This week’s lecture was presented to us by the wonderful and quirky Matt Folkard. Rather than talk about a specific topic such as been done by some of the other guest speakers, Matt talked about his own personal experience within the industry and the ups and downs he’d had whilst working on games, both as part of companies and going solo.
I’ll start with a little bit of background into Matt: He started with degree at Manchester and specialised in programming, although throughout his career he has dabbled in art and now creates most of the assets for his games by himself. After graduating he got his first job as a programmer in 1996, and for 7 years he worked for a variety of different companies, from mobile phone game port companies to adver-games companies. In 2003, he founded the company Plastic Martians declared himself a sole-trader. A few years down the line in 2005, the company became limited and Matt became the full time owner and director of Plastic Martians.
The unique and eye-catching home page of www.plasticmartians.co.uk
Matt specialises in casual games, and produces work both for companies as work for hire and develops his own free-to-play web based games. Some of the games created by and owned by Plastic Martians include Plastic Balls, a web only release used a portfolio piece. This game had no monetisation built-in and no analytics so for Matt this was purely a way to learn the ins and outs of getting a game out there and also as a way to attract clients. During downtime he taught himself game physics and from that games called Plastic Christmas, and following on from that Plastic Cactus were created. Again, these were never made with the intention of being big-hits or as a means to make money, but more as a way to display skills and advertise the company. When working for hire, it’s always important to get as much quality content on your portfolio as possible. Not only does this show that you have a wide range of skills, but it shows any potential client that you are capable.
Many of Plastic Martians’ games are available to play directly on their website www.plasticmartians.co.uk, and the site itself is creatively designed which makes it memorable and engaging – both vital in helping you stand out from the crowd when looking for paid work. Their games are simple but fun (I’ve just found myself spending far too much time trying to balance a worm on a cactus in their Plakka Cakka game!) and this is an important thing to remember when displaying any kind of work on a portfolio. Keep it simple and make it easy for potential employers to see what you have to offer.
A screenshot from the game Plakka Cakka
Though Matt’s talk was not specifically related to gaining a job in the games industry, he had lots of information which was helpful and encouraging. One of the key points for me was keeping yourself motivated. The games industry can be a very unstable environment to work in, and all too often you hear of studios closing and job losses. Even as a potential artist, you may only be employed on a contract, and the possibly of being without work between contracts can be disheartening. Matt stressed that even when there are times where work is not available, you must motivate yourself. One example he gave was earlier this year when he was out of work for four months, he used the time to learn new skills and began programming for mobile games. I believe this is key to this industry. Keep on top of where the industry is moving; what new software is available, new games, new techniques. Keep up to date with the news and also keep your skills sharp.
Freelancing may not be what I’m considering at the moment, but as many larger studios close and more and more people are going back to developing small indie games, then this is definitely a potential avenue to explore. Overall I enjoyed Matt’s talk thoroughly. It was more personal than others we’ve had and it’s quite inspiring to hear about how someone has come out of university to work in the industry and eventually become the owner of their own company.