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Ask the Experts: Business Jobs in the Game Industry

Are business jobs in the games industry more scarce for recent college graduates? The latest ‘Ask the Experts’ advice column on sister site GameCareerGuide.com looks at tips for finding entry-level openings in
In the latest ‘Ask the Experts’ advice column on GameCareerGuide.com, Jill Duffy has two tips for finding entry-level positions on the business side of the video game industry. Gamasutra is also running this breaking-in column. For more information about getting into the game industry, see GameCareerGuide.com’s Getting Started section. Dear Experts, I want to work in the video game industry, but on the business side -- not in development. I’m a recent college graduate and though my degree is in the social sciences, I have extensive sales experience and am looking to take my career in this direction, or in pretty much any well-paying direction in video game business. Also, I am a freelance writer (so I posses those strong written communication skills everyone seems to want) and have attended a few E3s in the course of my writing career. Finally, my minor is in Japanese and, though far from fluent, I can speak somewhat conversationally and am continuing to develop this skill. It doesn’t seem that it should be that hard for me to find an entry-level business position in the game industry, but there don’t seem to be many openings, and getting noticed by a mammoth like Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft is proving to be particularly challenging. Advice? NM Dear NM, “Business” is a broad term. It covers a lot of territory, even in the game industry, so there are a lot of routes you might pursue. I think the first step for you is to seriously think about what kind of work you are and are not willing to do, and then narrow your field of interest based on your answers. Is sales your only shtick? Are you willing to schmooze with journalists as a public relations professional, even if you know the game you’re promoting is crap? Do you want to broker deals with massive retail outlets to get a game on their shelves, relying on commission and bonuses rather than a reliable monthly salary? If you’ve never been exposed to these kinds of jobs, you might not know what exactly differentiates them. Sometimes the lines between them are blurry, too. One strategy I use to learn about different jobs is to read job ads. Looking at Gamasutra.com's job listings, I found quite a few business-focused openings. As I began to read through them, though, I noticed that many of the employers were looking for more experienced business professionals, people who could forecast sales and advise boards of executive directors. A “senior analyst” job called for three to five years’ experience. A “developer relations” manager wanted someone who could work “at the executive level.” These are not the kinds of words a recent college grad wants to read. And Then There Was Marketing However, one department was a whole lot more welcoming of entry-level candidates: marketing. If you’re not averse to marketing, it may be a good place for you to begin your search, NM. The job ads were plentiful, and the openings were all around the world. Additionally, your communication skills and social sciences background would be put to good use in marketing. Remember you can always have aspirations to move into another department later, after you spend a few months learning the job and getting accustomed to how the company and its industry functions. In other words, taking a marketing position doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck in marketing forever. Business jobs are much more abundant at game publishing companies than game development studios. Studios might have only a handful of non-developer jobs, like an administrative assistant and an HR person or two, but publishers will have many more across a broader range of fields. And I know you mentioned Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo in your letter -- but those aren’t the only publishers in the industry by far! NM, I think that if you 1) consider marketing and 2) scan for job ads from publishers rather than developers, you’ll maximize your search results and find a good number of jobs that you’d be qualified to apply for. Credential Pumping I’m glad to hear you went to E3, but be careful how you wear that badge. Attending E3 is a valuable and resume-ready bullet point if: a) you actually conducted real business there (you mentioned you attended as a freelance writer -- did you write for a legitimate and respected outlet?), b) you were an intern or employee of a company that was there, or c) you attended in 2007, after the event shrank to become the by-invitation-only E3 Business & Media Summit. If, on the other hand, you went to E3 primarily as a video game fan -- and we in the industry know that a lot of people claimed to have some pretty bogus journalist credentials just to get in (from my perspective, it’s what caused the event to lose traction with publishers) -- you probably don’t want to play it up on your job applications. But if you did real work there, highlight the work first and the fact that it took place at E3 second. Your work should speak for itself. Good luck! [Jill Duffy is editor of GameCareerGuide.com and writes the “Ask the Experts” biweekly advice column. If you have a question about working in the video game industry that you’d like to see answered in the next column, send it to [email protected] Please note: GameCareerGuide.com does not endorse nor give advice regarding specific educational institutions or programs.]

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