Inside the Game Industry: Make Your Dreams Come True Part One
Ever wondered what it takes to get into the game industry? Here are some tips to help you on your journey.
By the time 2001 rolled around, I had been playing EverQuest for a couple of years and was completely obsessed with the game. As fortune would have it, my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was going to school for her Master’s degree so I had plenty of time to play to my heart’s content and was able to feed my obsession without guilt. During this time, I was also firmly embedded in the IT field (Internet Technology), working for some of the biggest companies in the country as well as the government for a number of years. The hours weren't horrible and the money was incredible. There was just one problem. I hated it. Badly.
While I was working late nights dealing with hardware, software, and meatware issues day after day, I continually dreamed about working in the game industry. I kept dreaming until 2005 when I finally realized just dreaming about it wasn’t going to make it happen. Instead, I got off my ass and made a conscious decision to do whatever I needed to in order to make it happen.
Rule #1 – If you want to get a job in the game industry, you need to do more than just sit around and dream about it.
In 2005 I was still playing EverQuest but I had also started keeping watch on different games in development. For a while, I had been trying to figure out what type of job I could get in the industry with my current set of skills (I didn’t feel like going back to school yet again after having just finished a number of years in a horrible IT school). It was at this time I came across the forums for an upcoming Perpetual Entertainment title called Gods & Heroes. The overarching idea of the game back then was it would take place in ancient Rome, just like a history book. The big exception was that the mythology was going to be real, rather than just myth. It was a cool concept and I fell head over heels about it, but that’s not what really gave me a direction for my goals.
Unbeknownst to him, that came in the form of the game’s Assistant Community Manager – a fellow that went by the handle of Deodatus, aka Deo. I knew there was something special about the manner in which he interacted with the game’s community, but it would be a number of years before I was able to fully appreciate the true level of mastery he handled the community with. Deo was the person that made me realize what I wanted to do in the game industry – I wanted to be a Community Manager.
Rule #2 – You’ve got a direction (or at least a clue). Great! Now do something with it!
I now finally had a clue what I wanted to do and for the first time since my journey started, I genuinely realized that it was actually possible to achieve my goals. A person could actually make a living by being good with people, a great communicator, and it didn’t mean having to rot to death in the IT field doing support for decades on end. So the good news at this point was that I had a direction and was moving forward. The bad news is that Deo was so good, he made the job look far easier than it actually was – by a long shot.
It was right around this time that a company called Stratics was looking for someone to work on their Gods & Heroes site. It was a volunteer gig, but I jumped at the chance. After talking with the network's manager, she decided to give me a shot as their Gods & Heroes Portal Manager. There was just one catch – I had to have the G&H site built in less than two weeks because they wanted it to go live before the game went to E3 that year.
Rule #3 – If the idea of hard work and insane hours scares you, get the hell out now.
I thank the Marine Corps for instilling their “Mission accomplishment is the number one priority – everything else is secondary” motto within me. With less than two weeks to build the website from scratch (and being only slightly comfortable coding in HTML back then), I went to work with a fervor. I spent an ungodly amount of hours working to build the site, gathering as much content as I could, and piecing it together in what I hoped was an acceptable fashion. For that entire stretch of time, if I wasn’t at work (remember, I still had a full time job), eating, or sleeping, I was working on the site, getting it ready for launch. To say it was anything less than unbelievably stressful, frustrating, and exhausting would be a complete fabrication. It was all of those things multiplied by 100. It was also one of the most thrilling and exhilarating things I had ever done in my life. My fate was sealed at that moment - hook, line, and sinker.
The site went live in time and met with a fair amount of success. I stayed with the Stratics team for a little less than a year before moving on to Ten Ton Hammer. I had answered an ad looking for an Assistant Community Manager for their Vanguard: Saga of Heroes site. Not only was it a part-time gig talking about my favorite game from those days, but it was also a paying one. After some follow-up from a slight email mix-up and showing the Ten Ton Hammer team what I had done in the past, I got the gig. It shocked me then, and to this day I'm still amazed they let me onboard.
This was it! I’d made the big time! Or at least, that’s what I thought. Little did I know this was only one of many steps in the long and grueling journey ahead. Tune in next week for more of this tale and tips on what it takes to make your way inside the industry. Can’t wait that long to hear more? Be sure to follow me on Twitter – you never know what I might say.