Joshua Tsui is the President of Robomodo. He has been in the video game industry for 18 years, and started his company three-and-a-half years ago. In an interview with Escapism, Tsui talked shop about the video game industry and the ever changing field of technology.
Escapism: How did you get involved in this field?
Tsui: As a kid growing up in the ‘80s, I was into video games but I never thought that I would do it professionally. I ended up studying film and video at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois and came in (the industry) as an artist in video games because I knew how to combine video with computer graphics
Escapism: What type of education do you have?
Tsui: Mostly post production and camera work. I self-taught myself computer graphics at the same time.
Escapism: What educational program is recommended as preparation?
Tsui: There are so many aspects of it. One must figure out early on what video game they want to be involved in and focus on that aspect of it. I mainly focused on environment design and game cameras.
Escapism: What are the duties performed during a typical day? Week? Month? Year? Do you have a set routine? How much variety is there on a day-to-day basis?
Tsui: Well, I eat a good healthy breakfast! The first part of the day I read up on as much news about the industry as possible. Sites such as Gamasutra about the videogame industry and Kotaku for game reviews and gossip. I also read a lot about electronic gadgets for entertainment. I keep up on technology as much as possible.
Escapism: What kinds of courses are most valuable in order to gain skills necessary for success in this occupation?
Tsui: Once again, depends on what you’re looking to get into. I would suggest trying to figure out what you want to do as quickly as possible and just dive in. You can always change later if you find something else. Key thing is to just get started. Skills that everyone should universally have is the ability to communicate and the ability to deconstruct a game – look at a game and know what it takes to make a game. Anyone can play a game, can you really figure out the who, what, and why of a game?
Escapism: What degree or certificate do employers look for?
Tsui: Degrees and certificates show that a person can “finish” what they set out to do, so that is huge. But we don’t necessarily look at a specific degree or certificate, just that you have completed something and show good work. If someone came in with a complete game like a professional then it would be looked upon as a degree in terms of school.
Escapism: What kind of work/internship experience would employers look for in a job applicant?
Tsui: We have a regular roster of interns. We interview them the same way as any other employee. But they must definitely have an interest in video games or they shouldn’t get into video games.
Escapism: How can a person obtain this work experience?
Tsui: It really depends on whether you have something to show that has a lot of potential. This is what we look for. It may not be the most polished and professional work around but we can tell very quickly if the person put a lot of smart thinking into it.
Escapism: What are the important “key words” or “buzz” words to include in a resume or cover letter when job hunting in the field?
Tsui: There should be no buzz words. We see a lot of resumes that use buzz words, the same words over and over again. That should be avoided.
Escapism: What are opportunities for advancement? To what position? Is an advanced degree needed? (If so, in what discipline?
Tsui: Anyone can get to any position they want at Robomodo if they really want it. It has nothing to do with degrees, it’s about the work and the drive to advance one’s career. Independent studios usually do not have ceilings unlike larger studios.
Escapism: Which skills are most important to acquire? (i.e., which skills do employers look for?)
Tsui: Obviously hard work. And don’t underestimate the ability to communicate. You can be very talented but a big minus if you can’t communicate. There has to be a balance of technical knowledge and the ability to communicate that knowledge.
Escapism: What are the main or most important characteristics for success in the field?
Tsui: Must have an interest in video games and the ever changing world of technology, hard work efforts and the ability to communicate well with people.
Escapism: What do you like most about your job and line of work?
Tsui: Mentoring younger people to make quality products.
Escapism: What do you like least about your job and line of work?
Tsui: It’s a tough call…making things I don’t enjoy.
Escapism: What has been one of the high points of your career?
Tsui: Working with Tony Hawk. Just hanging around a celebrity like (Hawk) is a very strange thing to witness. He’s an example of someone who is amazingly successful but still very humble and looks out for people.
Escapism: How long does it take to make a video game?
Tsui: Depends on the project, some are as short as a few months while others can go for many years.
Escapism: In your future plans, have you thought about opening a school to train interested parties how to make and put video games together?
Tsui: It’s something that went through my mind, to start training for videogame development. We experimented with interns over the summer and they all expressed that they learned more in 2 months than they did in all of their college years.
Escapism: How long have you been in business?
Tsui said he is a big proponent of having kids visit his place of business (tour). “I come from an education background and I’m very high on that. I had great mentors who went out of their way to get me hired and into the door. It’s something that I still appreciate and give back on”