Gamer to Gamers: It’s An Evolving Field

Jesse Crafts-Finch ’01, owner of Gorilla Tactics, told students about careers in the video game field
Photo by Jeff Pilgrim

The focus of Kim Evelti’s class in video game programming and design is to not only teach students about programming, but to also encourage their creativity and enthusiasm for game play.

To that end, hearing from an alumnus who creates video games for a living was the perfect way for Williston Northampton students get a practical sense about what a career in the field is really like.

During his talk on January 14, Jesse Crafts-Finch ’01, owner of Gorilla Tactics, a video game design and development company, gave students tips on designing (“start small, then make it smaller!”), career paths (major in something that has marketability beyond just game design), and networking (send out 100 resumes, and the one call you’ll get is from the person who knew your college roommate).

Photo by Jeff Pilgrim

“I hope that students left with a refined sense of their interest in the gaming industry and how to prepare themselves to meet their goals,” Ms. Evelti explained in an email. “I also hope they have a better sense of how to take advantage of the network of alumni they’re connected to through Williston.”

Mr. Crafts-Finch told students how his early ambitions to make video games as a living had almost been thwarted by his poor performance at Amherst Regional High School.

“My parents decided to send me to Williston where I was a boarding student—I lived in Mem back when it was co-ed—and this helped turn me around,” he said. “It wasn’t cool to be a slacker here.”

At Boston University, Mr. Crafts-Finch took courses that taught him how to work with marketing, how to manage a product, and how to lead a group of employees. He launched the Amherst-based Gorilla Tactics in 2009.

“People always think that I just sit around all day playing video games,” he said. “It’s an evolving field so there is a lot of freedom, which is cool, but day in and day out I’m programming and not playing games.”

And the key to programming? Problem solving, explained Mr. Crafts-Finch.

“Creating names for product and programming functions is really hard because you have to make it universally understood to anyone trying to figure out your coding,” he said, adding, “This is not a field where you are going to get rich, unless you are very lucky, but you can make a solid career out of it.”

Editor’s note: Mr. Crafts-Finch will return to Williston as a featured presenter during Reunion Weekend on May 14, 2016.

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