Everyone knows what a concept artist or a programmer is, but the wonderful industry of games development has one or two job roles you may not have known about. Here are ten of the most interesting, stupid and bizarre jobs involved in the games production process that aren’t as well-known as the established roles.
Foley artists aren't the same thing as Mankind or Cactus Jack, though they have worked on emulating the sounds of the wheezing wrestler. Foley artists are the people tasked with using real life tools to create the sound effects for in-game events. This can be as simple as firing a gun in a sound room rigged up with microphones, which makes an authentic gun noise in the game – because, well, it, erm... is an authentic gun noise? More interestingly, Foley artists get to muck about smashing and slicing up slabs of meat and watermelons, and torture 'volunteers' and animals in order to recreate the gruelling gory violence so often depicted in modern games (okay, so no torturing is actually performed, but the first part is true). They do however, have to endure the torturous potent methane mix of foley 'fartist's' flatulence, should the game demand it – remember Abe's Odyssey, anyone?
Surely everybody's favorite job would be to get paid to have opinions about video games? Well, you're in luck because this role already exists, so apply today! Applicants do however, need a background in economics, a sound understanding of industry practices and trends, will be expected to back up their predictions and will also be held to them should they prove incorrect or inaccurate. All the major publishers will have at least one analyst, though despite displaying very small amounts of psychic power, individuals such as 'everybody's favorite' analyst Michael Pachtner inexplicably retain their jobs
even after repeatedly doing it wrong.
User Experience (UX), Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Usability are buzzwords that have been leapt upon by the industry recently, with a host of talks and sessions at GDC on the topic this year and rapidly increasing adoption of these techniques by developers. As a UX researcher, you would be expected to use skin and sweat receptors, brain wave scanners, pulse monitors and other sciencey measures upon games testers to see which bits of games people make people feel in different ways. Were you scared during Dead Space? No? Well the readings say you were, liar, and so does your underwear! By taking adding a layer of objectivity and participant-study to the testing process, the relationship between the gamer and game can be improved, rather than just the game code itself. The UX research bandwagon is driving quality assurance and testing to the next destination in games development.
Ask any game developer what their favourite time of year is and they will all answer with the same, joyous response "crunch time!" It's the fun-filled final month or so before the publisher is forcing the studio to release the still-unfinished title that needs at least another 6 months work done on it! This glorious window of opportunity affords the whole development team to stay in the office all day and all night, every day, thankfully missing out on all that boring social life and family stuff everyone else has to do. Not only that, but studio heads and marketing gurus are often kind enough to provide special task forces of junior staff on one-month contracts to deal with all the admin and errands that are considered low-priority for the busy workers. As a crunch-caterer, you may also be expected to provide meals or even arrange for temporary on-site accommodation for the happy staff, so that they never need to even leave the building, lest they miss out on even a second's fun!
Mo-cap actors get a hard time. Imagine cladding yourself a bobble-covered latex suit and being asked to perform to an imaginary character in an imaginary and confined environment and all the while being expected to adhere to the technology's various protocols. Now add long hours, comparatively low pay and almost no credit (surrendering your appearance and vocals for the final game) into the bargain and it really doesn't seem as appealing as the easy ride and high pay the likes of Matt Damon enjoy. Nevertheless, prancing around a brightly-lit hall and later seeing a bastardised version of your acting maim and impale a panda in Tekken will probably appeal to some people out there, and indeed it must do.
Some companies employ not only people to translate games into various languages, but also cultural consultants that modify the direct translations of the title into a more appropriate cultural framing. The relevant lexicon is used instead of the 'correct' language and the consultants are supposedly able to adapt dialogue and scriptwriting from uninspired approximations of the original game's intent to beautifully translated masterpieces that perfectly capture the native-tongue's mode of address. Games like Killer 7 (srsly) and Zero Wing (wut?) are excellent examples of this practice being utilised.
To suggest the role of a regression tester is 'interesting' is perhaps too liberal a usage of the term, but it is certainly intriguing and integral to the development of games. It involves a series of tests on game builds that have just been built. Although it sounds like it runs the risk of regressing to a never-ending feedback loop, this form of games testing actually records the effectiveness of the last wave of testing. So once the bug-finding is complete (like in Pokemon's Viridian Forest, amirite?) and the reports are filed, the recommended changes are implemented. The regression testers then get the exciting job of doing the exact same checks to see if all the modifications to the code have been successful and if they have created new problems. This test then needs to be regression tested. Which then needs to be regression tested. Which then nee... (oh no! I've regressed to automated and looped typing –dammit!).
A community manager manages communities.
Okay, community managers don't really just do that. They often work on 6-month contracts in order to kick the PR-machine into overdrive for the months preceding a release and beyond. They are primarily responsible for creating and maintaining online profiles for the games: moderating forums, tweeting news, enlightening reporters and all things involved with keeping the game's community excited and remaining active.
In-game Brand Manager
Does exactly what it says on the tin: this type of manager sources clients for advertising within gaming environments. They liaise with the development team, the marketing department and the external company that is planning to incorporate their brand into the game. From its early scarcity in the 1990's when it was restricted to titles like the FIFA series, advertising is now ubiquitous in the industry, with GTAIV's fake advertising now provoking a sense of disconnect with the real world, rather than reinforce the connotation of a real New York city/Liberty City. The in-game advertisement manager concerns himself with all aspects of this type of promotion and marketing, overseeing the initial pitch to the client all the way to the final technical application of the advert into the game.
Honestly, I shit you not. Want to work in the games industry? No skills to speak of? Then click here my friend!