Get That Job Daily: How to be a feel engineer

Get That Job Daily: How to be a feel engineer
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

January 30th 2014 at 12:02PM

Thatgamecompany’s John Nesky discusses the key skills needed for his role in emotional interaction

Every working day this month, as part of our New Year, New Job 2014 special, Develop brings you a game industry professional to explain what their job involves and key advice to help you follow in their footsteps.

Feel engineer

John Nesky is part UX designer, part psychologist, but that’s not what it says on his business card. He’s a feel engineer at award-winning maker of Journey, Thatgamecompany. He describes what being TGC’s feel engineer involves and the many disciplines it encompasses.

What is your job role?
I design, implement, test, and refine systems that players interact with. On Journey, I designed the way that the player operates the avatar and the virtual camera, establishing an intimate connection with the character through direct feedback.

How would someone become a feel engineer?
Practice. University degrees in game design and human-computer interaction (HCI) are getting more advanced but there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Fortunately, tools for making games are widely available. Events such as the Global Game Jam are providing opportunities for people to get their feet wet, make friends and find supportive mentors.

What qualifications and/or experience do you need?
Software engineering, interaction design, classical mechanics, geometry, psychology, animation and a healthy imagination.

What do you look for when recruiting a new feel engineer?
Thatgamecompany looks for independent, well-rounded individuals who have demonstrated a passion for the craft of making games. In addition to proficiency in relevant technical disciplines, candidates should show cultural awareness. After all, games are cultural artefacts.

What opportunities are there for career progression?
The game industry is a large, competitive field and Thatgamecompany represents a tiny fraction. Larger studios have a deep hierarchy from QA up to creative director and CEO, and can serve as a way to get your foot in the door. Thatgamecompany has a relatively flat hierarchy but there are many other small studios with similar structures, especially with the rising mobile and independent PC game development community. After having worked at a small studio, most people will never want to go back to a large studio.

Why choose to follow a career in your field?
The act of creation is an intrinsically rewarding endeavour. An even better feeling is when you find yourself having fun playing a game you have made. Best of all is watching other people playing your game for the first time, full of wonder at the world that you have created and knowing that it is a source of inspiration to so many people.

If you’d like to get involved with Get That Job Daily, contact aaron.lee@intentmedia.co.uk. You can take a look at all the available design vacancies over at our Develop Jobs section.

This feature is part of New Year, New Job 2014, Develop’s month-long guide to games recruitment. You can read more at www.develop-online.net/jobs2014.