Developer’s Advice: Noah Falstein

Noah Falstein is the Chief Game Designer at Google. Previously, Noah has worked at number of studios including DreamWorks (Chaos Island) and LucasArts (Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Here’s Noah’s advice in response to my 7 questions for students.


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

My title is Chief Game Designer, but the majority of my work is as a Developer Advocate, helping inspire developers to use Google software/hardware, and explain how to do so.  I also do game design for internal game projects, which are actually pretty diverse and plentiful despite most people not thinking of Google as a game-making company…Much more available on my wikipedia and mobygames pages, as well as

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.

Going to work for Lucasfilm Games before they released their first title was probably the best single career move I have ever made – but how would that help someone today?  Also that was in large part an example of luck in action.

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?

I think in general I wish I’d put in more of an effort staying current on coding, I haven’t really done any in a long time and I think that’s meant I’ve missed some good opportunities.

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

3 important ones: Love of figuring out what makes games tick.  Interest in psychology.  Passionate curiosity about a lot of things.

Or to answer in another way, if you want to make games, the ONLY guarantee you’ll find a good-paying job quickly is if you are (or can first become) a good coder.  It’s not the only way to succeed and certainly not easy for most people, but it’s the only job category always in demand in this industry, and you can move from there into other areas.  Granted, that may not be your thing – but that’s the way the world works.

Or another way:  Persistence, Talent, Luck.  I’ve seen many more persistent people with modest talent succeed than I have talented people with modest persistence.  And luck is luck, you just have to keep at it (persistence!) and sometimes you’ll have good luck, sometimes not.

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

Assuming everyone has the same taste in games they do.  Also wanting to make a clone of their favorite (often AAA) game and not being willing to settle for anything else.

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

Life in general.  Other influences?  Of course.  There are dozens of important influences I bring to my work.  Skills.  Inspirational people.  Experience of all sorts, specific and general.

7. Are there any other advice you would offer to students entering the games industry? is a gold mine.  I don’t agree with everything but probably about 90%.


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