Well, it has been quite a while since I posted to my blog, and of course, a lot has happened. I have moved on to "greener pastures" after begin laid off, yet I am still going strong. Stay tuned here for my current venture. Until then, let's continue my topic on how to break into the game industry.
In my last blog ("Let's Make a Deal"), I talked about the three most common ways to get an entry level job in the game industry: programmer, artist, and game tester. While these three "doors" are the most common entry points, there are certainly other possibilities!
There are so many types of jobs in the game industry that I couldn't possibly cover all of the options. However, after reading this post one thing should be apparent: There are many roads that lead to the doors of the game industry. If you want to be a part of this great field, then there is a place for you regardless of your age, background, or choice of education.
The following positions are part of the standard production team for most studios. They were not included in the previous post because they are typically less likely to be available as entry level positions.
- Producer/Associate Producer
Producers are the project managers of game development. They are responsible for leading the production team, insuring that the project is on time and on budget, and interfacing with management and the publisher. Associate producers typically assist the producer. Whereas the producer may have responsibility over several projects, the associate producer may only assist with a single project. Of course, each studio is different.
- Game Designer
It seems like everyone wants to be a game designer. Everyone has this great idea for a game and thinks that qualifies them to be a game designer.
"If Studio X only realized how great this game idea is they'd hire me!"
Of course, it takes more than just a great game idea to be a game designer. Among other things, you must have excellent communication and writing skills. You should have a broad background in humanities such as philosophy, history, and psychology. Finally, you should be designing games, even if they are paper based!
As one reader of my last post pointed out, it is possible to get an entry level job as a game designer. In fact, the last studio I worked at had done so. Just realize that it takes more than a great game idea.
The positions below are often support positions in the IT (Information Technology) department, but can also be directly involved in the game depending on the type of game.
- PC Support
Do you have a knack for working with PC and Macs? Can you configure and troubleshoot? Load software? Install hardware? Most studios need people with these skills to keep a multitude of workstations working, configured, and upgraded.
- Network Engineer
Most studios have a relatively complex internal network and they need someone with the skills to build it, configure it, tear it down, set it up, and keep it running. This includes knowledge of servers to support version control, SharePoint, Wikis, web servers, and other such tools.
- Database Manager
Many companies use databases for internal purposes. Furthermore, many games such as web-based and social network games are built on modern databases. Studios often need skilled database managers to design, maintain, and tweak their databases or get essential information out of them.
- Web Developer
The web is used in many ways in the game industry. Many games have a community website that allows fans of the games to get involved, post feedback, or ask questions. Many studios also use the web to market or distribute their games. Finally, many games are based on the web. For all of the reasons, most medium to large size studios need experienced web developers to accomplish all of this.
- Community Manager
Many game studios have large community websites with blogs and forums that must be maintained. This community manager is responsible for keeping the fans happy and informed.
The positions below are not directly related to creating games, but are essential nevertheless. These positions could certainly provide careers in their own right, and could also lead to positions that are more directly involved in making the games.
Marketing is responsible for getting the word out about the newest games. If you have a degree in marketing and want to apply it to a creative field, then the game industry might be the perfect fit.
Sales is sometimes handled by marketing, but is also often its own department. People who are successful in sales are successful with other people. Sales personnel are responsible for finding buyers and distributors for games. This might include getting your game out to online distribution points such as Big Fish and Steam as well as brick-and-mortar stores such as Wal-Mart and GameStop.
- Graphics Design
Someone has to design those flashy boxes that game come in as well as a multitude of other marketing materials including flyers, posters, t-shirts and more. If your penchant is more along the line of business graphics design rather than game art, this might be the place for you.
- Customer/Technical Support
Some game studios maintain a technical support department so that customers can call in and obtain help from a human being in areas such as game installation, game bugs and crashes, and other technical support issues.
So there it is! Again, this is not a comprehensive list, but it does demonstrate that there are ample opportunities for people who didn't necessarily get a game-specific degree (except perhaps the game designers). Basically, any position that you would find at a medium to large company probably exists at a game studio--human resources, accountants, receptionists--the list goes on. These opportunities also offer entry points to people in other professions who would like to cross-over into the game industry.
Next time we'll talk about one more possibility: Starting your own game studio.