Friday, 28 June 2013

In the halls of Elysium: Career insights from Bioware

This week's blog post comes from Kristina Drozdiak. Kristina is in the Arts Work Experience Program (AWE) and is doing a one-year internship at CAPS.

The folks at CAPS recently visited BioWare. For those of you who don’t know, BioWare has nothing to do with medical equipment, but is an Edmonton-based video game company known worldwide for creating carefully crafted story-driven games. Some of their more recent titles include Mass Effect and Dragon Age—whose third installment recently released a teaser trailer at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (the much-awaited E3).

I have played and loved BioWare games for a number of years; in fact, it has been my ardent aspiration for most of those years to be involved in making their games. In spite of years of dreaming and building up my expectations of what the company might be like, BioWare not only met those expectations but exceeded them. My wildest imaginings did not take into account the rigorous and careful recruitment process, the inspirational environment or the friendly atmosphere.

A few of these privileged employees took time out of their busy schedules to speak with us—including Shanda Wood, Recruiter and University Relations Specialist; Alex Lucas, Quality Assurance Engineering Lead; and Fernando Melo, Director of Online Development—and I will share with you some of the insights I gleaned from my visit.
Education. As a University student, I find it gratifying that this is a consideration. Why do degrees matter? According to Alex Lucas, they demonstrate a commitment spanning years, along with the ability to (for the most part) meet deadlines. 

Non-linear career paths. You haven’t spent the last seven years in computer programming? That’s fine. Since video games haven’t been on educational radars for very long, many of the people currently in the industry have found creative ways into those sacrosanct halls. 

Passion. Although no two interviews are the same at BioWare, there is one standard question: Do you like video games? They aren’t looking for name dropping, just a sense that you enjoy games (of any kind), to know if you’ll fit in the company culture and to see if you understand their demographics.
Diversity. Although “video games” is the name of the game (more specifically, Dragon Age III: Inquisition at the moment), not all staff are programmers. In fact, to create games of such high caliber, their Quality Assurance (QA) department is split into two main branches: Tech and Design. It’s even possible to get into QA—and from there, potentially bridge into other jobs—with a B.A.
Teamwork and cooperation. In the final stages of their interviewing process, you can spend a day in interviews and with the team you hope to join. It’s reassuring to know that they take the team into account in the hiring process. 

LinkedIn. The recruiter also made a point of recommending students to get on it.

To top it all off, we saw these stained-glass panes brought to life in their building, depicting key moments from The Chant of Light, from the Andrastian faith written for their Dragon Age universe. Rooms and hallways alike were filled with models, artwork and stills from games-in-the-making, and I find it hard to imagine a more inspiring way to remind everyone of where they’ve come from and where they hope to go while still maintaining the integrity of the BioWare brand.

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