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Inside the Game Industry: Make Your Dreams Come True – Part Four

Updated Fri, Sep 27, 2013 by Dalmarus

Eric “Dalmarus” Campbell has been a deliverer of dentures, a U.S. Marine, a security guard, an IT specialist, and a writer. He has also worked for a few game industry heavyweights you may have heard of – Blizzard, BioWare, and ArenaNet. Tune in as he tells his tale and provides numerous tips from an insider’s perspective on what it takes to make it in the game industry. 



As I stated in part three of this series, working as a Game Master at Blizzard may not have been my dream job, but it was the final piece of the puzzle I needed to get a job I had quite literally been dreaming about for years. Before working at Blizzard, I very rarely received anything more than a cursory phone call from prospective companies in the industry. As I would soon discover, that was all about to change.

Rule # 10Never underestimate the power of a big company name on your resume.

A few months after I started working at Blizzard, I applied for a Community Manager position with Heatwave Interactive. They had recently purchased the rights to Gods & Heroes. Remember how this journey began with that game in part one? I thought the cosmic circle was now going to complete itself and nearly died of shock when I got a phone call less than 24 hours after applying. The phone interview went very well (they were far more enthused about talking to me than I had found normal from my previous industry calls) and a Skype interview was scheduled. After talking with them for an hour, I was extremely excited! 

Little did I know at the time that I didn’t have a clue what a Community Manager of a game company would be doing on a daily basis. My answer for the question of “Walk me through what you think a typical day would look like” was horrible (I obviously didn’t know this then). Although they were polite, I found out shortly that I had bombed the interview and they were not interested in bringing me on. I was crushed. After getting the news, I had a choice to make. I could either take it as a sign I wasn’t meant to work in this field, or I could try again. 

Rule # 11You ARE going to sometimes fail. You ARE going to sometimes be turned down. If you really want to work in this industry, you’ll get back up and improve. 

Getting the news that I hadn’t made it after getting to the final two may have crushed my heart, but due to a bit of a personality issue I’ve since mellowed out, it also pissed me the hell off. The key with being ticked off in this field (or any line of work, really) is to focus that anger into something useful and that’s exactly what I did. If I wasn’t good enough, I wanted to see who was. That person turned out to be Donna Prior. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was (and still is) a very hardworking and capable community professional that inadvertently helped me get my job at BioWare. Once I found out who got the job, I went looking to see what experience she had that I didn’t. 

It didn’t take long to find out that Donna had just come from working a year with BioWare. As luck would have it, they had a number of forum moderation jobs open. They also had a Community Coordinator position open in Austin, so I applied for both. Again, thanks in large part to having the name of Blizzard on my resume, I was called almost immediately. After a semi-grueling series of phone and in-person interviews, I got a call one day letting me know the Community Coordinator gig was mine if I wanted. To this day, that moment marks one of the greatest moments of my entire life. It may have been the Blizzard name that got me the first interview, but it was the years of community experience I’d gotten while with Ten Ton Hammer that finally landed me my dream job.

 

Rule # 12Never hesitate to draw on all your previous experiences in life, even if they don’t seem directly related to the job you get. 

Rule # 12 may sound like an odd thing to say, but as my first week on the job would prove, it can save your ass. Less than 5 days after I started, the person I was hired to assist left the company. All of a sudden, I found my position in jeopardy and quickly needed to find a team role to fill. Enter the forum complaint inbox that I discovered had been largely ignored for some time.  I had over a decade of customer experience and almost three years of community management experience dealing with gamers. I threw myself into the role of arbitrator and resolution finder and it worked like a charm. The other team members quickly made me feel like a part of the gang. 

For the next year and a half, I attacked every job I was given with gusto. Each day there was a privilege and I never let myself forget it. While I won’t make it a rule, I suggest you do the same because if there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that this industry is volatile and you can find yourself needing a new job in a hurry. This leads me to the final rule in this series.

 

Rule #13NEVER BURN A PROFESSIONAL BRIDGE… EVER! 

If you manage to make your way to the inside of this awesome industry, there is one fact you’re going to find out very quickly – everyone knows everyone somehow. Any person that has worked on a title of any significance can be used as a replacement for Kevin Bacon if the sought connection is with another member of the industry. Do not speak badly about employees of other companies. Do not speak badly about any employee at the company you find yourself currently working for. It takes a special type of person to make it in this industry and as a result, we all come together when the layoff monster makes its regular rounds through a company. The bridge you burn now may keep you from finding new work in the future. 

A lot of work you’ll find is contract with a chance to convert to regular employee. As such, it’s not uncommon to find very talented and dedicated people that have worked for 3 different companies in as many years. This means while you’re with a company, you need to bust your ass continually to prove how useful and helpful you are. It will mean the world of difference when it’s your time to go. I found this out after I got caught in the second round of layoffs BioWare had after the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic. It was the friendships I had made combined with the dedication to my work that allowed me to get a job shortly afterwards with ArenaNet after one written test and a couple of phone calls. 

There’s no other industry I’d want to work in. It has its ups and downs like any, but the people you’ll meet and work with are incredible. Working in an environment where everyone desperately wants to be there and loves their job is indescribable. Before I end this final piece of the series, let me leave you with a few more pieces of advice:

 

  • Never say no when someone asks for a volunteer. I don’t care who or what it is.
  • Never be afraid to take a risk. I was told by some that leaving a regular employment gig with Blizzard for a contract job with BioWare was stupid. I beg to differ. It was the best thing I ever did.
  • Believe in yourself and your abilities. If you don’t, nobody else is going to bother doing it either.
  • As often as you can (especially as a new-hire), be the first person in and one of the last to leave. Don’t be that person that’s always trying to go home as soon as possible.
  • When time allows, go out to lunch with members of different teams. Building out-of-work relations with them will prove amazingly useful when it comes time to involve those teams in future projects.
  • As long as you don’t allow your own responsibilities to slack off, do as much cross-training as managers will allow.
  • Always look for ways to help your fellow employees. Always! The payoff for clearly being a team player cannot be underestimated.
  • And finally, HAVE FUN! You work for a company making video games! 

Have questions about anything I’ve posted in here, or any other gaming topic? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter any time!

 

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