Oh, for fuck’s sake.
I can’t fucking believe I’m actually writing about this. I can’t believe that this is a thing that needs to be written about.
This matters little to anyone who isn’t in the business of making games. But a story in Gamesradar makes note that a recent job listing for a Design Manager over at Irrational Games is requesting, under “Requirements”, that applicants have “Credit on at least one game with an 85+ Average Meta Critic Review Score.”
Let me make a rest-of-the-world analogy for you.
Didn’t make Dean’s List in college? Don’t apply.
Didn’t go to Harvard? Don’t apply.
Worked your butt off in a dysfunctional environment, won internal accolades and industry respect even though your product was a public failure? Don’t apply.
Made a product that was too local, indie or grassroots to gain national attention? Don’t fucking apply. Also, stop stinking up our inbox, you filthy hippie.
It could be argued that Irrational is in serious, immediate need of a Big Player. Bioshock Infinite is less than a year from release, and any sudden need for a design manager who can Kick Ass, Take Names AND Chew Gum is totally understandable. But there’s a way to get that type of proven talent without such blatant nickel-and-diming of applicants. It’s called headhunting. Sure, it costs money. But it costs money because it saves money. That’s your shortlist. Not having the poor bastard applicants do it for themselves.
Most gaming companies want experience. Most AAA developers ask for at least three delivered-to-shelf products as standard proof of that experience. Because we go by product cycles, not years, that request makes sense to anyone in the industry. “Can you finish? Can you deliver?” is close, if not equal to “How many years did you work the ER?” or “How long have you been the General Manager for the Eastern Seaboard markets?” And if someone has put in the time, that’s when you find out about their qualities, character, and performance level. And it’s not always as simple as a (lately ever-more-contested) number.
For example, from the ever-witty individuals over at Reddit Games:
Tolkfan 16 points 51 minutes ago:
Imagine how stupid it would sound if they did this with movies:
Employer: Nope, sorry, we only take people with 85+ metacritic movies
Guy 2: Hey, I made Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part II, can I work here?
Employer: OMG! YES!
And there it is.
Just so I don’t get accused of sour grapes, I’d like to note that I pass the Metacritic requirement for the Irrational position (score only, obviously—I can barely manage getting my dogs to poop outside the house, to say nothing of wrangling a design team) and yeah, it feels damn good to have worked on damn good games. But I’ve met plenty of people who are brilliant, hardworking and capable who haven’t got the dubious distinction of a shiny, high number attached to their projects, for multiple reasons. Some of them absolutely deserved that 85+ and simply never got it. Others worked their asses off on a doomed project, sometimes for years.
It’s the precedent that makes me foam at the mouth. When one or two bad reviews can materially affect the career of a developer, to say nothing of the fortunes of an entire company (hi, Obsidian!) this requirement is facile and misguided. In the end, it imposes a brand name logo (MC85+!™) on all potential applicants that unfairly represents the abilities they provide, which ends up crippling not only themselves, but also the companies that think they’re getting superior candidates.
Even so, they will get superior candidates. They just won’t get all of them, or perhaps, even the one they’re looking for. Good luck, guys.
(7/27/12) Update: Two quick things-it looks like the Metascore is no longer an official requirement, so…sweet! Also, a couple people have pointed out to me that there’s nothing wrong with asking for a minimum GPA when advertising for a job, and they’re right.
Why doesn’t that matter regarding the Metascore requirement? Because while you’re in school, you, all by yourself, have almost total control over the grades you receive from your instructors. It’s between you and them. (Maybe a study partner, sometimes.)
Anyone who’s ever worked on a game knows that with very few exceptions, anywhere from 5 to 300 or more people are working with you to get that game shipped. And the greatest project director (or design manager…cough) in the world won’t ever have absolute control over the total output of all those people. A Metascore takes everyone’s development efforts into account, and as a friend pointed out, that’s before publishers and marketing people get their hands on a project. Trying to distill the complexity of the efforts of scores of people down to a single number that will determine an individual’s future goes against the spirit and best intentions of this industry.
(And for those who said I swore too much…poop. Also, farts.)