*These views are mainly relevant to mid- to senior-level positions only.
Apparently my interviews are some of the most grueling experiences at Riot, so I was asked to voice some thoughts here. Every company, every school, every lab or club has an all-star or two. I think everyone has met someone like this before, where we reflect and say, "I don't care what I'm doing or where I have to go--I want to work with that person and learn from that person." Riot has teams of all-stars. So what does that mean?
It means it's not about just having great ideas. When you are working with industry experts in every discipline, everyone has amazing ideas. The next big idea for a game feature could come from QA, Game Design, or even Marketing and with so many smart people focused on the same goals, I hear a lot of great ideas. In a vast majority of interviews, I'll listen to dozens and dozens of great ideas.
"I would do this for League."
"I want to build this for Riot."
"I have a great idea for this new feature."
But guess what? In 99.9% of cases, I've heard the idea 200+ times already. However, if an applicant takes a great idea and shows me how they actually executed the idea and got tangible results--that's impressive. Students often ask me, "Well, how do I get a position in PBJ? No game developers are really hiring psychologists or neuroscientists so I can't get experience." Why do you have to be at a game studio to execute on a great idea? We're now in a day and age where you can create mods, build models, or run analyses that are all valuable to game developers--why not just do it and prove that you can execute on your great ideas?
Secondly, teams like player behavior don't need to hire anyone. We're looking for the best and we are willing to wait. I often ask applicants, "What do you bring to Riot that we currently don't have?" The reason I ask this question is because I want to know exactly what is the opportunity cost of not having this person at Riot. Am I worried if this person joins a competing game developer? Is there something we simply cannot create or build without this person?
You'll notice that at this point I haven't mentioned degrees or experience. Sure, degrees and experience are correlated with intelligence and knowledge, but we all know it's not everything. Without those things, you need to have created enough awesome and show enough tangible value in your projects to the point where an interview later, I'm thinking: "We cannot afford to lose this person--they have to be a Rioter."