What could be better for a gamer than to work in the industry that produces the stuff they love? The video game industry can be a source of wonderful creative expression, collaboration, and truly rewarding work. Now, not every gamer has the potential to make it in the video game industry, but having a genuine passion for video games is an absolute must. Being the best at a video game, or at video games in general, is not a sure sign that one is destined for a glamorous and successful career in the video game industry. Obviously, some people just want to play, not work. Getting into the video game industry can be somewhat difficult (with the exception of incredible luck) , but fairly so (a lot of people want to work there), and staying there can be even harder. This article is a no non-sense, well-researched, comprehensive overview about what it takes to have a rewarding career in the video game industry. There are many aspects involved in this subject, but there are a few that prove to be essential to success.
Education and Experience
Yes, both. This is just the right combination to maximize one’s chances of success. There are a lot of things to take into consideration here, but with a little research and mindfulness, a good plan can be set into action. First, when considering a school that will teach a certain aspect of the video game industry, such as art, development, marketing, production, etc., it’s important to do some research to figure out the statistics and prestige of the academic institution, specifically in regards to the video game industry. All options should be explored to reach a valid conclusion. If that’s done, then one very important part of the plan settled. But, schooling is only half the trip. Experience in video game production is going to be another important piece of the puzzle.
So how can one get experience without actually working in the video game industry? The possibilities are out there for the taking. If the passion is exists, the answer to that question is probably already clear. The most obvious answer is probably internships. Yes, these are offered all the time. The primary characteristics they will look for in their candidates will be passion and education. If these two are in place, the chances of getting to work in the video game industry without getting paid are pretty likely. Yes, they want free labor, but that’s good! There were times when video game, film, and magazine industries would hire interns to make coffee and file papers. That doesn’t happen much anymore, and most definitely not at successful, well respected, professional companies. Nowadays, internship programs are much more sophisticated and are aimed at getting candidates ready for a career in the industry. But, if an internship isn’t possible, there are plenty of other things to do. Now, one thing that a video game designer needs is a portfolio. An empty portfolio isn’t very appealing when thousands of applications are flooding into Activision Blizzard, or any company of interest. Being able to showcase talent and skill is imperative. So, the alternative to taking the official internship route is simply to do a lot of development on one’s own time. Whatever the person is passionate about, they can create and develop anything from mods to mini games to art concepts in order to build up a portfolio worth showcasing. That is, assuming that person is also attending school and learning the essentials to be able to do so. School is not absolutely necessary, but it’s very rare to get a job in the video game industry without the appropriate education, mainly because of how technically advanced video games have become. At this stage of technology, it’s just too much work to get a person with no demonstrable abilities and teach them everything from scratch. So, although there are informal ways to gain experience and knowledge, such as being self-taught and dedicating a lot of personal time to honing the craft, the chances of success become that much lower. Not just because of a lack of demonstrable expertise, but also because one very important aspect will be missing from that fragmented part of the puzzle.
It’s been heard so often in entertainment industries that “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know”. This simply isn’t true. In this day and age, it’s about both! This was indicated in the previous paragraph, which explained the importance of education and experience. But, to get a job in the video game industry, relationships need to be fostered, people need to connect, and candidates need to put themselves out there and make themselves known. There’s a secret that’s important to know about networking. It’s not really important how many people any given candidate has in their “network”. Just like how many friends they have on Facebook is not accurate reflection of how many friends they actually do have. There’s a great lesson to be learned in this article. It is truly not about how many people that candidate knows, but rather how many people know that candidate. That is why it’s important to make one’s self known to others. Networking can be done abundantly in schools, internships, and even voluntary work. It’s as simple as introducing each other, having conversations, handing out business cards, or just having friends who might provide assistance, support, or opportunities in the future. Self-taught, self-publishing video game developers or artists who don’t get themselves out there will unfortunately be sorely missing this major difference maker in any career. Sifting through thousands of applications is simply going to be less appealing to employers than remembering someone that they think is right for the job, or receiving a recommendation from someone else who’s respected in the company. What an amazing difference these little things can make in any career, but especially in careers that deal with entertainment. That’s the case only because those are the most sought after and competitive jobs to try and get into. There is one more factor that seems to have never gone away in the entertainment industry that is beyond one’s control in many ways.
What is luck? It means that something, whether positive or negative, has occurred more by chance rather than through one’s own actions. A lot of times in the video game industry it really is just about being in the right place at the right time. It’s worth noting though, that larger one’s network is, and the more one immerses themselves into the video game industry, the more likely these “lucky” occurrences are to happen! This really shouldn’t be discouraging. Luck is just the final piece to the puzzle. The chances of getting a legitimate job in the video game industry purely through luck, and with little or none of the aforementioned pieces are absurdly low. Video games are constantly transforming and evolving on an incredibly progressive scale, and that requires substantial employees who can truly make a difference in the industry. With the right amount of passion and mindfulness, making it in any career is anything but impossible. Steve Jobs should be able to provide some genuine inspiration with this great quote from his June 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech:
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”