A game engine programmer walks into a bar, asks for a beer or two and starts chatting, especially with that green eyed hot girl. After some small talk she asks him what he’s doing for a living. “Oh I work in a video game company you know…” “Oh really, that sounds cool! And what do you do there?” And there it comes. He can try changing the topic, being mysterious, accidentally spilling his glass, or he can try to answer that question without sounding soporific.
About a year ago a colleague asked me how you would explain to someone who is not in the video game industry – not in software, not even in anything related to technology for that matter, to a normal person you know – what your job consists in when you work on a game engine. “Well it’s… blah blah…” Nah, too long, it’s already boring. The explanation should be brief, easy to get and possibly sort of cool. After a couple of tries we agreed on a description we thought worked.
Working on a game engine is like building a stadium.
Once you have a stadium, you can have all sorts of games played inside: football, basketball, athletics… All you need are rules and some equipment, and then the players can get in. Just like in a game, once you have the engine, all you need are the logic and the assets. You could even have a gig. But you might not be able to have ice hockey or swimming competitions if your stadium is not meant for it. Just like a game engine allows certain kinds of games and not others.
I found this metaphor to come in handy when, you know, talking to normal people about what you do. Now for the rest of the conversation with the hot girl (or hot guy, no sexism here), that’s up to you. ;-)
Or…you could say
“I enable people to realize their artistic ambition” – a little grandiose maybe…
“Like a car has many many parts, Im someone who provides the glue to stick it all together, and add some magic spice”
I’ve never had to give an explanation.