

Published on 2013-08-05, by in Game Design.

Hiring a great Game Designer must be hard. In fact hiring for any “creative” role such as writing or art is a unique challenge, because theoretically the more “creative” a person is the less technical they should be.  It’s a classic left brain vs right brain conundrum. <I don’t actually believe this anymore. Technical knowledge comes from experience.> How do you test and certify fairly for left brained people and activities?

For example let’s compare a Game Developer vs an Artist. For the developer there is a clear path to his career.

  • You want him to have a science degree.
  • You want his resume to list an alphabet soup of languages, even better if that soup includes your preferred language .
  • You can look for things like awards, contests, high marks, best in class all of these things are good indicators of how talented he *should be* at programming.


  • The artist?
  • Printing the resume is a waste of trees.
  • Jump straight to the portfolio and start calling references.

Because it just doesn’t matter, he could have awards, a fine art degree and yet none of that matters if the portfolio doesn’t match what you are trying to do.

So what do you about hiring a game designer? His portfolio is the sum of all parts. If you judge him solely on his portfolio, like the artist above, you might have well just asked how much money his last studio spent and how many people did he work with. Cause that’s what you are looking at. His contribution is buried deep deep behind the visuals, sound and programming that plays across your screen.




How Jesse Schell (Famous game designer) hires a game designer


HOLD ON – Before reading any further, be prepared for a different experience at Schell Games.
Transformational Games: (noun, plural)
1. Games that utilize entertainment mechanics to positively transform the players in a meaningful way.
2. Experiences created by Schell Games.
If creating games that have the power to make positive changes is enticing to you then read further……
Schell Games is currently seeking an exceptionally skilled and experienced game designer to guide our current design team working on transformational projects ranging from online worlds and handheld games to themed interactive attractions.

The ideal candidate possesses outstanding management, communication, organization and design skills, and a thorough understanding of inter-department dynamics within game development.
Desired Skills & Experience

Work with CEO Jesse Schell, Studio Directors, Design Leads, and Producers to manage individuals and coordinate projects across the entire Design department
Mentor Designer Leads on management and leadership
Supervise game designers and provide work direction, performance reviews, and coaching for the team
Create and implement action plans for the Design department’s future success emphasizing training and development
Administer staffing decisions that help achieve both the short and long term goals of the Design team
Work with Production to help create and manage team schedules and insure proper workflow throughout the Design department
Meet with clients to give presentations, as required, on the stage of projects in development.
Maintian an open line of communication with all clients.
Partner with the CEO, Jesse Schell to manage career paths of the design team as well as external clients.
Would you like to have a hand in creating memorable experiences through a variety of game platforms? Apply today!
Recognized by peers and management as a leader with a strong growth path
Personal communications and organizational skills that have served to liaiase between other departments
Challenged to handle a wide range of personnel issues including recruitment, career development, and conflict resolution
Strong personality to manage and grow a large team of designers in a dynamically changing game production environment
Strong sense of being part of the team, interacting as part of the team and contrubuting to overall productivity while maintaing leadership
Skilled in successfully deconstructing broad feature goals into prioritized tasks
Able to build consensus on overall goals and balance resource allocation based on project goals and individual ability
Previous experience as a lead game designer with responsibilty for growth of other designers is critical to this role
Partner with the CEO, Jesse Schell and Design Leads to manage career paths of the design teamLast but certainly not least – An incredible strong desire to create transformational games!!!
Have shipped AAA PC or console titles as a design manager or design lead
Passionate gamer with experience playing a wide range of games
To be considered for this position, you must submit your resume.
Company Description

Creating Innovative Experiences For Over a Decade
After making the decision to leave his Creative Director position at the Walt Disney Company in order to teach at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, Jesse Schell founded Schell Games in 2002 in order to continue to stay connected to the game industry. Over the next ten years, Jesse has successfully led the growth of the company to become the largest game developer in Pennsylvania. The company now employs over 70 people and has produced some of the most popular experiences in the world.


How a big but dying company hires a game designer:

Job Description

With a portfolio that includes several established franchises such as Need for Speed, Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Dead Space, working for EA’s Games label brings exciting opportunities every day. Imagine creating new vehicle and weapons content for DICE, or being a physics programmer on Need for Speed who must calculate how a car reacts in a 100-mph multi-vehicle collision. Imagine developing Isaac Clarke’s story in Dead Space or being an Audio Sound Designer who records explosions for Medal of Honor. These are just some of the types of opportunities waiting for you on the EA Games Label.

Whatever your skill or interest, EA Games is home to a world of passionate gamers just like you. Games Label titles are developed at the following EA studios: Criterion (located in Guildford, England), DICE (located in Stockholm, Sweden), EA Los Angeles, Visceral Games (located in Redwood Shores, California and Montreal, Quebec) and our newest studio in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Lead Game Designer

EA is looking for an experienced Lead Game Designer to help lead the design and guide a team to develop next-gen products. You will be working closely with the creative director and studio leadership during the production, launch and live operations of the game.

Great communication skills and enthusiasm are a must as you will be dealing closely with the executive team in communicating and selling the product vision as well as your development and test team in ensuring they understand and achieve the product vision.

The ideal candidate will have experience in designing creative and entertaining games with a focus on the user. They must be assertive enough to stand behind and push for the product vision, and yet be flexible to be able to adapt design based on customer and/or management feedback.

What you will do:
Help lead the game design on a next-gen HD console title
Develop and lead the creation of innovative and engaging game mechanics through iterative prototyping while maintaining EA’s high standard of quality.
Work with the creative director to define the design vision of the game taking in consideration high level creative and business goals.
Manage designers providing long-term direction, goals, and constructive critiques of their work.
Provide training, mentoring, guidance and feedback to the design team.
Coordinate with other team leads to ensure information flow between disciplines.
Communicate game design vision clearly and concisely with the team and throughout EA.
Evolve design decisions based on regular play testing and audience feedback.
Inspire the team through progressive, creative design and leadership.
Remain current on industry trends including: new game genres, new game design methods and emerging platforms.

5+ years industry experience working as a game designer on AAA titles.
1+ years of experience in a leadership role.
Broad knowledge of game design, game mechanics, game balancing concepts and techniques.
Experience with HD Console game design.
Able to conceptualize, create and implement game concepts using various tools and technologies.
Creatively, analytically and organizationally skilled with proven ability to write, communicate and maintain detailed design documentation throughout the game life cycle.
Open to feedback/input and enjoys working in an iterative and agile process.
Able to analyze and interpret data into design objectives.
Demonstrative proof of an open-minded, progressive thinker who is flexible, energetic and driven with the ability to overcome obstacles and challenges with working solutions.
Experience of taking a game from concept to completion; experience iterating on design after launching product a definite plus.


5+ Years experience and you are only counting time spent working on AAA titles?

How many of these people exist and still want to make games? The industry is notorious for having a 5 year lifecycle. Making it to a 5 year mark doesn’t magically guarantee anything except fortitude. Most awesome high energy people will have left the games industry to become Data Analysts or Programmers at banks, accounting firms or drug companies. Places where they can have a career and a life. A place that doesn’t expect 60 hours a week followed by 80 hour crunch weeks.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a workaholic. I come in early and stay late even if nobody else does. That’s what was so frustrating about Viet Nam because no one else had that “passion” I was the only one doing it. But I also “get it”. People have families, they have kids, they have wives, pets and long lasting friendships. They need time for that and you really can’t just expect them to work above the normal 40 hour per week that is our societal norm.

I’m leaving this article a little open ended. I’m not going to wrap it up, put a bow on it and draw all the conclusions. Just look at the job descriptions above and decide for yourself. Which is the better way to filter through to the best creative talent?

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