With Metacore’s next batch of Press Play trainees starting their journeys in the gaming industry soon, we caught up with the program’s previous mentors Jarno Tiainen, Tommi Virolainen and Johanna Jouppila to see what future trainees can expect from the next few months. Surprisingly, the conversation also turned to what the new mentors can expect to learn from their mentees.
Art Lead Jarno Tiainen has been an advocate for trainee programs for years as he sees them as a win-win-win – for the company, the trainee and the entire industry. After working in his own graphic design company for nearly a decade, he made the jump to games by first learning 3D art tools independently and then talking his way into an internship in a small game studio.
“I nearly forced my way into that studio, then stayed on after they realized that there were more upsides than downsides to having me around,” Jarno jokes. “That internship gave me a start in the gaming industry and since then I’ve been a strong spokesperson for trainee programs. They give valuable work experience to the participants while also offering the companies a chance to discover raw, untapped talent.”
UI and UX Designer Johanna Jouppila also made her way into the industry through an internship at a game studio.
“I had always been an avid gamer and during the time of my graduation ten years ago, people were talking about the rise of the mobile game industry, so I figured I could give games a go professionally, too. After contacting a lot of game studios to see if they’d have a place for me, I finally heard back from Rovio who took me on as a trainee. But it was only later that they launched a more structured trainee program,” Johanna mentions.
As both Jarno and Johanna give a lot of credit to the internship experiences they had at the beginning of their gaming careers, it’s not surprising how excited they were when the Press Play program was first announced. For Game Programmer Tommi Virolainen, being a mentor in the program gave him a unique opportunity to also get to know Metacore better.
“I had just begun working at Metacore when the Press Play program started and I was asked if I’d be interested in joining as a mentor. As I had founded a couple of gaming companies myself, I’d previously done some mentoring to friends and acquaintances, but never as part of a structured program. So, I was interested in seeing how different that would be,” Tommi says.
Ask a lot of questions during the Press Play program – or any internship. In addition to the mentors, you have the entire company who can answer your questions. Take advantage of that.
The mentor supports while stepping back
The Press Play program began with a six-week prototype game project that the trainees worked on together. During the weeks, Jarno mentored the Game Artists and Tommi the Game Programmers, and after the six weeks, Tommi continued to mentor the trainees that joined his game team. However, both highlight that their role was only to support during the early stages and whenever the trainees had questions. The bulk of the work was done by the group independently.
“It was our job to give them freedom and see how they solved problems and worked together. It was great to see how much the team supported and helped each other whenever there was an issue. If we mentors had been in the mix constantly, I don’t think that would’ve happened as quickly,” Jarno reflects.
Tommi agrees that teamwork skills are fundamental in the gaming industry. He also highlights that the earlier you can pick them up, the better.
“The biggest thing to get out of the Press Play experience is working in teams and learning from some of the best gaming professionals in the industry who are currently working with games played by tens of millions. The trainees we had really took advantage of this – they were so motivated to learn and kept asking questions whenever there was something they didn’t know,” Tommi says. “One of the most memorable moments of the program was when the trainees had finished their game prototype and demoed it to the rest of the company. We were taken aback by how good it was, and everyone at Metacore was so excited to play it.”
“Teamwork is one of the most important parts of working in the gaming industry and at Metacore because building and running a successful game demands collaboration on multiple domains. So it’s vital that this is a big part of the Press Play program. While you get experience of working in the gaming industry, it’s also a chance to see if this way of working is what you want to do,” Johanna adds.
In the beginning of my career, I was told to be brave but humble – and that’s stuck with me. It means be brave enough to share your ideas, test a new way of doing things and speak out when you don’t know something. But also be humble enough to remember that you can learn from anyone.
Learning from your mentees
Jarno, Tommi and Johanna have all had mentors who’ve had a big impact on their careers. Mentors have guided them through starting their own businesses, learning the ins and outs of the gaming industry and just giving general advice on career moves.
“When I was contacted about mentoring a Game Artist interested in UI, I was so happy that I had enough room in my work schedule to be able to commit to it and the trainee joined my game team. The mentor I had when I first started working in the gaming industry really taught me everything I needed to know about game art and encouraged me to move towards UI. I hope I’ve managed to do the same for my mentee,” Johanna mentions.
As a mentor, Johanna felt like her most important task was to encourage her mentee to share their ideas and thoughts with everyone. She also highlights that a mentoring relationship goes both ways – you also learn from your mentee.
“During Press Play, I was in a situation where I was constantly asked questions about my work and why I did things the certain way. That hasn’t happened to me in a long time. It forced me to reflect on whether I did certain things because it was the best way to do them, or simply out of habit,” Tommi shares.
If there’s one thing Tommi would encourage future trainees to do, it’s to ask lots of questions. Jarno couldn’t agree more with this:
“I used to work as a substitute teacher and noticed that you never really learn things until you teach them to someone else. This became very apparent during the program’s first six weeks as people from different domains in Metacore held lectures on their specific fields to the trainees. They were really nervous about explaining their work and answering questions about it because you never look at it from that perspective. It ended up being really educational for all of us,” Jarno says.
Remember, you’re not competing against anyone – you’ve already won the competition by getting your foot in the door. Take advantage of your time as a trainee and demand as much as possible from your mentors and co-workers.
*Press Play is a paid trainee program for aspiring hit-game makers. The next batch of trainees begin their journey at Metacore soon. Keep following our blog to find out more about their program.
Missed the earlier parts of the Press Play blog series?