Career Crossovers: Possible but Not Effortless

Are gamers and corporate IT workers interchangeable? Not quite, but theyre getting there.

Just consider the following skills that employers in the gaming field look for:

  • The ability to collaborate and understand end-user needs and abilities.
  • An understanding of social Web technology and mobile networks.
  • A bachelors degree in computer science or the equivalent.
  • Experience in project management and scheduling.
  • Knowledge of C++.
  • Networking skills.

  • Experience in network server technologies and high-availability services.

Sounds a lot like what CIOs want in their workers, doesnt it?

Maggie Bohlen, director of human resources at game maker High Voltage Software, says executives also want people who have strong oral and written communication skills and can work well with others. Games are built by teams, she explains, so those skills are essential if companies want to successfully develop their products.

In addition, Susie Wee, director of the Mobile and Media Systems Lab at HP, says gaming technology sometimes requires people with very specific skills that can often be gained in corporate settings. She mentions experience working with low-power devices and Web infrastructure as examples.

You want the best people possible, so you dont want to limit your scope only to gamers, Wee adds.

So far, these skills arent much different from what corporate IT recruiters seek. But a programmer in the gaming industry may also need skills not commonly required by an IT department. High Voltage, for example, prefers that its programmers have expertise in industry-specific areas needed to build the dynamics of games, including 3-D graphics, artificial intelligence, console programming and assembly language.

So despite similarities in many required skills, Sheri Graner Ray says technologists cant yet moveseamlessly between the industries.

I wish we could, but I dont think we can as much as we should, says Graner Ray, a game designer and developer at Sirenia Consulting and chairwoman of the steering committee of the nonprofit Women in Games International.

Game makers want developers who not only know the technology but also have experience building games, so theyre not always willing to draw workers straight from IT departments.

On the other hand, some IT executives still think that gaming technologists arent qualified for corporate work. We do still deal with the stigma of You just play games all day long, Graner Raysays.

Despite that lingering bias, the tight skills market may push both gaming companies and corporate IT departments to appreciate that there may be more of a skills overlap than they previously realized. Thats good news for people like Tara Teich, lead artificial intelligence and gameplay engineer at LucasArts.

Im a programmer, she says, and if I didnt make games, I would still be a programmer.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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