Developer’s Advice: Jesse Schell

Jesse Schell is the CEO of Schell Games and Professor of the Practice of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon University. He was also a past Walt Disney Imagineer and the author of The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. Here’s Jesse’s advice in response to my 7 questions for students.


1. Briefly describe your current position (for context).

I am the CEO of Schell Games, and a professor at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

2. Name one person (feel free to name more if you prefer) who had a strong positive influence on your career, and explain their most important action/advice/reason you consider them so influential.

When I was a teenager I worked in a show troupe at a theme park, and the head of the troupe, who was a magician and comedian, taught me a huge amount about what works and doesn’t work in entertainment.

3. Is there a particular piece of career advice you got (or imagine you could have heard) early in your career you wish you’d have acted on?

Finishing projects is more important than starting them — I wish I had reined in more of my early projects so I could have finished them.

4. What are the qualities you would suggest are important for a student to have, who wishes to enter your profession, specifically?

Initiative. Starting and finishing your own projects is the most important thing in the game industry.

5. What is a common mistake you notice students / recent graduates tend to make when looking for a job?

The biggest mistake is saying “I’ll work anywhere, as long as it’s games,” and then sending out hundreds of resumes. The right path is to figure out where you would most like to work, and focusing all your energy on that. You might not end up there, but the act of getting focused will help you end up in the right place.

6. What inspires you in your position? Are there any influences that you bring to your work?

I’m inspired by all kinds of things. Possibly my biggest influence is the work of Elbert Hubbard — a nineteenth century writer and craftsman.

7. Are there any other advice you would offer to students entering the games industry?

Be original — make games that no one but you could make.


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