New Year, New Job 2015: Boss Key's Cliff Bleszinski and Sumo's Damian Hosen on a unique way to make yourself stand out

How modding can land you a career in games

There are a number of ways to break into the games development scene at the moment.

You can pursue an education, going to university or applying for internships at studios. Or you can, of course, just relentlessly send your CV and portfolio to developers in the hope they will give you a job.

But one often overlooked way of making your way into the industry is through the modding scene or through the creative communities on the likes of LittleBigPlanet.

In fact Boss Key founder and former Epic Games developer Cliff Bleszinski has been hiring people straight out of the modding scene.

“One of the people we are thinking about hiring right now is a level designer who has no professional experience in the industry outside of making fantastic Team Fortress 2 maps,” he says.

“Those levels were actually picked up by Valve. Because he had the gumption to make a good-looking website and highlighted that they were bought by Valve rather than submitting a resumé, we sorted the wheat from the chaff and found him.”

Sheffield-based Sumo Digital, the developer behind LittleBigPlanet 3, went so far as to hire entire sections of its development team for the title from the community that formed around the creative platformer series.

“The level design team is made up of 15 or so people, all hired from the LittleBigPlanet community,” Sumo’s design director Damian Hosen says.

"One of the things that [Media Molecule co-founder and creative director] Mark Healey said to me was one of the things he’s most proud of with LittleBigPlanet was that loads of people have gotten into the games industry who wouldn’t have otherwise. Those people have been a really powerful creative force on this game. It’s been great bringing new people who are really talented.”

And of course, the mods you create can just have legs of their own. The critically acclaimed Dear Esther by Brighton-based studio The Chinese Room started out life as a free Half-Life 2 mod in 2008. And once that version of the game saw success, the team went back and made a ‘proper’ commercial version of the title.

“The indie explosion pushed mods back to being a bit niche,” he says.

“There are still a lot of games like Minecraft, where the modding community is still incredibly vibrant. Modding is a fantastic way to get really innovative things, to gain experience, to create without expectations. There are more expectations now that getting a game to market is a huge effort.

He concludes: “ I spoke to [former creative director] Matt Hooper at id Software a few years ago who said there was a generation of first person shooters developers who came from modding. There was a period where everyone was a Doom or Quake modder. You could get as much attention from making mods.”

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