What kind of questions are asked in a panel interview(for a game designer)?

Aside from the usual getting-to-know-you questions like “what kind of games do you like?”, what interviewers usually ask about falls into one of two categories: questions about the candidate’s experience and some kind of design test where we ask the candidate to design something for us. It is normal for the entire session with the group to be focused on one or the other. It is usually fairly rare to do both, since interviewers don’t often get more than an hour with the candidate. Assuming there’s 10-15 minutes to handle the introductions and answer any questions the candidate might have, we really don’t have enough time to drill down on the candidate’s experience or approach if we split focus.

Questions about Past Experience

Neo defends Agent Smith's punchesALT

When we ask questions about the candidate’s past experience, what we’re really trying to figure out is how the candidate approaches design problems and the way they think. We usually begin by asking general questions about a specific piece of work the candidate did, and then digging deeper as the candidate expands on the details. This is because the candidate should be the foremost expert with this work - if they cannot answer questions about the thing they built, how can we expect them to work with us? We’re usually looking for the ability for the candidate to consider different perspectives (especially the perspective of different kinds of players) while doing design work, and who can reasonably defend those design decisions they made that were based on those considerations. A good candidate should be able to explain the benefits and drawbacks of those decisions. More senior candidates can usually expect questions about hypothetical what-if scenarios in this kind of session.

A Design Test

Morpheus says "Show me"ALT

The second kind of panel interview session is a technical design test. Instead of us asking the candidate about their past work, we give the candidate a design challenge and ask them to create a design on the whiteboard or shared screen for that challenge. A sample design challenge might be “design a new holiday-specific in-game event for our game”, where we interviewers would choose a holiday event that isn’t represented in the game yet (e.g. Mother’s Day, Talk-like-a-Pirate-Day, Labor Day, etc.). The ideal candidate would be able to design an in-game event that captures the essence of the holiday, engages and rewards players from casual engagement level to extreme, works within the game’s lore, tells an engaging story, adds monetization options (if applicable), and so on. The ideal candidate would talk us through their design as they flesh it out, answer any questions we have along the way, and even field any curve balls we might throw at the candidate (e.g. there are no additional art/engineering resources available for your event, so the candidate must make do with what exists in game currently). We usually reserve the curve balls for more senior candidates.

We then evaluate the candidate’s interview performance based on the decisions, considerations, and overall expertise that the candidate demonstrates. You might notice that there’s a good amount of crossover in the kind of answers a candidate would give to either type of interview. In the older days, it would be common to have one type of each session for note comparison afterward. Now that we’ve mostly switched to video interviews, it’s likely to be one or the other.

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