Inside the Game Industry: Make Your Dreams Come True Part Three
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 each week 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.
During my time writing for the main site of Ten Ton Hammer (2008 I think?), I was still living in Denver. Needless to say, the game development scene in that area of the country is extremely small. At the time though, Sony Online Entertainment had a studio for their online card games and they were looking for a Community Representative.
One day while I was running through my regular list of game company job listings, I saw an opening for the first time at the Denver SOE studio.
Rule #7 – Never fail to network with anyone in the industry that you can. You never know when it will prove useful.
The moment I saw the opening listed on SOE’s website, I immediately applied. The site was acting funky, so I contacted the SOE Vanguard rep I had been working with over the last couple years and asked if she knew anything about the job. She said submissions had closed and that the people to be interviewed had already been chosen, but that she’d go ahead and forward my info. Two hours later, I was being rushed through a series of tests and in less than 24 hours went from being told not to expect anything to, “when can you come in for an interview”.
Due to a company-wide restructuring process that started the following week, the final interview never materialized and the job went the way of the dodo. Despite this, I was extremely energized in my pursuit to get on the inside of the game industry again. It was just the confidence booster that I needed to let me know I was on the right track and being taken seriously. With a renewed vigor, I attacked my work even harder than I had before.
Writing for the main site of Ten Ton Hammer after having spent a little over a year focusing on a single title was certainly an eye opener. After having spent so much time and effort concentrating on the Vanguard site, switching my brain to a much wider field of view was a challenge in itself. It was a welcome one though and over the course of the next year or so, was an invaluable experience.
Rule # 8 – If you have any desire to work in community, you’d better have a very thick skin.
During my time on the main site, one of my responsibilities was periodically reviewing games. Sounds rough right? It sometimes is, but not for the reasons you’d expect. While it’s true there were times I had to review a game I wasn’t fond of (playing 40 hours of a game you hate is not a pleasant experience), reviews were generally enjoyable to write. It’s the hornets’ nest you stir up with those reviews that brings the pain.
Case in point and the “highlight” of my game reviewing career to date? Star Trek Online. People may forget now, but when the game was in development, it was easily one of the most highly anticipated titles in years. Everyone wanted to read everything they could about it. The first impression piece I wrote about the game was taken well enough, but after having spent nearly a month helping to build our own STO site, I was in for a rude awakening.
Star Trek fans have always been a bit fanatical. So are gamers. Combine the two, and you had a recipe for hysteria and madness on a massive scale when the reviews started pouring in for STO. You’d think that since I was one of the very few to give the game a good score, people would be happy. The exact opposite was true. People flipped out and went on a rampage about how I had no idea what I was doing. No matter what position you go for in the industry be prepared because this is going to be a theme you will commonly hear. Repeatedly. It was so bad that at one point, I found a nine page thread on a competitor’s forums about my review. It was ridiculous.
Rule #9 – No one is going to give you something new to do if you’re not kicking ass in what you’re doing now.
After nearly 3 years with Ten Ton Hammer, it was finally time to move on. Shortly after moving to Austin, Texas, I got a job with Blizzard as a Game Master for World of Warcraft. In the end, it was little more than a customer support gig and I already had over a decade of experience in that line of work. Even so, I took the job very seriously and quickly made a name for myself in the department.
In less than 4 months I was on the only shift with weekends off and was an advisor for the temporary workers that had been brought on. It’s true anywhere, but especially in the game industry – you are judged on the job you do, not what you say you can do. If you can’t show that you can compete with the best in whatever you’re doing (like CS), you’re never going to be given the chance to move on and try something else within the company. And why should be given a chance? I routinely overheard people complaining about others that got the best shifts after having only been there for short periods. Listen to me when I say it’s not a fluke – prove you deserve to be noticed. Don’t just sit there and bitch about being stuck wherever you are.
Even though I wasn’t thrilled to be back in a customer support role, I was glad to be at Blizzard and thankful they took a chance on me. It may not have been the job of my dreams, but as I’ll explain next week, it was the key to getting me a job I’d quite literally been dreaming about for years.
Tune in next week for the final piece 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.