At Die Gute Fabrik we get a lot of 'cold' emails - emails from people sending out speculative CVs and cover letters, asking for intern positions. Here, Studio Lead (and receiver of all the emails) Hannah Nicklin, answers a few FAQs. We'll add to this general list now and then.
If you've been pointed here, thanks for your email! We hope some of this provides you with more context as you continue to try and make your way in games.
Are you hiring?
I can't emphasise this enough: very, very rarely. We are a team of approx 15 currently, but that's also a lot of part-timers, it's about 8 full time roles. In between projects the company can just be 1.5 full time employees. Please understand the scale of a company when you write to them. Many games are made by regular collaborators who will only hire contractors for short roles - and then often because they have a particular skill set or practice.
We currently work with different constellations of collaborators - often on ideas that will have been originated with those collaborators. This means that our need to hire employees (as opposed to contractors to help us with a specific small part of the game, like e.g. a shader specialist) is rare, project focussed, fixed term, and happens perhaps once every 3-4 years.
We are however, also dedicated to seeking out collaborators who are earlier on in their careers to begin our ideas with, in finding people - when we do have roles to fill - who have aptitude (not relying on experience), and so you can and should always send us your portfolio. And wait for the month or so it takes for me to have the time to say 'thank you'.
Can I share my portfolio/CV/cover letter with you?
Yes! Please! We will almost never have any vacancies, but I'm always interested in knowing who's out there. Especially marginalised folks - as a company made up of more than an average number of folks marginalised in games this is an area where we can help more than other companies. Whereas most other companies can support the ones we don't prioritise. It helps if you say 'please keep this on file' so I don't have to check (GDPR reasons).
Please do send your info in. But when you share your work - I want to see the work. I'm less interested in CVs, I'm very interested in a cover letter talking more about you/your practice, how it relates to the company, and a portfolio showing a few works that best demonstrate your range and aptitude. This is a lot of labour if you're emailing 100 game companies. But it's also, imo, a more effective use of your time.
For cover letter advice, a lot is covered by the latter half of Char's Advice for Applicants post over here (clue: be convincing but concise, don't tell us you've always loved games/storytelling, it has absolutely no bearing on your aptitude to practice game design or narrative design - what direction are you interested in, what are your aptitudes and interests, why Die Gute Fabrik?)
Can I be an intern?
We previously tended to only work with one or two interns every 2-3 years. In recent years we're trying to better resource our intern roles as part of our self-set mandate to grow diverse grassroots talent in games. Here are the factors involved in our working with interns:
- We almost always will advertise our intern positions. We are trying to resource narrative design & writing internships currently, and can support between two or three (1 per year) over the period of our current project. These specifically designed positions will be shared via our twitter account @gutefabrik - so if we're not advertising, we probably can't support you.
- We very very occasionally (once every 2-3 years) take on company collaborations from local universities, but only when their research interests align well with our current project.
- We need the resources to supervise an internship - this limits us by how busy we are.
- We are fully remote - this limits us because there's extra support when you can't physically be around someone and see they need more instructions, something extra to do, further help, etc.
- We believe in making internships worthwhile, and want to dedicate mentoring resources to them - this limits us by our existing team's availability
- We believe in paid internships wherever possible - this limits us by our budgets.
- We rarely can afford to keep interns on after a placement. We have fixed budgets, and will make room for a specific time to run an internship, but that means that interning with us is not a pathway into the company. Especially because of our scale.
- We are not interested in supporting people who 'will do anything'. We're a company that is interested in interdisciplinary working with people who specialise. If you tell me you will do anything, it tells me you care about working anywhere in games, and not in your craft. I'm not interested in people who think games is a magical medium, I want to support people who care about it as a practical craft built of many disciplines. It's okay to not know what your specialism is yet - but you can express that as a keen interest in discovering where you work best, with some clues about your current interests.
- We therefore encourage you to write to us, but also to temper your expectations.
- But again, if you are someone marginalised in games always reach out to us. We may not be able to support you personally, but we may be able to link you to another company where a marginalised intern could flourish.
Can you answer my questions about X, Y, and Z?
No, not usually. Please understand that if we, say, get somewhere between 15-30 of these cold emails a month (more in graduate season), and each email takes around 30 mins to an hour to provide a considered response, that's almost 1-2 working days a week (and we work a 4 day week!) providing people with resources for free. That's literally not our jobs.
Here's what you can do:
- Get together with your university, or a group of friends, or twitter peers, or discord folks, and ask if you can have a paid talk/AMA - hitting more people in one go is attractive! You could ask a few people and if one can do it, you've already increase your peer knowledge! If possible make sure that opportunity is paid - then someone can actually resource it. Or pass it on to someone if they don't have time.
- Look for Gamasutra, GDC or other articles and talks by the person you're interested in the practice of
- Check if they've written a book that might answer your questions.
- Know who you're writing to - Die Gute Fabrik make a certain kind of game. We don't do a tonne of things like: AI, 3D, shooty-shooty games, etc. Questions about these things usually show us that you haven't done us the minimum viable 'looking at our website'.
- Be humble. Humility as in the opposite of entitlement. We're doing everything we can to both actually make games (that takes a lot of work!), and advocate for, create opportunities for, and support emerging talent in games, but/and: we're exhausted. Our email inbox is full of people asking for help. We can't help everyone. Please, when you reach out, understand that what might seem like the work of 5 minutes to you, is a more complicated job for us. We might not be able to answer.
How do I get into games?
The real answer to this is that everyone will have their own answer. You may start out as a lawyer, or a playwright, or an animator, or a gardener (all examples that I know of). The most crucial thing is that games is an art form, that means many things, but one of them is that it's an attractive and therefore oversubscribed industry. For more on that, I strongly recommend reading Brendan Keogh's How To Teach Game Development When There Are No Jobs.
What does it mean for you? It means don't rely on jobs to develop your practice. Your career is not your practice - you can always nurture your practice; through crit, with peers, in self-led projects, by setting your own curriculum (notwithstanding good life balance and caring responsibilities). We've tried to provide resources on things like crit, narrative design, deep dives on our own site, so do check that out.
You may do well working outside of games and developing a company of your own in the meantime. You may do well getting into research and developing your practice through academia. You may live somewhere with good public funding for small indie games practices - but in many ways, your career will be decided by other people. What you can control is your practice - your development as a practitioner in games. Play games, find peer communities, collaborate in game jams (when they're not super exploitative), keep notebooks of what you learn, read books like Anna Anthropy's Rise of the Videogame Zinesters: How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Drop-outs, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form. Look up the GDC youtube channel. Read deep dives on Gamasutra.
You are not a failure if your first job out of university isn't in games, if you continue to develop and hone your practice (whilst not exploiting yourself). You can cross over from other industries into games more effectively if you get to know the industry structure and practices and values from resources like Gamasutra and GDC.
Your career is not the thing - your practice is. And the good news is you don't need anyone's permission to work on that.
I wrote a book, Writing for Games: Theory and Practice. Check it out here.