From the Farm to EVE Online: A Story of Breaking into the Industry

by Cody Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

Cody Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

What do you want out of your career? Glamour and prestige? A constant
struggle to keep abreast of new information? Financial security? The
means to travel all around the world? Fame? Fortune?

To many video game aficionados, the gaming industry represents
all of the ideals listed above and more. Learning the behind-the-scenes
info, finding out about games before they’re even announced,
knowing secrets that would cripple a company; all of these scenarios
flash through an individual’s head as they wait for their big
break, that one shot that could lead them to the career of a lifetime.
It’s an industry that’s hard to get into, but once
you’re in…

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Cody Bye converses
with CCP's Valerie Massey.

My own personal story isn’t spectacular, but it rings very
similarly to another individual in the industry who has moved her way
slowly up the food chain by being diligent, hard-working, genuine, and
enthusiastically passionate about the games she works with. The person
in question is Valerie Massey, currently the Public Relations and
Communications Director for CCP Games (the developers of style="font-style: italic;">EVE
Online), and she stopped to chat with us about her rise up
the ranks
and how she broke into the industry.

“First off, Cody,” Valerie began with a laugh on
her lips, “You’ll never be able to make it into
industry. I won’t let you.” As our chuckles died
down, Val began the story of how she rose through the industry and
eventually landed in her place at CCP.

To start, it’s important to know a bit about Val’s
background. When she began this journey, Valerie Massey was living in a
tiny town in the middle of Texas known as Jewett. “I think
there were 635 people that lived there at the time,” Valerie
said. (Editor’s Note: The number later increased to 861
according to the 2000 census). “Where the men are men and the
sheep are scared. Obviously it’s not a place I worry about
going back to, anytime soon. However, if I ever found out that I had a
terminal illness, I would go to Jewett because everything moves so slow
there, it would feel like I had months.”

In Jewett, Valerie was playing the part of the stay-at-home house wife,
raising a child and taking care of her bed-ridden grandmother. Not
surprisingly, she felt totally disconnected with the rest of the world.
But when she finally got the internet in 1997, the world opened up
before her. “One of my cousins in Houston was playing
Ultima Online,”
Val continued. “It had just launched, and he
went on and on about this game. He let me play on his account for a few
weeks and told me that if I liked the game, he would buy it for

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Valerie started off
as a serious Ultima Online player.

 And that’s when it all started. After playing UO
for a while, Valerie volunteered for Stratics and became a UO
volunteer. As the fates aligned, Val ended up with a fantastic
opportunity presented to her. “A guy I had played UO with
ended up working for GT Interactive,” she said. “It
was Mike Wallace, who later ended up being the original producer of style="font-style: italic;">EVE
Online. Mike offered me a job because I had this
experience as a
volunteer and along with being the editor of my college newspaper. And
that’s how I got my big break!”

Of course, not everyone can be as lucky as Val nor can we have the
opportunity to play with future developers/producers of our favorite
games. That said, Valerie also had advice for people trying to get into
the industry and aren’t as lucky as some folks are.
“I personally always tell people about the biggest DO and the
biggest DON’T you can make when looking for a job in the
industry,” Val said. “And there’s a very
fine line between the two. The biggest do is networking. Attend events.
While many of the events have really expensive ticket prices, but a lot
of the events have volunteer programs where you can volunteer and you
can get in for free. It’s huge because then you get
invitations to parties and can network from there.”

“The biggest don’t,” Valerie continued,
“is equally as difficult. Don’t be a fanboy.
Don’t be scary. There’s a difference between being
passionate games and game design, and sending up that warning signal
that you can’t separate yourself from your game. There was
one guy that I met recently at our Fanfest who really want to come work
for CCP. While we hear that a lot, this particular instance stuck in my

She took a breath then explained herself further. “He seemed
like a nice enough guy and didn’t seem
like an axe murderer, but he wanted a marketing position and was
telling me about all his accounts and computers and all this other
stuff,” Val said. “And it’s hard for us
to hire someone like that because we have had allegations of favoritism
in the past, so somebody like that who we think may be a little to into
the game reduces their chances.”

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Now Val works with
the developers at CCP Games.

According to Valerie, the best way to increase your chances is to be
well-versed in a wide number of games and really have specific reasons
why you liked or didn’t like certain games. Let the
developers know which particular portion of their game wasn’t
what you enjoyed, and explain how it might be better.
“Somebody who wants to go into design or production could
even write up little essays for themselves that will be solid sample
material for an application later on in their career,” Val

As far as education goes, Val noted that it really doesn’t
matter that much in the end. “It’s all about what
you know and what you’ve done,” she said.
“Even someone who didn’t finish college or never
went to college even has a shot of making it into the industry.
It’s all about how good you are at what you want to

Finally, Val acknowledged that it’s really important to have
an end goal in mind. “If you want to be the lead designer of
a particular game,” Val said, “make that your goal.
Find any way to get in that you can. Stay on the not scary side of the
fan spectrum and you’ll make it in.”

Do you think you have
what it takes to be in the game industry? Why or why not? href="">Let
us know
on the forums!

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