Saturday, November 10, 2007

Where Degrees Matter

Sometimes big companies--game companies are rarely big companies--will have a hard-and-fast degree requirement. Why? Because they leave hiring to the Human Resources department (usually a big mistake), and the HR people frequently don't have a clue about the job they're hiring for. Their main interest is simplifying their task by setting absolute rules. An easy way to do this is to require a certain degree. This puts off many potential applicants, and enables the HR person to easily weed out other applications because the required degree isn't there.

But you don't want to work for a company like that, not if you're creative and imaginative and self-motivated. When HR takes over hiring, you have a company that's already crippled. (Yes, a great many companies are crippled. And it shows.)


Ian Schreiber said...

Umm... doesn't your post imply that degrees DON'T matter, because the only companies that require them are places you wouldn't want to work anyway? If so, I would totally disagree.

Here's a valid reason why a small game company might require a degree: game dev is a glamour career (as with Hollywood) and a great many unqualified people would love to get a job making games. Even when looking at qualified people, there are dozens if not hundreds of applicants. A small studio simply doesn't have the time to sort through the THOUSANDS of applications they'd get if they simply said "game designer, no degree or experience necessary".

Here's another reason: a typical game project takes 2 to 5 years. Companies want to hire someone who will stick with the project to the end, even after the novelty has worn off and everyone is sick of it. Showing that you can do the same with a 4-year degree is something like proof.

Here's yet another reason: given two applicants, one with a 4-year degree and one without, all other things being equal, you'd take the one with the degree; education is an asset. With so many people wanting so few jobs, anyone without the degree probably has a corresponding person WITH the degree and equal or better skills, so why even bother asking the non-degree folks when you can probably do better?

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ian only to an extent. The possession of a degree certainly gives some indication of the capacity for long-term commitment to a project. However, a degree is not the only way to do that. Mod teams, blogs, beta testing, and other game-related projects all can show the same amount of dedication (given an appropriate degree of quality and context fit within all of the work). Also, to me it seems that if anything a person who is self-educated close to the level of a comparable degree-possessing person, the self-educated person is the more outstanding candidate.

On a different note, I also agree with the comment in the original post about HR not knowing anything about the job. As far as I know, this is pretty much what large publishers do (EA comes to mind). They have their own HR department(s) to hire people for the development companies which they own. Considering the fact that few people would want to specialize in 'Game HR', such a department is very likely to have generic HR personnel with no first-hand experience with the game development processes. This promotes the use of heuristics in judging applicants. At the same time, this seems like an astoundingly stupid approach. HR departments are more than likely to receive specific requirements from the departments which require additional employees.

Then again, I am just sharing my own thoughts. I do not have any experience with this issue...

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