On the Realtime VFX forums, user Samulon asked in regards to VFX reels:
Is it better to “show off”, go over the top with the effect or should I show that I understand the gameplay restrictions, (…)?
I had strong opinions on this, and my answer followed as such:
Please please please show stuff in context. Gameplay is king. If you want to make VFX for games, why show VFX with no game? That’s not to say that breakdowns aren’t helpful, but I really want gameplay stuff (or environment or character or whatever kind of effects you specialize in) to take priority.
There’s lots of reels with anime-style effects with really exaggerated charge-ups, or cinematic style explosions with tons of camera shake that linger, or weapon trails that look like a total lightshow, and – don’t get me wrong, that stuff is dope and a lot of fun to make – but it tells me nothing about whether you’re able to make a good contribution to our team.
I get really impressed when I see someone tell a story with an effect that’s only half a second long. Show off by making something that’s punchy and appealing without sacrificing gameplay readability. Just because something is loud or “flashy” doesn’t mean that it’s good, it needs to serve its purpose and fit in its context. Your reel is the only place where you can prove that you fully understand this balancing act.