Jessica Maher’s Profession: Game Designer

This week is the turn of Jessica Maher, Game Designer on Assassin’s Creed, to tell us about her job and the best ways to get started.

Can you describe your job at Ubisoft?

Game design consists in creating and defining the rules of a game in order to make it intuitive, consistent and, above all, fun for users! The setting, the characters – all these elements have rules and our job is to write them!

What is a typical day like for you?

Days vary greatly depending on the team’s needs. Sometimes my day is devoted to coming up with a new design. In that case, I focus on the intents and requirements of the new game feature. Other times, I present new design ideas to colleagues, get their feedback and make sure everyone’s on the same page. Finally, there are the days when we test our designs to make sure they work properly and are fun to play.

What do you love most about your job?

Game designers are required to be curious and ready to learn every day. Each game, each need, calls for different knowledge and methodologies. Therefore, you are constantly growing as a professional, but also and above all, as an individual. That’s what I love most about it.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

The biggest challenge is to accept the fact that your game may not necessarily be perfect from the outset. Creating a good game requires patience, you need to be ready to listen and be open to collaboration. In my opinion, being honest, inclusive and realistic about your designs is the best way to overcome this type of challenge.

What type of qualifications do you need for this job?

These days, training programs in video game development are available just about everywhere and at all levels. I recommend taking as many courses as possible in the discipline and pursuing a degree related to design and/or games. I also encourage taking part in game jams, which give you the opportunity to work in a team to create a game in a limited period of time, typically over a weekend. There’s always something to learn and study on the subject!

What was the moment that made you say, “I want to work in the video game industry”? Who was your mentor/coach at the time?

I always knew I wanted to work in the video game field, but I didn’t know which job I was most interested in. When I took part in Ubisoft’s Game Lab Competition, I had the chance to be mentored by Bio Jade Adam Granger, who was a game designer back then. She opened up my eyes to the industry and taught me a great deal. That was the moment I realized I wanted to work in the industry. To this day, she’s still my role mode in everything related to game design.

Do you have any advice for young people who are thinking of getting started in this profession?

It may sound simplistic and obvious, but create games! It’s important to study, but it’s even more important to apply that knowledge and develop your ability to work in a team. If you’re not sure where to start, take a game that already exists (e.g. tic-tac-toe) and change just one rule. And you’ll see the impact it has! Also, when you play a game, try putting yourself in the game designer’s shoes. Ask yourself every time: “Why did they decide to do it like that? How does a given rule affect the game? What would I have done differently with these needs in mind?” You can also check out initiatives such as Fusion Jeunesse. The more you do that, the more you’ll be ready to join this amazing industry!

Want to know more about career opportunities at Ubisoft Montreal? Take a look at your career!

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