First of all, good luck, because the competition is fierce! I’ve written about this topic before and I’m hoping I haven’t come across as overly negative, because I don’t regret giving up law for games and for me, it was absolutely the right decision. But counter-intuitive as this might seem, I don’t think everyone would enjoy turning their hobby into a job. This is pretty general to anyone, but I feel like the games industry in particular is one that many people have placed on a pedestal as their life dream and something they’ll strive to achieve for many years, but without really understanding many of the practicalities of actually well… doing the job. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. If you’ve researched the role you want, had a bit of work experience and are sure that it’s really what you want to do, then good for you and good luck! So again, I’m absolutely not trying to discourage anyone, merely give you some food for thought as someone who’s been there and done that.
First of all it’s still a job. This might seem pretty obvious, but the number of times I’ve heard people wanting to ‘break into the industry’ without having any clear idea about what they actually want to do or any real insight into what the day-to-day responsibilities looks like is staggering. It’s going to be boring sometimes and hard and really stressful. This is true no matter what position you occupy. People sometimes seem to have this image of breezing around the world, lounging around swanky bars, puffing cigars and signing multi-million pound deals every day, but that’s really not how it is. Doing what I do and especially in indie is exhausting and sometimes disheartening, but at the same time very rewarding and when things go well, you feel on top of the world. But there will be very dark days and very good days. You have to be really tough and able to never take anything personally. Of course, there are many jobs out there that are much tougher, physically and mentally and I’m absolutely not complaining, believe me. But I do feel that I should warn people wanting to join a business development role in the industry that you better be able to withstand pressure and have many people depending on you.
In other roles, like programmers, artists and so on, it can also get pretty tough. Crunch time is real. There will be some late nights and weekend work– how much depends on what company you’re at. And if you want to work for the big boys, there’s no scraping by. You better be a damn good programmer, artist, animator or whatever as there are thousands of people clamouring for your position and who would do anything to get there. It’s important to do what you do well, because in a creative industry, people will notice if the work you do is crap or you’re lazy. The games industry is very competitive and as you’ve probably noticed from the press, businesses re-structure themselves all the time. It’s just the nature of things. And you won’t want to get left behind, even though in some ways it’s pretty inevitable unless you’re pretty lucky or really good. Projects begin and end, teams grow and shrink and situations are constantly changing.
If it’s games journalism you want to get into, well… the competition there is even fiercer in some ways. You usually don’t need particular qualifications for jobs like this, but teams are usually pretty small and considering how many magazines/websites have been laying people off recently, it’s pretty evident that it’s a volatile time for that area of the industry. Standing out is difficult. There are lots of good writers and plenty of passionate gamers who know their stuff. I think the important thing to put across (from my minimal experience of internships at GameSpot, PC Gamer and so on) is what makes YOU special. Whatever it is that you’re good at, whether it’s presenting, writing or video editing, work at it, develop your skills and make yourself an invaluable member to have on the team. Work on a blog or Youtube channel in your free time, do work for no pay and show your potential employer that you’re not just in this for the glory or because you think it would be fun to play games all day, but that you’re in this for the long haul. Anyone can write a blog post or make a video, so put time into truly honing your craft and make sure the work you do is GOOD.
As I’ve said it’s hard work. And the pay may not always be great, depending on where you work. And you’d be surprise how quickly working on something day in and day out can make you desensitized to it. I still game at home every single day and I think my insight into the development process has only increased my love for them, but I know people in the industry who don’t. If you’re staring at a computer screen, doing the same thing over and over, do you really want to do it when you get home? And you’re not always going to be super enthusiastic about everything you’re doing. It’s the same with any job and games are no different.
If none of that has put you off then great! I welcome you with open arms! With some talent, lots of hard work and a little bit of luck, you can get the role you want. Just make sure you understand what it means to be a games industry professional. It’s not all just fun and games. But it’s also one of the most wonderful and creative sectors, full of awesome people and exciting changes happening almost constantly. Good luck fellow gamers!