Thomas F. from CA e-mailed and asked about how to get in to the games industry.
“I’m about to complete my degree at school and I really want to get in to the video games industry but I don’t see how with all the other people trying to get in too and getting noticed takes a lot of work. I found this list online which gives all the different ways of getting a job. Do you think its even worth trying?
- You get a job because of who you know
- Work your way up from Quality Assurance or help desk
- Create something worthwhile
- A job straight out of DigiPen or Full Sail
- Start your own company
- Attend the job fair at a conference or expo
What do you think? Should I even bother? I really want to make games but nobody will give me a job in the industry to let me.”
And my response:
Somebody won’t give you a job to allow you create video games?
All I read was someone asking for permission to "be allowed in" and lamenting the fact that when real work is required to prove themselves that this "work" is too hard to do.
You do not need anybody’s permission to "be in" the games industry. You are either "in" the games industry because you create video games or are in some way connected with the creation of video games or you are not. It is that simple.
You do not need permission to "be in" any industry, if you are attempting to "break in" by getting a job at one of the larger companies with no practical experience at your particular job then you will start on the lowest rung possible just like any other industry whether you are writing code for the latest and greatest MMORPG or laying down bricks to build a house. If you cannot prove yourself and you haven’t taken the time to prove yourself then that is the harsh reality.
I have always said "Show me a complete game and I will hire you on the spot."
I have hired people with no college degree straight in to a job because they came to me with a completed game. No, the games shown to me were not great, but they were complete. The game proved to me that the person who created the game had the determination to see the job through to the bitter end, and a lot of game development projects do have a very bitter end when you are up all of your waking hours fixing the last few bugs and re-cooking all of the art assets one final time to get everything tweaked just so…
What does it even mean to “be in the industry” anyway? Because you have a title published and on the store shelves? I know artists and programmers that have worked at various very real, very bricks and mortar game companies for five years and not had a title published due to misfortune and bad luck. Does that make them not in the industry? Does “being in the games industry” mean you must work at a legitimate company with a payroll system and managers? So someone needs to tell the chap who makes Pretty Good Solitaire or the person who made Snood or the person who made Dweep or Ethan Nicholas who wrote a tank game in six weeks and sold it on the Apple AppStore for the iPhone that they aren’t in the games industry because they all create games in their spare bedroom/den/basement/living room and work as a one man team.
Whether you are sat up late at night fixing bugs on the latest World War II game franchise with 400 other people in an office complex in Santa Monica or sat alone in your spare bedroom with nothing but a laptop and a can of soda to keep you company in Wyoming it is the same thing. You are "in" the games industry if you can create and deliver. With the ability to create and the ability to deliver, you are in whatever industry you choose to be in. I have the ability to create great cappuccinos and macchiatos but I cannot deliver them so I am not in the "café and restaurant industry." I am most certainly in the “journalism industry” because I write and get published, both on my own websites and in magazines yet I don’t consider myself to “be in” that industry. I am in the games industry because I create games and get them published, both on my own websites and through regular retail channels. I didn’t ask for permission to do these things, I just did. When you create value, and then deliver it, you will get noticed. You won’t be asking for permission to be in anywhere, you’ll be waving your hand dismissively at people telling them to leave you alone.
With the ability to self-publish easier today that it ever was before, with the ability to "create something cool" even easier than that, creating your own games, and getting them published has got to be the easiest (am I making this clear, it’s easy!) thing you could do.
If you create a website and create games for that website, you create value and you deliver it. After two years of consistently creating and delivering I guarantee I would not be able to hire you for my company, I’d be standing in line asking for permission to speak to you whilst you wave your hand dismissively at the executives from other companies.
The people who are worth hiring, who get things done, even when they aren’t working "in the industry", will never be begging for jobs; for everybody else, you’re in the lottery. Either become someone worth hiring or wait your turn for your numbers to come up.
It’s a harsh reality I know, but to be anything more than someone I or any other executive can pick and choose from means you have to stand out and you have to make it worth my time to pay attention to you. If you create and deliver enough value you won’t want to be hired, you’ll consider my company “the competition.”