Maria Camenzuli, software engineer at BossAlien, talks about leaving Malta to pursue a career in games, dealing with imposter syndrome and creating a sense of wonder.
How did you break into games?
I started programming as a teenager because I wanted to make games. However, the games industry doesn’t really have a significant presence in Malta, which is where I am from and where I lived at the time, so after completing my studies in computer science I worked as a software engineer in other industries for a time. Eventually though, I decided to leave Malta and pursue my dream of getting into games. I applied for a masters course in computer games technology at Abertay University in Scotland. While there, I signed up for the Search for a Star game dev challenge run by the Grads in Games team, and landed several job offers through that. This included an offer from BossAlien, where I am very happy to be working now.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
During my time at BossAlien, I feel like I have had a creative impact on the game that I am currently working on. I can currently point at a couple of things in the game and say that was either my idea, or I have been involved in conversations with my colleagues that shaped that idea. This is my first game development project outside of university or small hobby projects, and the game is one that I am personally very excited about, so having a creative impact on it means more to me than I can say.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
Coming into the games industry and diving into gameplay programming after spending multiple years in completely unrelated industries working on server side code, I initially got a strong feeling of impostor syndrome. I think working on overcoming that has definitely been a challenge. Luckily for me, my colleagues were and continue to be wonderful about giving me space, time, resources, and encouragement to adapt and succeed in my new role.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Being surrounded by people who care about their craft and building an incredible experience for players. This last year, with people staying indoors more due to the COVID pandemic, it has been really interesting watching an increase in people playing games, and I feel lucky to be working with one of the many groups of people who pour their hearts into creating beautiful experiences for players to immerse themselves in, even when times are hard.
What’s your biggest ambition in games?
My dream is to contribute to building the kind of games that spark the joy, connection, and sense of wonder that I felt when I played the games that inspired me to want to be a part of the world that created them. If I ever hear someone excitedly speaking about how a game that I’ve worked on has positively impacted them, it will probably instantly make my year, to say the least.
What advice would you give to aspiring software engineers?
The world of software engineering is so vast now that it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to invest your time in learning. Don’t let that distract or discourage you. Pick up a project, and focus on learning what you need to complete that. For students who want to get into games specifically, take advantage of opportunities like the Search for a Star competition to get exposure to the industry. If you want a job in games, you’re going to want to get your work in front of some studios at some point, and the Grads in Games team is offering to lend you a hand to do just that with this initiative. The way I see it, you have nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain.