Any Australian / New Zealand games studios offer work experience?

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Righto, enough is enough! Over the last few years, and particularly within the last few months, tsumea has been receiving a constant stream of messages and emails from high school students, school teachers, and program directors of special courses, all of whom are requesting further information on work experience in the local games industry. I can imagine that many Australian / New Zealand game studios are getting the same sort of enquiries, and it's unfortunate that in the eight years I've been running Sumea / tsumea, I've only known of *one* games studio who are publically known to offer work experience opportunities for high school'ers.

Film Victoria do have The Digital Media Internship program open for Melbourne students, however, that really is at another level beyond work experience.

The reasons why many local game studios do not offer work experience are many and varied. In fact, Zaph wrote a very good summary back in 2003 on why devs simply shy away from offering it, and those reasons are most likely still valid to this day. You can read the original thread here. The reasons Zaph gave are:

- Lack of a suitable 'mentor' to look after the student (or at least a suitable mentor with enough time to spare)

- Difficulty in finding appropriate work for students to do - most games people would want a student to get to do more than stuffing envelopes or stapling stuff :-) (although I think it is appropriate to demonstrate that it's not all fun & games, if you pardon the pun)

- The payoff is very long term (probably at least 3 years before you'll see that student back looking for a job) so some people don't see it as a benefit (many do, since they know how hard it is to find skilled interested people in Australia)

- Timing... Work experience usually occurs at busy times in a games companies schedule, occurring during one of the 12 months of the year :-) One thing about games companies... there's *always* an important milestone about to happen!

So, in a quest to settle the air of mystery around work experience once and for all, what is the current status? Do we have any game studios who offer it? Or are they still generally disinterested in providing it for the reasons above?

Personally speaking, I think work experience is a *great* way for the local industry to promote themselves and garner more talent / interest in the games industry field. There are so many other creative industries (Graphic Design, Film, Animation and FX etc) that have the same constraints and issues that Zaph has mentioned above that do however offer work experience, so what is the hold up?

Give me your answers, thoughts, and opinions in the comments below!

Comments

Anonymous's picture

Add that there is a security issue also - having someone working in-studio who is not an employee is a liability. Yes, they'll be NDA'd up, but that's relatively flimsy cover at best.

Anonymous's picture

Agree with this!! Major security issues may arise, and the extent of the severity of these issues are not always understood by the young students.
JB- BTE (Melbourne)

Bittman's picture

Probably not just the Australian Industry. Sure, it might look like more of it is offered overseas, but if you randomly selected the same number of the same sized companies from another part of the world to compare to Australia's current survivors, the amount of work experience offered is probably about equal.

Particularly with there most likely being more skilled workers than available positions in Australia, work experience is potentially looked at as a bit pointless for the time being. "Potentially" being the word, I can't speak for the companies.

Doesn't help that a lot of companies are struggling as it stands. I would bet that there are possibly only a couple of studios who would be "able" to do work experience, and at which point I agree with you Souri: they should in some way facilitate a work experience program. The Industry can not just be about the present and the past, you do have to shape a future even if it takes some time to see it come full circle.

With Moving Target Games at the moment I'm looking at restructuring our closed indie team to be a more open indie Game Development experience-gaining community. Guess I'll reveal more about that when we properly sort out what we're doing to facilitate all of this. Mostly just advertising these changes by word of mouth for now.

designerwatts's picture

One has to consider the benefit that can be gained from a studio employing work experience. The points made by Zaph in 2003 still ring true.

From my perspective. If we're considering work experience as being at the high-school level. Years 10-12. Take these points in mind:

- Student is usually only there for one week. This isn't enough time to really gain anything from the student. The best you can do is leave an impression onto the student of the industry and help clear away misconceptions.
- At years 10-12 the technical skills required to be productive in a games studio is more then likely not up to standard to be of any use.
- A student requires a desk, computer and something to do. What task do you give to a work experience student?
- Student is a 15-18 year old in a studio of 24+ year olds. This has a potential to be socially awkward.
- Your expected to pay them for all this trouble as well.
- How does your staff feel about it? Do they want a 16 year old poking their nose around the studio, asking a million questions when they are trying to get on with work.

The only practical reason I can think for taking on work experience is if you need some QA to get feedback on a game. Even then they can't do the QAs job. Only rely back very obvious bugs and "How they feel" about the game.

In my mind. The only reason a game dev studio would take on high-school students for a 1-2 week period is for an intangible gain of instilling knowledge into people that *Might* become game developers 3-6 years down the line. Unfortunately the industry moves so fast that anything you have to teach may be redundant or obsolete by the time the student applies to the industry.

The games industry is unfortunately one that relies so heavily on an individuals skilled labour that there is little practicality in taking on work experience.

Anonymous's picture

You are not expected to pay a work experience student. That's half the point of work experience. They are there to gain experience, not get paid. I wasn't paid for work experience in high school, and I don't think much has changed in that area in the last 15 years.

I know Perception, who are now in developer purgatory (they never really "died", did they?), used to offer work experience, and pretty regularly too. I know of a couple of studios that occasionally offer internships for university students but that's in a different ball park to high school work experience.

But yeah, all other points made still apply.

- No-one appropriate can take time out of their schedule to babysit them
- They have nothing much to do except sit and observe
- Security and NDA's (Someone correct me if I'm wrong but I don't think NDA's are really applicable to under 18's?)
- Virtually nothing to gain for the studio
- Very little actually gained by the student
- Potentially annoying for staff

Anonymous's picture

They may not have died but it doesn't look like they're doing games dev any more. www.perception.com.au

Yes, they used to do it and I remember Ben being quite big on it and had someone "look after" them too. Used to say he never had anywhere to do it when he was looking for work experience.

The problems are many and varied though. I would have thought security would be a big one. If companies are spending millions of dollars (and even if they're not), they don't want some student bootlegging a copy or a wip video and leaking it. I imagine that could be quite damaging.

Anonymous's picture

Depending on the school their from, some work experience students we've had on board, have required payment. More have required payment than haven't.
JB- BTE (Melbourne)

Blitz's picture

"If we're considering work experience as being at the high-school level. Years 10-12."
I think you are coming at this from the wrong direction. Almost all your point seem to be from the perspective of actually hiring someone to do a job. Highschool work experience is not actual work, that would be worthless in almost all fields.

"- Student is usually only there for one week."
Probably for the best.

"- At years 10-12 the technical skills ... "
Why are you bothering to give them work?

"- A student requires a desk .."
They can easily get by with just a chair. Usually there's a spare chair most of the time (eg. steal one from the meeting/tea room).

"- Student is a 15-18 year old ..."
This one is just silly. We're not making porn here.

"- Your expected to pay them for all this trouble as well."
Not sure if this has changed since i was in school, but back then it was $5 a day, $25 total. Most larger companies probably spend more than that on milk.

"- How does your staff feel about it?"
Maybe the most reasonable excuse, but easy to work around (unless your entire staff has self-importance issues). They could play a game for a while and keep out of the way (most larger companies probably have a spare retail kit+tv not being used 90% of the day).

(high school) Work experience is not about the company trying to gain something from the student. It is about the company giving something back to society in the form of giving students an insight into working life. Yes, it will cost the company a (in my opinion) fairly meagre amount of time managing the student, but compared to the amount of time wasted each day standing around the coffee machine it's probably not worth noting.
The idea that the games industry is somehow unique in it's inability to offer work experience is foolish. Do you think law firms don't offer work experience because the student can't do anything of value? Accounting firm? Business software houses? etc. etc. They all offer work experience, usually the student just watches what happens (and don't do anything practical), but they get a small insight into what it's like to work in such a business, and that's the point.

Legal issues to do with having a <18 yold on the premises, or seeing the game content etc. are understandable, although most companies in australia shouldn't have legal problems afaik, and most companies are making games rated an aussie MA or less, so no issues there.
The issues with NDA etc. are probably the biggest fear, and i can understand why many companies would be worried about the possibility of someone with an immature mind releasing info. Even if the student signs an NDA there are numerous reasons that pretty much make the NDA not worth the paper it's written on.

Internships are a whole other matter, where excuses about them needing equipment, mentoring, quality of work etc. actually become valid.
Cheers

Anonymous's picture

I have to say that i agree with watts.

I am in my final year of study for a degree in Games Design, and i have been emailing for a while to find out what dev houses offer work experience for degree students. I have gotten almost a blanket response, "at this stage we do not offer work experience".

The final semester of my degree has a 20unit industry placement/internship, which makes up 50% of that semesters course work. However I am worried that given the amount of places that have replied to my emails about this type of work placement im not confident that i will get a placement.

I understand that given the current climate in the industry within Aus that offering these types of positions is not viable for many companies. But it would be excellent to get some experience in what i hope to start doing as of Jan 2011.

Anonymous's picture

How many people are in the same course as you? Given the current state of the industry it seems irresponsible of those in charge of the program to be requiring you all to get industry placement while local companies are shedding experienced staff. I would be getting to your supervisor ASAP and discussing what alternatives to the work placement can take place if necessary.

Anonymous's picture

The internship is not required. There is an alternative of two subjects that students can undertake instead of the internship, however, most i think would prefer the internship.

Mario's picture

Sidhe have provided work experience on occasion as well as both paid an unpaid internships. However, it is fair to say these opportunities have been few and far between, and success is very dependent on the particular individuals.

The main issues as I see them are, repeating some from above

- hard to assign work that is meaningful to both intern and company because you need to find something that is both tangible and achievable by the individual

- there is a cost to the organisation offering such programmes to the company in offering hardware, software, desk space, management/mentoring, and sometimes token compensation that will usually not be directly returned in value of the tasks undertaken

- confidentiality, security, and IP protection are huge potential risk areas, with little or no means of recourse if confidentiality is breached

- some development contracts do not allow you to employ or otherwise benefit from the labour of those under 18

We have been relatively successful with those times we have run work experience or internships. This is probably due to the fact we will only bring somebody on board if they show huge potential and are at or very close to the standard at which we would hire them anyway (so somebody talented and close to graduating). But for the most part we have turned down the vast majority of applicants when offering these opportunities or when approached by third parties.

Anonymous's picture

We do (BTE- Melbourne). We knock back way more than we accept due to the sheer quantity of applications we receive. x-D
JB

Anonymous's picture

And screw around with XNA. Do the 2D tutorials, then the 3D tutorials. By the end of it all, if you have any math skills, you should be able to make whatever you like

After doing the 2D tutorial, I thought "How do I make something animated?"

Ten minutes of experimenting later I had animated 2D spaceships.

If you put your mind to something, you can do it. Surely us Uni students have enough spare time to invest in our own future, rather than bother Games Developers for their time and money for our inexperienced hand.

Just saying, since work experience placements are so far and few between (including internships, etc.) - just doing something on your own will:

-Improve your skills in something relevant
-Create something for your port folio
-Give a sense of accomplishment, and something to show your friends/family

Anonymous's picture

I understand how busy people in this industry are - I mean I have trouble completing my viscomm folio on time, i can imagine what making a massive game is like. But I am a student, I'm turning 18 in about a week and i would KILL just to hang around a games studio for 3 days even. I don't want to get paid, i wouldn't be a bother.
My issue is that I'm a more creative person; however, because of my cultural background and annoying parents I'm expected to become either a doctor or lawyer. The closest career I've found that suits both me and my parents is architecture. But my passion lies in entertainment. I just want even that ONE day just to hang around a studio and clear any misconceptions i have about a career in games design, just so i can have that motivation to make that leap and follow my dream.
Right now I'm just not brave enough because i have theses doubts like what if i dare to challenge my parents and disregard my social expectations and study for games design, then when i do get a job, it's not all its cracked up to be and not what i expected. This is why work experience is so important, not even work experience, just to hover around and see what its really like.

Anonymous's picture

Perhaps you should send some developer houses of your choice some emails, or give them a ring.
Ask if you could do exactly what you're saying you'd like to do - that honestly doesn't sound like much effort on their end - just get you to sign an NDA, and let them reserve the right to kick you out at any time (so you can't kick up a stink if they decide you're being too annoying).

Just throwing that out there, good luck man, with whatever you want to do.

Oh, and also, you can always design games as a hobby, and partially fund programmers/artists to help develop your games with your doctor/lawyer money! :P

Anonymous's picture

I'm not quite sure what you're expecting to learn by "hovering around". You'll see a bunch of people sitting around computers and not much else. It sounds like you've given it some thought but I really have doubts in regards to what the point of it would be. I mean what misconceptions do you have? Do you think we have an indoor skate park and a big room of arcade machines or something? :P

Anonymous's picture

Because it provides you with a great base for level design, and a different perspective and skill base to the other level designers around. Also an alternative career path, should you decide it excites you.

One of the best level designers I've worked with came from an architecture background. The real key is to follow up the elements that excite you, and learn to get things you build into games - build levels (and buildings) and gameplay for any of the moddable games out there as you move forward.

souri's picture

Thanks for the great feedback, guys. I'll definitely be forwarding this page to all the work experience related enquiries we get from now.

I realised about the NDA issue a minute after I made the news post, and it's unfortunate that the games industry is so constrained in regards to secrecy. It seems like a larger issue when bigger companies, publishers, and ips are concerned, so I had hoped that some of the smaller developers would be more relaxed in this area. It would be a non-issue for independent games developers, however. The Red Tribe hub could be a great place for it. A well thought out work-experience program that mutually benefited both parties could do wonders.

It's great to hear of some more companies offering work experience, and I've received confirmation that Wicked Witch (which I referred to in the original post) is still championing the work experience cause. It's equally fantastic to also hear that Blue Tongue Entertainment opening offer it also (I should have read their Facebook page earlier where there is some talk of it).

Mario's picture

Even when independent and self publishing, confidentiality is going to be important for an independent studio.

A student releasing information about unannounced projects in development, business models, pricing etc which is information they may be exposed to could be very detrimental to business.

Anonymous's picture

the game studios in Melbourne that are offering Work experience/volunteer/internship programs?

The only studio that appears to offer such a program is BTE Melbourne and I can't seem to find any info on that company because I don't know what the acronym stands for?!!

souri's picture

That's Blue Tongue Entertainment

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for that, Souri. Now can you tell me who JB stands for and how I can contact him/her directly via email? The reason why I'm asking is recently I've been told by THQ that they are not offering any Work Experience program at the moment. It seems that the 'info@bluetongue.com' address routes emails to THQ QLD and not to Blue Tongue HR here in Melbourne. Frustrating and disappointing especially for those trying to break into the industry. Yes, I know the climate is volatile and at its weakest right now but one of the solutions is to nurture talent, not turn away the very people who are willing to work and strengthen this industry.

Anonymous's picture

about the nurturing talent comment I made, I'm not a high-schooler and have already received my higher-education and have tried most avenues of landing a job in this industry.

souri's picture

I'm not sure who JB is, but if you are after work experience, then you will definitely have to go through THQ in Brisbane.

Blue Tongue was acquired by THQ back in 2004, and while their main HR personnel was Melbourne-based for the longest while, it's only fairly recently that all the studio's HR, jobs, and work experience duties have been delegated to the THQ Brisbane department.

I've made a quick enquiry about work experience opportunities, and it looks like they're currently *way* too busy to accept work any students (they only accept university students btw) for the time being, so perhaps enquire again in a few months.

Anonymous's picture

Im not from the industry, but Im trying to find a work experience position (unpaid) for my nephew who is mad keen on gaming.

I think gaming companies need to get over themselves...and fast.

To future proof your industry, you need to get as many yound people into work expereince roles asap. While NDAs are always risky, just limit what the student or work experience kid does....its not really that hard.

Time to get your head in the game guys...pardon pun....and reward young unbridled enthusiasm rather than squashing it in an unjustified fear of paranoia.

INVEST IN OUR YOUTH AND REAP THE BENFITS...SHORT TERM AND POSSIBLY LONG TERM.

Surprise yourselves.

Anonymous's picture

I'm just a worker in the industry, so I'm certainly not approaching this from a position of being a businessman.

But your suggestion of limiting what a work experience student does as a solution to NDA issues is not realistic and frankly ignorant. The project themselves are often under NDA's, so unless they are given a doorman role, its impossible to keep that info under wraps. and when the multi-million dollar license belongs to someone else, it factors in a whole lot of other issues that can risk the company. This is a real risk, not paranoia.

Also, the reality in the current environment is that there isn't much benefits to 'investing in youth' through work experience, simply due to the high turnover rates of the industry, and the fact that there are plenty of experienced and talented people currently sitting out of the industry due to its recent contraction.

I wish your nephew all the best, and for all our sakes I hope things pick up. But unless he gets extraordinarily lucky (I know of some people who were given WE/student positions, but there aren't many), he's just going to have to keep working at it and get in the hard way like the rest of us. I agree that ideally the industry would be in a position to offer initiatives like this more frequently (hell I bet we were all in a position where we would have done anything to get the opportunity to work for free, just to get the foot in the door... but if eveyone who was mad keen on gaming was given a position, we would employ half the country), but in the reality of high demand, low supply job positions and a general difficulty to keep companies solvent, it's not going to change any time soon, no matter how it might look form the outside.

Aussieakom's picture

Is anyone aware of any companies in Melbourne that would take a year 10 student in work experience? I haven't been able to find any so far.

Anonymous's picture

Wicked Witch Software

Someone&#039;s Mum's picture

My 15 year old son has been applying unsuccessfully for a work experience position in the games industry and is becoming very disheartened. I understand that taking on a student is a significant commitment and their are a lot of kids out there who are looking, so his chances of finding something are slim. Can those of you who work in the industry recommend an associated profession or industry he could try for work experience that may benefit him in his long term aim of working as a games developer?