Alice joined MPG in early 2021 and works as an engineer on our Fall Guys team. After speaking at a recent Women in Games conference, we reeled her in for a dev story. During her short time at MPG, Alice has worked on multiple platforms including VR, and is excited to see what the next few months bring!
- Role Software Engineer
- Location Ely (one of the UK’s smallest cities!)
- Years in the industry 6
- Number of games 9
- Superpower I always have room for dessert
- Kryptonite Wasps
- Favourite Programming Language C#
- Favourite Software MS Paint
- Game that changed you Skyrim
- Rock / paper / scissors Scissors. Did I win?
What attracted you to working in games?
I wanted to make something cool that exercises my brain, and brings joy to other people – games are a magical mix of creativity and problem solving.
As a child I wasn’t actually much of a gamer (except my RuneScape addiction when I was 12) like people in the industry often are; I never considered that you could actually have a career as a game developer until after I’d finished my degree.
Once I started chatting to people on my course about what they wanted to do after graduation, I realised a lot of the common career paths for programmers didn’t appeal to me at all. Working in games, while sounding cool and exciting, seemed completely unattainable unless you were a programming genius, so it took some confidence building before I felt prepared enough to apply…
How did you get into the industry?
I didn’t really have games-specific experience from my degree – I’d studied a Masters in Computing Science as it was broader and gave me more time to figure out what I was doing…I undertook an internship straight after graduation where I developed software for Electronic Point of Sales systems. This was my first experience of being thrown in at the deep end without any real experience in the specific tasks I’d been assigned. I found I actually really enjoyed taking on the unknown, but what I really didn’t enjoy was making software for tills! I quit at the end of the internship, and decided to teach myself Unity so I’d have something to show in my portfolio when applying to game dev jobs.
I had no connections to people working in the industry at this point, so I went to an event where an indie studio I was interested in was attending. I introduced myself to them, and said I was going to be applying for a programming position. Four interview stages (including a 2-day group interview and 3-day trial) later I was offered a position, and embarked on my first job at Inertia Games Studios as a games programmer!
How is it different now from when you joined?
I think the industry as a whole is a lot more open when talking about crunch. It used to be an unspoken expectation that at some point, you’d be working loads of overtime and everyone would be very stressed. It seems like now it’s not seen so much as a badge of honour to have worked in those conditions, and studios often advertise promises of no crunch time at all – let’s hope they keep them!
More recently, there’s been a big increase in working remotely, which I think is great (especially when coupled with the option to have a mix of WFH and in-house). It’s opened up a lot of doors for people and made office jobs more accessible for people with disabilities and anxiety etc.
What's your proudest achievement?
It’s not really a single event, but I’m proud of my journey to overcome my confidence issues – it’s a journey I’m still on, but I’ve struggled with impostor syndrome and general anxiety and have managed not to let it get in the way of progressing my career.
What led you to join MPG?
Until joining MPG, I’d only worked on quite small-scale projects and mobile games. Working in Unity was one of the big steps I’d wanted to take in recent years, and had achieved that at my previous job, but I wasn’t sure if I’d have the right experience to make the jump into working on AAA projects. I also really wanted an opportunity to work on other platforms besides Facebook and Mobile.
When I applied to MPG I had no idea if I’d tick enough of the boxes, so I was really excited when I was offered a position. In the 7 or-so months I’ve been here, I’ve already worked in VR and on multiple platforms, and I got to take a course in UE4. Who knows what other stuff I’ll have learned in another 7 months!
What game do you wish you'd worked on and why?
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I was late to the game (sorry) with this one, but once I got into it, I absolutely loved it. Open world RPG games are something in general I’d love to work on, although sometimes as a player I can find them overwhelming. Somehow this game had just the right balance of all the things I enjoy.
I’d have loved to work on it because it’s got so many interesting areas of gameplay (crafting, combat, abilities etc), but also the environment itself is so amazingly designed. I love the way it leads you to discover cool things in a way which makes you feel like you’re the only one to have found it. I’ve played it for hours and hours and still find something new within minutes of picking it up again and exploring.
Do you have any heroes in the industry, or someone who’s influenced your career?
I don’t really have any specific heroes, but I will definitely shout out to my friends, family and colleagues who have supported me over the years. My partner, who is also a games programmer, has always encouraged me to push myself out of my comfort zone and apply to jobs even when I thought I didn’t have the right experience.
I’m also inspired by Eric Barone, creator of Stardew Valley. He not only made one of the best games ever, but continues to keep in touch with the community of Stardew players and updates the game long after its first release. He really seems to care a lot about the players and the game itself!
What changes would you like to see in the industry?
I’d like to see more diversity. I think the industry is making good progress towards diversifying dev teams and the projects themselves, but there’s still a long way to go. In particular, there is still not much diversity with people in management positions, and I think it’s really important for people to be able to have mentors and role models from different backgrounds.
I also think the industry is still quite prone to people experiencing burnout, and considering game dev to be a “passion” industry, where you’re expected to put your work life first. Encouraging a healthy work-life balance is something I’d like to see more of.
What are you looking forward to?
Meeting people at the MPG UK Christmas party!
How has the pandemic changed the way you work?
Transitioning to working remotely at my previous studio didn’t have a huge impact, because I already knew everyone and was used to the work I was doing. MPG is the first place I’ve worked where I started remotely, and haven’t met anyone in person. It took a lot longer to start getting to know people, and I realised you have to get comfortable with poking people on Slack a lot until you get the answers/help etc you’re looking for.
However it’s nice if you need to do some pair programming, or go over a problem with a small group of people, and you can go through it without worrying about interrupting someone else nearby in the office. It also means I get to work with a lot more people from all over the world too, which is great!