💼 Unity Game Developer
⏳ Dec 2020 — Jun 2021
📍 Los Angeles,
✅ Remote (Visa Not Required)
⚙️ Computer Games
📍 Los Angeles,
👥 2-10 employees
Getting actual work experience at an early age is something I never expected to come across, but here I am, about to share my crazy adventure and the things I learned from it.
Backstory: What led me to start making games?
Ever since I got my first gaming console, the PS2, at the age of 4, I have always wondered what magic caused the TV screen to display graphics. I really enjoyed playing games as a kid, but how they were made was a mystery to me. Until, one day, on a computer science lesson in middle school, I came across this software named "Scratch". It is a tool for creating simple games through visual blocks that allow you to construct algorithms.
Learning to use Scratch taught me about the literal basics of game development. After making some projects using it, I wanted to make an actual game, and for that, I knew I had to switch to an actual game engine. That is when I stumbled upon Unity - one of the most popular game engines out there.
To make games with Unity, you had to know how to code. Initially, I was terrified of learning programming - I did not want to get into it. At the time I was only 11 years old. However, my ambitions did not stop me from progressing onwards, and with small steps I was able to eventually to make little personal side-projects.
Fast-forwarding to 4 years later, I began to take part in game jams, which are competitions where participants have to make a game within a certain time-frame and a specific constraint (usually, its some sort of theme). I had made a ton of games for game jams, and some of them got awarded. I also began forming small teams for game jams by joining several game dev communities.
Long story short, being curious about games and technology, led me to become a game developer. That is why, instead of saying the famous quote "curiosity killed the cat", I like to say the complete opposite: "curiosity did not kill the cat, it only made it stronger"
How I found out about the job
Around the time of November of 2020, a close friend of mine reached out to me on Instagram. He shared a post about a company hiring game developers to work remotely on a massive VR (Virtual Reality) project. I looked at what the job position required, and came to the conclusion that my background experience matched with what they were looking for. So I decided to give it a shot.
To be more specific, they needed a game developer who had more than 3 years of experience in using Unity to build PC games and familiarity with making games for VR platforms. To give you some more context, I already owned a VR headset, about 6 months prior to the job application. The original purpose for getting it was for experimenting around with VR content and making my own VR games, and I did exactly that with it. 😎
How I applied to this job
To apply to this job, I had to provide a resume and a short video about myself. I made a personal portfolio website, handed it in as my resume, and took several attempts to record a proper video about my experience.
In both of those required submissions, I mentioned the kinds of projects I worked on in the past and the achievements that I gained from game jams to prove my experience. Shortly after submitting these prompts, I got to talk to one of the managers of the company over the phone. I got asked a few questions, which were about me and my ability to work. I told him that I was 16 years old and that I was still studying at school, meaning that I would only be available for part-time work. It seemed like they were totally fine about it.
Then I was told that I would be given 3 days to complete a certain task which would test my skills. Personally, the difficulty of the task was mediocre, in fact, the majority of it was easy and I was able to complete everything within the time I was given. Essentially, I had to make an in-game inventory system. The task statement fully described what exactly I should implement.
The last step in my job application was an interview with the technical leader of the team. I answered some questions regarding myself, the task that I had completed, and my preferences for my job position. The tech lead was very nice, we got to share around some of our experiences with each other. Apparently, we took part in the same competition (Ludum Dare 47) at some point, where his game ended up getting first place in the category of "Humor". Funny enough, the last question to wrap up the interview, was "What is your favorite type of pizza?" 😆
After a few days pass by, I get a call from the manager, once again, and he informs me that I landed the job! It felt great and unexpected, but it was only the beginning. Its after this story, did I realize, how making real friends is really important in life.
How was it like to work
To put it to a perspective, the team that worked on the massive project consisted of about 10 people in total, including me. I was the youngest in the team, and at first it did feel a little overwhelming. For the first time, I encountered the impostor syndrome, because, remember, I joined to work on a game that already was in development, and there were already a lot of systems made in the project. However, after a few weeks I was able to get comfortable with everyone in the team, and I must say that I really enjoyed collaborating with everyone there.
At first, most of the times, I was given tasks which I had to complete individually, since they were technical, and required implementing features and writing some basic code. My first ever contribution to the project was creating a police baton item that you could use to smack other people in VR. 😂
Sometimes, if the task came down to making and integrating some 3D models into the game, I had to closely work with our designers in the team, who were very passionate. I also had to work with other programmers together as well, specifically when it came down to working with online multiplayer. At the time, I had never made an online game before. My colleagues helped me out in those cases, they were very skillful, and I loved working with them. One of my most memorable tasks I took upon with my colleagues was making our own operating system inside of our game, and building apps for it. I thought that was crazy but very cool. Getting into this job actually made me more interested in learning network programming in games, and programming in general, and that's what I mostly did in my free time.
About time, you may be wondering about how I managed to balance studies and my work at the same time. You see, during this period, COVID-19 was at high stakes in my country, so I was studying online from morning to the afternoon. Once my lessons were over, I had lunch, and got to work straight after that. I had to work exactly 20 hours a week, so I was pretty flexible in terms of my working hours. Although, ideally, its best to submit work every single work day. We used GitHub to work together, and everyone was able to see who was working exactly on what.
I worked at this job for about 6 months. While I originally planned to continue working on the game for even longer, the company faced some issues when it came to money, therefore, the project was put on a pause. Ever since then, up to this day, there has not been any significant new updates to the project, and the fans are still waiting for the game's official full release.
Despite that, I think this was one of the most valuable experiences I ever got in my career. Currently, about a year later, I am still studying in high school, about to start my final year in it. I continue to make games and participate in game jams, and I even formed my own indie game dev team (Team Melon) with creative people from all over the world. For instance, in this year's summer, we won an award of 10,000 dollars from GameJolt's Together Jam.
To end off my story, I'd love to share a little quote about passion: "a man who loves walking, will always be better than the man who loves the destination" - from some Instagram reel I once saw, lol.
If you want to know about me, visit my official website here: https://www.danqzq.games