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Getting a Job in the Gaming Industry

It's the heartfelt dream of many gamers - getting a job working in the gaming industry. Especially during tough economic times, this goal can become a beacon. How do you go about achieving your dreams?

Hard-Core Coding
Most games have, as their foundation, some heavy duty code which has to be created to run as fast as humanly possible. If you're genetically blessed with a coding-friendly brain, take every course and read every book you can. Optimize, then optimize some more. Coders are notoriously very overworked in the gaming industry, putting in marathon 24 hour days to get their projects done. "We had limited time and resources and our schedule was extremely rigid," explains Greg at KnowWonder, when talking about working on the Harry Potter project.
Harry Potter Interview with Game Developers

Put your Code to Work
Once you've developed your coding skills, start helping out - even for free - on any project you can. Alan of DuneMUSH remembers, "DuneMUSH was the first MUSH I started myself, and at that point, I had to start learning about the C code that actually made up the server (PennMUSH "hardcode"). Eventually, I was contributing patches back to the PennMUSH developer (Lydia "Amberyl" Leong)" Things just grew from there!
DuneMUSH - An RPG of Dune

Write, Write, Write
If you perfect your writing skills, and prove online that you can maintain a regular schedule and crank out high quality content, then publishers will appreciate those skills. Scorpia was one of the first game reviewers on the internet, getting her start on CompuServe. "Back when the original GameSIG started up on CompuServe (SIG = Special Interest Group). I wrote walkthrus for games and some reviews. Russ Sipe, then owner/publisher of Computer Gaming World, was a member of the SIG. He saw my stuff, asked me to write for his mag, and I became a professional - just like in the movies! ;)"
Scorpia : A Pioneer in Computer Gaming

Join the Community
Many game developers watch their online forums and keep an eye on the best, brightest posters. In a "Last Starfighter" real world scenario, developers watch who can play the game the best, to recruit them to join the team! Todd of Morrowind fame comments, "Sure, I hope to hire our next round of developers from the community. Who better?"
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - an Interview with the Developers

Become Musical
The soundtrack of a game can be just as powerful as the visuals. Think of Halo and just how immersive that soundtrack became. A great benefit is that your creativity can run wild! As Tim Larkin of Myst fame comments, "That's actually part of what made it interesting to me, the fact that I could write some music that has a modern day feel to it, and other music that comes from no period or culture in particular."
Tim Larkin and the Music behind Myst - Uru

Focus on your Passion
The people at Harmonix were in love with music based games. They adored Amplitude and Frequency, and were confused when the games didn't become top sellers. Did they give up? No! They plowed forward with Guitar Hero, and the rest is history!
The Making of Rock Band

Have Faith
Tens of thousands of people make a living in the gaming industry - it is within reach! As Chris of Planescape Torment fame explains, "I didn't realize or believe you could really make a living doing something you considered a hobby, but man, was I wrong. It's also been exciting being part of a rapidly-growing industry - the parameters of your job keep changing, and RPGs continually keep visually and technically evolving as the years go on."
Planescape Torment Interview - Chris Avellone

Focus your Time
Especially if you're out of work, this is the perfect time to hone your skills. Take classes, read books, perfect your talents. Scott at BlueFang explains that the recession ends up being a boon for career-changers. "You're seeing a lot of these iPhone games that are coming out that 1) potentially can make the developer a little money or 2) is a great way for them to show their development skills to a potential employer so you can point to that and say 'here's this iPhone game I made and this is my role'. All these online and mobile opportunities really open the door."
Gaming Industry in a Recession

The most important advice is to WORK on it every day! Make it a part of your schedule! The people who succeed are the people who keep learning, keep growing, and keep making those attempts every day. Good luck!

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Content copyright © 2013 by Lisa Shea. All rights reserved.
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