End of 2015, Looking Into The Future

I haven’t made a blog post in over a month, which is probably the longest I’ve gone without one. And these breaks will be even longer in the future. But make no mistake: a lot of changes happened for me in the last month, and even more are expected in 2016, but Dust Scratch Games will still be active, and you can expect exciting announcements and developments in the months to come.

The biggest change is that I am no longer officially a student. I am thankful that I have a job position starting soon, but before then? The job searching process was painful…

When you're finally ready to begin your job search...

When you’re finally ready to begin your job search…

I swear to everyone I know, even now, that it was much easier for me to secure job interviews two years ago with a Bachelor’s degree than it is now with a Master’s degree. This could very well be a sign of the economy, or of the growing competition in computer science. But I also found with some research that most people agree a Master’s degree can in fact be a negative on a resume, the exact opposite of what every adult has told me over the past 10 years. Today, post-graduate degrees suggest the student wasn’t good enough for a job beforehand, or that they now would expect higher pay despite no experience because of the extra education (an unfortunate stereotype, but I do know fellow graduate students that are exactly like this). Admittedly, the Master’s program at my school is a far cry from what the Undergraduate program offered – I’m under the impression that schools struggle to find anything else left to teach, and resort to specific topics that are still in the realm of what an undergraduate student could understand.

Perhaps it was wise to assume a Master’s degree would have little effect on job opportunities or understanding. Hence the reason I did the best I could to make and publish video games throughout the 1 and a 1/2 years of my program. I released two games, less than I hoped but still a nice bullet point on my resume, to say I have the drive to work and the ambition to build things outside of work or school. This is the sort of thing game developers have said for years to do if I wanted to “get into the industry.”

Well, that didn’t help either. Developers didn’t lie: if you made an indie game, then you are officially “in the industry,” every bit as legitimate as every other developer, just with less money than the ones you’ve heard of. And I did not get a single job interview within this industry, despite having better luck years prior as an Undergraduate. Of course I applied to many other companies from other fields. As a comparison, I got roughly a 50% interview-rate (companies requesting an interview) from those I’ve applied to (roughly 10) as an Undergraduate. With better experience, grades and confidence with a Master’s degree, I applied to over 70 companies for over 140 job-postings, and got a 7% interview-rate.

After three months of job-searching like it was a full-time job, I felt cheated. I remembered the many people I’ve told that I couldn’t guarantee I’d be able to keep working as “Dust Scratch Games” as a conflict of interest to a real full-time company, and how I didn’t want to make any long-term plans. And I had no job offers. All the fears of uncertainty with having any job flooded in. I couldn’t sleep.

Thankfully, I do have a job offer now, and I’m excited to begin. If you’re in the same position as what I described before, keep trying and don’t give up: I still get some late minute requests from companies for interviews that I applied to months ago. But certainly, I would not recommend a Master’s or PhD to anyone, even for job postings that required it, it seemed to make no difference, and for lesser jobs it was only a detriment. I’m not even considering the student-debt that might come from that extra school. I feel lucky, and even now I know fellow students who are much more deserving, and have yet to find an applicable job after years of searching. This needs to change, but because so many jobs are from privately-owned companies, I cannot think of any solutions.

Moving on, this does mean I will be busier than ever. I have been (very slowly) building a new game, in-between job applications, sorting out details, getting a car, moving, and other things. I hope to announce this new game in the next few months, and release it by mid-2016, even this is not certain anymore. But I will still continue. And if news I received is accurate, I will be expanding my “company” soon to make these new experiences. Certainly, my new source of income should help with that.

As for my games in 2015, I’ve released two games on Steam for the first time. Combined, they’ve reached over 1,100 copies sold outside bundles or giveaways. My latest game “Unfinished” makes up a little over 900 of that, and sales of that have stalled enough that I don’t expect to reach much more than that. Mild by most standards, but enough for me. And I’m satisfied enough that a handful of people did appreciate the animation technique used, which was really all I wanted. If I live to see any other game use my technique or some other improvement over common cel-shading methods, I will be content.

I also meant to write some articles on my research I did as a student, but my Master’s thesis isn’t yet available online, and I think I’ll wait until then. And if you thought my comments on Master’s studies here were harsh, just wait until you hear what I want to say about research!

2016 is a couple hours away. I feel eerily calm, like the calm before the storm. Everything has changed, most of it for the better, but I’m still waiting for something to go horribly wrong. I wonder how I’ll feel in 2017…

4 thoughts on “End of 2015, Looking Into The Future

  1. More recently I’ve felt like programming should be a trade skill outside of academia and separate from Computer Science. With more emphasis on previous work and ability to solve problems that arise rather than degrees. I’m not sure if that would help or hurt the issue at hand, but certainly Masters and PhD should be decided on a case-by-case basis (specifically in regards to your major) I don’t think any one generic answer fits everyone’s situation.

    • That’s fair, I’m only speaking from my personal experience. I’m sure some people can argue extra education did help them, it depends on a lot of factors (subject, school, job, experience, timing, etc.). Thank you for commenting.

  2. Great entry Andrew. It is unfortunate that a masters or Ph.D. is seen sometimes in this industry as a black mark, and understand many of the frustrations you’ve laid out. I wish you as much luck as I can muster for your new job and upcoming game! (Gimme a shout when it takes off and you need more devs)

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