Like many kids born in the 80’s I grew up playing games like Street Fighter ll on my Sega Genesis until my fingers were raw. The funny thing is, twenty years and a ton of college debt later, I still found that playing Street Fighter (albeit SF lV) in my living room was the thing I looked forward to most at the end of the day. So at the ripe old age of 27 I decided to quit my job and figure out the best way to try to make a living in the industry that I had loved since I was a boy.
My decision was made and I was proud of it, now my only problem was the fact that most of my experience to date was in non-profit or sales work…. and I didn’t know how to code…. had practically zero artistic ability and I didn’t know anyone in the video game industry. So I decided to do what anyone who wanted to land their dream job with no experience and a high tolerance for debt would do, I went to grad school.
I have to say whether you are in high school, college, or grad school being a student opens a ton of doors. Most people are open to having coffee with an eager student partially because most people in the workforce can remember being there and partially because interns can provide the best cheap labor out there. My advice to you, whether in school or not, is to put yourself out there and try to meet people face to face. Some great video game outlets to check out would be PAX, IGDA, or even Comic Con.
Another great resource, if you have a little experience, can come from local gamer guilds (like Toymakers Guild if you live in Colorado). These guilds were made to connect people within the industry. It’s good to note that if someone sees and talks to you it makes you easier to remember. My summer internship and my job both came from talking to awesome people at Denver Comic Con. This should go without saying but you should remember to always be polite, shower, and try not to look too shabby (new gaming T-Shirt totally OK). Remember these are your people! Most of them work in the industry because they love games just as much as you do and will very likely understand your funny video game references.
That’s my bloated story / 2 cents about how I managed to worm my way into the video game industry as a 28 year old with no experience. Here are the responses I got when asking the rest of the Bolder Games team what it takes to make it in the biz. Be warned some content my not be suited for children…or the un-humorous.
“You need to sell your soul”
“Sacrifice the cutest puppy you can find. Either way you lose your soul”
“Easy. Go to school for something completely different. Realize you hate that career after a couple years. Learn how to do what you knew you wanted to do when you were 10 years old”
“Give up on dream of being Indiana Jones”
Now for some of the more serious advice:
“I suspect the best way to become a game developer is to know someone who is interested in developing games (and have a technical background in C# or Maya or something.)”
“Find a game studio that isn’t making anything. Work there for a while and learn the trade, then use your credentials to get into a larger company, and if you’re lucky you can make your way into a AAA studio.”
“Focus on a studio you wanna work at, imitate the style they are known for. Find employees inside the studio that will look at your work and give you tips on how to get in. Continue to update them with your progress.”
Hope this was helpful!