Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How your average geek gets into the game industry- Part 1

Hey folks,

Having been in the video game industry for about 4 years now and being just your average Joe, many people always ask me how I got into the industry and how they could as well. Due to this, I wanted to get start a mini-series of posts about how your average geek can break into the game industry and what is needed of them. This way, people have a general idea of how to get into the industry and will leave me alone!

I kid of course, but I hope these few posts will give people a general idea of how to get into the industry and answer a few questions at least. With this initial post, I am going to be talking about skills. Basically what skills are needed and what skills may help when trying to get into the game industry.

First off, let me start with a few answers to some general question I have heard over the years. No, you do not need to go to college to get into the game industry. No, you don't need to have super programming skills or be a master of Maya or Photoshop either. You don't need to know the inter workings of computers, knows tons of different languages, know what a PS3 or 360 is made of nor have amazing drawing skills either. Having some solid computer skills, knowing how to communicate with others, keeping up to date on new info and making sure you soak up everything around you is what you really need.

For most geeks, this is some good news of course. Knowing all those things I listed before or even some of them will help of course, but they are all not totally necessary honestly. For your average geek, having good computer skills, a love for video games and a strong work ethic is all you really need. Good social skills are also required which is probably a concept which will scare some gamers out there.

But before getting more into that, let me talk to those who do have those skills and or more then that. For those folks who are going to college and or are learning how to use 3-d programs or are becoming artists, you already have a little bit of a lead then most average folks like myself. With more and more colleges lately offering classes about video game making, I would honestly suggest taking those as well. Lots of those classes are taught by people in the industry and you will definitely learn a lot from those classes. Even taking some night classes or community college classes on those subjects are a bit of a help for you average gamer.

Anyway, not all is lost for those of us who don't have those skills or never taken those classes. There are many ways to get in the game industry and not all of them require you to have flipping awesome skills to do so. Many people I know in the industry didn't have any skills in the beginning of their careers. They just loved game and had a strong work ethic and that is what really matters. They learned to do more stuff on their own like Photoshop, Excel, Word and Maya and that helped them get pushed further along in the industry, but it wasn't the original reason they got in though now they say it would of helped a bit more.

I am not saying don't try everything in your power to try to learn new software or even take some classes, I am just saying that its not the end of the world if you don't have those skill sets yet. Though without those skill sets, you of course are gonna start off at the bottom rung of the industry like many other have. So the more skills you pick up before applying to get into the industry, the better really. My goal here though is to show that people who don't have amazing skills can still get into the industry, so don't give up.

Kojima Productions' Ryan Payton put it rather well though in a recent interview with 1up.com:

1UP: If someone wanted to get into a role similar to yours in the industry, what would you tell them?

RP: I get this question a lot. Some people write in to tell me that they're taking Japanese classes or that they're watching anime. They're also playing a lot of games, and that's fine, but you need to give recruiters more reasons to sign you on than the fact that you love videogames. When I joined Kojima Productions, I laid out what I could offer the company -- not only that I knew a lot about games, but that I could speak Japanese and that I was a good writer and had experience in radio and international business. Also, I was fanatical about American history, and coincidentally, Metal Gear does pull a lot from American and world history.

Kojima was more interested in what I was into outside of videogames. If somebody wants this kind of job, and they just play games all day and study Japanese, they're not going to have much to say when they get asked that question. You really do have to give employers as many reasons as possible to hire you.

One thing I'd recommend now is learning video content immediately. Start cutting your own movies in Final Cut. Familiarize yourself with HD. What's the difference between 1080i and 1080p? The industry needs people who understand that stuff.

So like Payton said, you need a bit more then just being a good gamer or anime fan to get into the industry and move up. Work on getting to learn new skills and software. Trust me, it will really help.

For those who want to start off other then at the bottom rung, for those who do have some good solid skills already or even for those who just wanna see what skills it takes to get into certain jobs in the game industry, I found a really good write up you may want to check out.

The three part write up was done over at Gignews.com and basically breaks down each job position in the industry and what is needed to get into that position skill wise. Its a great read and will definitely help those looking to break into video game making. Check it out below:


That should just about do it for now skills wise. Next post will be how to find and apply to get into the game industry and some good started jobs to get your foot in the door.

-P. Knight

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