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Level Up – How to land your dream game development job

Level Up – How to land your dream game development job

Prepare for an enlightening episode of The Zista Podcast, tailored specifically to fuel your dreams and empower your journey in the captivating realm of game design. 

Our latest episode features the incredible Professor Fabio Zambetta, an Associate Dean for Artificial Intelligence at RMIT University. With over 16 years of experience managing programs in games and graphic programming, computer science, software engineering,  and having collaborated with industry giants such as Village Roadshow, Microsoft, and GitHub, Fabio has the expertise to guide you on your career path. 

Join us as we delve into insightful discussions, gain valuable advice, and unlock the secrets to success in the ever-evolving field of game design.

Welcome to the latest episode of The Zista Podcast, where we dive deep into the exciting world of game design and help students navigate their path towards building a successful career. In this episode, we have the privilege of hosting Professor Fabio Zambetta from RMIT University.

Fabio is a highly respected figure in the field, with a distinguished career spanning over 16 years at RMIT. As the Associate Dean for Artificial Intelligence in the School of Computing Technologies, his expertise in AR & VR games technology and real-time simulation is internationally renowned. Notably, he has also collaborated on significant projects with industry giants like Village Roadshow, Microsoft, and GitHub, further solidifying his status as a leading authority at the intersection of academia and the gaming industry.

Whether you’re a student seeking guidance on how to forge a successful career in game design or a seasoned professional eager to stay abreast of the latest industry trends, this episode is a treasure trove of knowledge you won’t want to miss. Fabio’s vast experience and unwavering dedication to the advancement of game design make him the perfect guest for anyone aspiring to make their mark in this dynamic industry.

Join us in this captivating episode as Fabio shares invaluable insights, practical advice, and firsthand experiences that will inspire and empower aspiring game designers.

Key Takeaways

  • Explore resources like YouTube channels dedicated to game development, participate in local organizations, and attend industry conferences and festivals to find inspiration and learn about game development.
  • Balance passion and professionalism: Strive to find a balance between your passion for game development and maintaining professionalism. Take breaks, engage in activities outside of work, and prioritize physical and mental well-being to avoid burnout.
  • Showcase your skills and problem-solving abilities through a portfolio. Highlight completed projects and demonstrate proficiency in relevant tools and technologies.
  • Complete projects and demonstrate commitment: Finishing projects and showing dedication to seeing ideas through to fruition are highly valued in the game development industry. It demonstrates reliability and commitment.
  • Game design can be a lucrative career, especially in software engineering roles within game development. Seniority and recognition in the industry can contribute to higher earnings. Opportunities in related fields like simulation, defense, and consulting also offer potential for higher pay.
  • Game development extends beyond entertainment. There are opportunities in areas like simulation, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, and more. Diversify your skills to expand your career options.

Q: What are some of the trends and innovations that are shaping the future of game development, and how can an aspiring student keep up with them?

A: One of the significant trends shaping the future of game development is the rise of generative AI and GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) technologies. These advancements are revolutionizing the AI and software development world and are also making their way into the gaming industry. Generative AI tools can now be used to create game content, which changes the roles of game designers and content producers. These tools will be integrated into the collective toolkit used by game designers for creating 3D models, imagery, and sound. While some resistance might arise, similar to the introduction of 3D tools, these AI tools are here to stay and will assist artists while still allowing them to maintain creative control. Furthermore, generative AI tools are also helping game programmers and software engineers. For instance, GitHub’s Co-pilot is a well-known tool that can generate parts of the code programmers write. To keep up with these trends and innovations, aspiring students should pursue formal education in areas like AI, mathematics, and graphics. Additionally, they should stay informed by listening to podcasts like The Zista Podcast or other platforms like YouTube that discuss the latest trends in game development. Continuous learning and staying updated with industry advancements are crucial for aspiring students.

Q: Suppose one is looking for inspiration and wants to learn about game development, how would one have to go about it?

A: Fabio suggests that finding inspiration and learning about game development requires a combination of different approaches. He advises aspiring individuals to begin with formal training and enrolling in a solid degree program. This provides an opportunity to learn from experienced professionals in the field and also allows for networking with potential future colleagues. Having a formal education is crucial in building a strong foundation.

Additionally, it’s essential to stay engaged with the industry and keep an eye out for various sources of inspiration. Fabio recommends exploring resources like YouTube channels dedicated to game development and participating in local organizations such as the International Game Developer Association. Local meetup groups often consist of developers who gather to share knowledge and ideas, making networking an important aspect of the learning process.

Attending industry conferences and festivals can also be highly beneficial. Fabio mentions two notable events: the International Game Developer Association conference, GDC (Game Developers Conference), where new games are showcased and developers discuss their work, and IGF (Independent Games Festival), which focuses on independent game development and features experimental projects. These conferences offer valuable insights and inspiration from both, major developers and independent creators.

In summary, one should combine formal training, stay connected with local industry groups, and explore international events and conferences to gain inspiration and learn about game development.

Q: How do you balance passion and professionalism in a field like game development to avoid burnout?

A: Finding the balance between passion and professionalism in game development is a crucial aspect to avoid burnout, according to Fabio. He acknowledges that this is a challenging question without a definitive answer, as the balance varies from person to person. Fabio, drawing from his experience as an Associate Dean and mentor to students, emphasizes that achieving balance is a continuous learning process.

Passion for game development often drives individuals in this field, but as personal circumstances evolve, it becomes necessary to self-regulate work and make time for other aspects of life, such as family. It is important to listen to one’s body and mind and manage different aspects of life alongside the career. Fabio advises aspiring individuals not to sacrifice their physical and mental well-being for the sake of a satisfying career. The prevalence of burnout, especially during events like the COVID-19 pandemic with increased online meetings and studies, has raised awareness about the importance of balance.

Fabio shares his own strategy for maintaining balance, which involves working with focus and intensity and incorporating frequent mini breaks between concentrated periods of work. However, he notes that this approach may not be universally applicable, as different people have different methods of working, such as listening to loud music. The key is to find what works best for oneself and to ensure there are other activities and interests in life to create a well-rounded balance. Fabio personally stays active through sports and maintains a range of activities outside of work to help maintain equilibrium.

In summary, balancing passion and professionalism in game development requires continuous self-awareness and self-regulation. It involves finding individual strategies, taking breaks, engaging in activities outside of work, and prioritizing physical and mental well-being to prevent burnout.

Q: What skills and tools do students require to build a competitive portfolio?

A: Fabio emphasizes the significance of a portfolio in the game development industry. When seeking a job, it is the primary piece of information that game companies look for, outweighing degrees or certificates. To build a competitive portfolio, students need to showcase their skills and problem-solving abilities.

The specific tools required, vary depending on the role—artists, designers, and programmers utilize different tools. It is essential to demonstrate mastery of specific tools relevant to the chosen field. Additionally, highlighting the ability to start and complete projects is highly valued. Many game projects remain unfinished, so showing that you took an idea, ran with it, and completed it is critical.

For example, if you’re a game programmer, having a portfolio on platforms like GitHub that showcases your source code is important. Artists can display their work on platforms like DeviantArt or similar websites to demonstrate their artistic abilities. However, beyond showcasing the tools of the trade, it is crucial to exhibit a responsible and committed approach to development. Completing projects and seeing ideas through to fruition demonstrate reliability and dedication.

Q: Is game design a lucrative career?

A: Fabio explains that determining the lucrativeness of a career in game design can have multiple answers, as it depends on various factors. In terms of software engineering roles within game development, the career can be quite lucrative and aligns with the earnings of most software engineering jobs. The earning potential tends to increase with seniority, meaning that as individuals progress to higher positions like lead, senior, or principal roles, the compensation improves significantly.

Typically, game programmers are paid better than artists or designers. However, there is a notable variation based on seniority and individual circumstances. Some game designers who have gained significant recognition and have their names associated with successful games can earn substantial salaries. Their status as industry rock stars can contribute to their higher earnings. The definition of “lucrative” may vary depending on the individual and their perspective.

It is worth noting that game development extends beyond entertainment. There are opportunities in areas like simulation, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, and more. The skill set required for these fields is often similar to game development. Working on projects related to simulation, defense systems, or large corporate clients, can offer even better pay. This expansion of career pathways in the game development industry has created broader opportunities for individuals, allowing them to work in game companies, defense, consulting, and other sectors.

Q: Can you tell us something about your experience as a deputy director for autonomy and automation at Sir Lawrence Wackett Defence & Aerospace Centre?

A: Fabio explains that his experience as the deputy director for autonomy and automation at the Sir Lawrence Wackett Defence & Aerospace Centre was truly fascinating. It began with his work on AI in computer games and immersive simulations, which drew the interest of the defense sector. One of the significant projects he directed in collaboration with a multinational defense prime involved the creation of digital replicas, known as digital twins, of various off-road environments.

Within these digital environments, they developed a procedural system capable of generating a multitude of off-road scenarios. This encompassed the generation of sensory data such as RGB camera streams, accelerometer data, and LIDAR readings. Although this data was generated in simulation, it was used to train AI systems that drive real military vehicles, including cars, tanks, and trucks.

The project’s primary objective was to augment and extend the real-world training data for these military vehicles. Collecting real-world data is a costly and time-consuming process, often requiring extensive annotation. However, by leveraging virtual environments, they were able to save significant time and resources. With just the press of a button, they could generate terabytes of training data in a matter of minutes.

Fabio’s role in this project allowed him to contribute to cutting-edge advancements in autonomy and automation within the defense industry. The ability to generate virtual environments and leverage them for training AI systems offered significant benefits in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.