So You Want to Get Into the Game Industry
But You’re Afraid You Don’t Have the Right Skills
People often tell me they want to get into the game industry, but they don’t have any experience, so they’re afraid to apply. I always reply with a version of the following:
“We all have experience. Don’t think you have none.” You have relevant experience – it’s all about how you frame and present it to your potential employer. This is how I recommend making your case if you want to get into the game industry:
Start with What You Have Done. Many of the skills your current job requires are relevant in the game industry. Do you code? Build software? Are you in the entertainment industry? Are you a project manager? All of these things are relevant. For instance, somebody in quality assurance makes a great game tester! Even if there’s a looser connection, it’s likely your skills are transferable. (Psst… the game industry needs HR reps and accountants too.)
If you want to change roles entirely, that’s workable too. Dig into the skills needed for the jobs you’ve already had, and cross-reference them against the job description you’re interested in to find what overlaps. These additional skills are a blessing, not a curse! I started my career in the game industry as a designer, but I quickly became a team lead because of my past experience. I had been a manager at both Hot Topic and Barnes & Noble, so when it came time for promotions I had a huge edge over my colleagues, even though they were just as talented, if not more.
Apply Other Relevant Skills. If your resume is sparse or you’re having trouble finding the overlap, don’t panic- branch out. Look at your skills beyond the job level. For Instance:
Hobbies. Do you lead a youth ministry or a scout troop? Guess what, you have experience leading a cross-functional team! Do you have a million followers on social media that you didn’t pay for? You’re probably a perfect fit for the marketing and retention team.
Trendspotting. Do you work in a comic book store? Or perhaps a retail shop? If so, you’re probably good at keeping up with culture, current trends, and customer service. There are plenty of roles you’d be a great fit for.
Gaming. Most people want to get into the gaming industry because, duh, they love video games. Why not bring them up? What level is your Summoner in League of Legends? Do you lead a raiding guild in World of Warcraft? These things require dedication, cooperation, critical thinking, and most importantly, a passion for games. Plus, you’ll get bonus points if you reference a game the company you’re applying to actually makes.
Last, But Not Least: Set Your Expectations. Like with any career move that’s not vertical, getting where you want may take some time. If you’re looking for a fresh start in a new industry, don’t expect an instant money grab. Time and experience don’t always transfer 1-for-1 and you may have to take a step down before you step up. I think of it as going back to a previous checkpoint vs. going all the way back to the beginning of the game. Also, keep in mind, if you’re looking to change careers completely and want more hands-on training, you’re likely to get more varied experience working at a start-up. It’s much harder to move around at a Ubisoft or an EA Games, although you can still learn a lot and ask questions at a bigger company.
Overall, if you’re interested in joining the game industry, you absolutely can. Just Press Start and take it a level at a time.
Let me know your story. Are you trying to get into the game industry? Are you already in the industry and got here by unconventional means? Share in the comments!