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  • Brits Abroad: An MCV Feature article written by David Smith

    mcv3Sun, sand, surf and the beach babes beckoning. Your ticket to a California lifestyle and a great career. Just bring your games development knowledge and a willingness to change your life….. Well, so says the ad. Tempted? Who wouldn’t be? 

    The good news is that it works for some. If you are a games programmer, single, with a degree and have worked on several triple-A titles you can just about take your pick, provided you are prepared to be patient. “The heaviest push is always for programmers,” says Dean Swett, president of the Paramour Group and US games agent. “US developers will look at artists, producers and designers, but when sponsoring a visa, it is usually for programmers.”

    How difficult is it to obtain a visa? First and foremost you must have the equivalent of a four-year college/university degree. The normal time frame is 90 days but for an extra payment the companies can get approval in a month. The timing of your resignation relative to the visa being approved can become an issue.

    Australia is another favourite destination. “It is easy to get a visa where companies will sponsor their chosen candidate. In certain cases specialist companies will, for a fee, sponsor the candidate on behalf of the studio, but you must have the talent,” explains Stuart Jones, Director of Interactive Selection, Australia.

    But what’s the best way of going about it? “Employing the services of a good recruiter will help,” suggests Mike Hanley, Partner at Digital Artist Management in Segundo California. “But you will still need to be highly skilled with the necessary academic and work credentials.”

    “Put together a strong resume,” recommends Swett. “I find European resumes say very little. What did you program? What were you responsible for? What are you most proud of?”

    “Good agents know when and where to direct your application,” adds Stuart Jones. “If sent at the wrong time it can just get brushed aside.”

    International transfers work both ways. The European development community is one of the most multinational industries in the world. So why aren’t there more Americans over here?

    Apart from the weather, the reality is that European pay scales are lower. The attraction of international experience working with some of the best developers in the world is not enough to compensate for the big pay cut.

    Kevin Malakoff, a Canadian, left LucasArts in California after contracting Interactive Selection to work for a well known developer London. “UK residents go to the US to earn a decent salary (as well as for the adventure) but most Americans or Canadians would not consider coming over here unless the salaries were more competitive or unless they were just looking for adventure.”

    My advice is to think twice before taking the challenge of an international transfer. The world out there is looking for superstars or people with exceptional talent and this could be you. If you are committed then go for it.

    Stage one has still to be to get some advice and stage two is get the necessary tools. A well written CV, a great portfolio, a great game demon or engine demon, samples of your code or demo reel for the artists. The beach babes can wait, but the great games cannot.

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