Today, I want to speak with Roxanne Blouin-Payer, because I know that she wanted to work in the video game industry for a long time and that she succeeded. I think her background can inspire children, teenagers and students who aspire to join the industry.
Marc: Hello Roxanne! Could you please tell us what your current profession is?
Roxanne Hello Marc! I am a Systems Designer at Cloud Chamber.
Marc: And is this your first job in the video game?
Roxanne: Not at all! I have 11 years of experience in the video game industry. I worked on several games of different genres: AAA, MMOs (online games), games for cell phones, etc.
Marc: What studies did you do?
Roxanne: I have a bachelor’s degree in communication with minor in anthropology. I also did a DESS in game design!
What was your background to working in the video game industry?
Roxanne: I started to find ways to stand out before I even got out of school. I have participated in industry events, met other students who aspire to make a career in games, to make game jams! Thanks to my meetings, I did a joint school project with apprentice programmers at ÉTS, which led me to help them found a game development club called Conjure. With this club, we participated in several game jam competitions (marathons of creating small video games, in limited time, usually in a week or a weekend) and even won a prize!
Entering the gaming industry as a designer is very difficult because almost every position requires experience. The advantage of working with students from other disciplines is that we can make lasting contacts who enjoy working with us. We are putting all the chances on our side! I still see my former colleagues at Conjure once or twice a year and we talk about how our careers have evolved. In addition, the projects carried out can be put in a portfolio, which demonstrates our experience.
I had the chance to find an internship and a position as a designer in a small studio called at the time DTI Software, specializing in fun experiences in flight (in air carriers). Being a generalist, I learned to see which elements I liked and which elements I liked less. Eventually, I specialized in AI design.
Working for a few years in AI, I finally realized that I preferred the human and narrative aspects of AI, rather than creating combat experiences. I’ve reoriented myself towards designing narrative systems (quests, conversations, etc.) and I’m having a lot of fun!
What does a typical day as a Senior System Designer look like?
It’s very varied, but first you have to explain what System Designer does! We are the equivalent of an industrial designer, but we are in charge of game systems or mechanics. We work with other trades to define, design, document and balance the mechanics. For example, if we decide that the main character can jump, we must define how far he makes jumps horizontally or vertically, can he cling to walls, does the player have control over the trajectory of the jump while the character is in the air, etc.
In my case, my day starts by checking all the meetings I will have in my day in order to plan my work accordingly. If I have to give a presentation, I keep some time to practice, even though I have already done this presentation before. Then I start working on the documentation of the systems that I’m focusing on this week. It can be future concept presentations, or technical documentation, depending on where we are with the creation of this system. I can also make prototypes in the game gear to help better understand how a system should behave. I also work regularly with other trades to advance development, answer design questions and coordinate development efforts.
It is a job that requires excellent communication, great open-mindedness and a passion for problem solving.