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Here at VicScreen, we want to demystify working in the digital games sector. Returning for its second year, the Games Development Internship will see the successful intern gain hands-on experience working with Robot Circus, Sledgehammer Games and VicScreen.
The internship—all paid and taking place between a period of 12-to-18 months—will see participants work across VicScreen and the two leading Victorian games companies, building game development skills and networks. During the internship, they will develop their hands-on skills and hone their knowledge of the current independent and AAA studio sector, games funding, and the overall production environment within Australia.
Catching up with business owner and soon-to-be-alumni David Parkin, previous host and League of Geeks co-founder and director Trent Kusters, and our own games and Interactive coordinator Lise Leitner, we spoke with the trio about what the internship involves, what makes a winning application, and other advice they can give to excited applicants.
Lise Leitner: I think one of the most exciting is the ability to experience different contexts within the game development landscape. We were lucky enough at VicScreen to work with David and it was an opportunity for him to really take a broad view of the whole industry, where we see people coming through for funding and liaising with us. David went on to work with the talented folks at League of Geeks and also Samurai Punk too.
I think going from that broad view into being embedded in a game studio is a really great opportunity to really see the different contexts in which games are made—you experience what it means to see people working in different sizes of teams, making different kinds of games in different genres, working with different kinds of constraints, and so on.
The internship exposes you to so many different creatives working in different disciplines, all in different stages of their career, while you're embedded in a safe environment to really learn from lots of people, which is invaluable, really.
— Lise Leitner, Games & Interactive Coordinator at VicScreen
Lise Leitner: When you work with us, you'll learn lots about the funding process on a really granular level. You get to talk to lots of people who come in with inquiries, wanting to look into their options for funding. These are all different creative practitioners from all sorts of backgrounds, working on different projects, which is really a wonderful, energising thing to do. You get a broad view of what's happening across the state, which is fantastic. You also become involved in assessing projects, sitting in panel meetings, hearing industry experts really talk about a project and see what works and what doesn't work.
It's a great opportunity to hone your own skills—not just in grant writing—but in listening to people who've been through the process in different ways. You also sit through contracts and feedback which is invaluable, getting a minute-to-minute view of how things work behind the curtain at VicScreen and in the landscape.
David Parkin: I had been running events for diverse regional youth, linking them with game developers, visual effects artists, and others in tech through my own company, Luggarrah. I suppose I always felt a degree of not being part of the industry because I don't have a background in games.
I applied for the Games Development Internship because I knew it would give me that knowledge I didn't have, putting me in a better position to speak and participate in my own events, and guide some of those young people who seek information on how to connect with the industry.
The reason that other people should look at applying for the internship program is to actually have a space that is supportive and encourages you to learn and grow into this industry. If someone like myself can do that from a background not in games and have the opportunities to learn how funding works, how decisions are made, and what it takes to run a studio, it's quite impressive.
It's impressive being in a studio environment, as well as the government environment, seeing both of those halves. So I really would encourage anyone from any background to actually seriously consider applying for this opportunity.
— David Parkin, Games Development Internship Recipient
David Parkin: If you want to do it, understand that you can do it. You just may not have the skills at the moment, but don't let it hold you back. If I hadn't applied, I wasn't doing myself any service. I think the very first step is to apply for it. Part of my advice to myself would be no matter what happens, still continue and still push forward with things, and learn to be adaptive. Also, you have the ability to ask questions and also seek guidance from other people.
David Parkin: Yeah, the interview did not unfold quite like I thought it would. I was halfway to Adelaide and blew out a tire in my family's car. There wasn't much I could do at the time—I was in the middle of an interview with five people from different studios and departments. But I just continued. I'm always looking for the positive and if I had let that situation overrule what I was doing, I probably wouldn't have been a successful applicant.
Trent Kusters: It's similar to any kind of job application. We want to see the similar things. We want to see that you're committed to your discipline and your craft. It's important to stand out, throw your hat in the ring, and have a go. Above anything else, actually get your application in. Get it drafted, take the time. The great thing about VicScreen is that they're always up for a chat once that application's in. You can reach out to folks like Lise at VicScreen and talk about your application.
For us hosts specifically, because it is a production internship, we want to hear why you want to be a production intern—not necessarily just at our studio, but where you feel that fits into your journey.
As you heard from David, you are exposed to how studios are run and how games are made across every part of the process. I don't know if there's anyone on the team that David didn't assist during his time with us. He was across all three of our projects we had in development at the same time, working with everyone from executive producers and founders, to directors of the studio through to QA and artists, designers and more. At one point, we had folks off on leave and David was running the production on one of the projects for a week or two there. So, you really, it is a fantastic opportunity.
— Trent Kusters, Co-Founder and Director at League of Geeks
Trent Kusters: I remember hearing about David and his fabled interview. One of the reasons David was selected was because of the flat tire situation, because when you're a producer, you need to be the single person in the room that when you know everything is going to hell, you need to keep your cool, find solutions, and bring the rest of the team through it. And so, one of those soft skills we look for is being able to work in high-pressure, high-stress environments, and be able to keep your calm in situations.
As a producer, your every day is problem-solving, so we look for the ability to just keep calm and tackle problems. David also had the ability to deeply listen and take onboard things, while taking initiative. This is important because while we support you in your internship, we are making games, which is a commercial endeavor.
David Parkin: Like Trent hinted on it, a successful applicant is a people person who can identify potential barriers. I think having communication skills, empathy, and just actively listening to people will make you stand out. A personal highlight was building confidence and learning with Jira—looking at how those pieces of software interact and are integrated within a studio environment. What I would strongly suggest applicants do is look at those pieces of software and get an understanding and be prepared in that sense.
In my experience, I really valued the small parts that I believe I was playing. They potentially were bigger for other people, but that's where that intrinsic value comes into play. My advice is to go in with an open mind, not be constrained in your experiences or your expectations. I think, take everything as it comes and as Trent said, absorb—this is an opportunity to do exactly that. Be supported, listen, observe, and then put it into practice.
Trent Kusters: Yeah, I can say this because I'm not with VicScreen. The program that VicScreen has set up is phenomenal. It is a fantastic opportunity and they place you with studios that will actually have a real impact on your ability to develop, hone your craft and your career, and actually nurture you through that process. They really look after you during the process. Please, just do apply, really give it a shot.
Interview by Jana Blair. Words by Monique Myintoo.
Applications for the Games Development Internships are now open and close Thursday 8 September 2022. To find out more, read the press release here or visit VicScreen's Skills Development page.