Effective Networking in the Games Industry (Introduction)

by Darius Kazemi on October 21, 2005

in networking

Networking is key to getting involved in the games industry, and I could fill a whole book about it (and I probably should). So I think I’m going to start a series of articles on effective networking in the games industry. In fact, I might call the series Effective Networking in the Games Industry. [hastily changes post title] This is going to be an experiment in writing for me, since you’re effectively going to be reading a bunch of first drafts that I’ll change later on. So humor me here.

I’m writing this series of articles mostly for high school or college students who want to break in to the video game industry, since that’s where I came from. There are lots of books out there that give you good advice about skills you’ll need to have, but as much as I hate to say it, skills won’t get you everywhere in this industry. Personal connections are every bit as important as competence. My number one disclaimer is that you need to be competent. These articles are written on the assumption that you’ve done the basic legwork: made games in your spare time, poked around a few programming languages, learned a little bit about 3D modeling. Chris Hecker and Jon Blow wrote up a great list of New Year’s Resolutions for Game Industry Newbies. Owen Grieve has good advice for high school and college students too. Follow that advice and learn to walk the walk a little bit before you talk the talk. Doesn’t matter if you’re not an expert in any of this, but you have to show the intellectual curiosity or you will fail at pretty much any further advice I give you.

Confidence is earned by being around game developers all the time.

There are books that will put you on the path to competence. There aren’t very many books out there that will put you on the path to confidence. And I’ve found that in the game industry, confidence is earned, chiefly, by being around game developers all the time. Once you’ve been around a few dozen of them, even as a student with no industry experience, you’ll realize they’re mostly decent, normal folks. They get demystified, turned from these crazy People You Want To Be Like to just plain old People. Folks that you can deal with. And maybe if you follow my advice, they’ll be folks who like you, remember you, and respect you.

Here’s a very basic outline of what I think the ordinary gamer needs to do in order to effectively network with real professional game developers. My subsequent articles will refer to these steps.

  1. Read up. Become educated about the industry: what are the development roles, what is the vocabulary, and, most importantly, what is the history of the industry.
  2. Meet developers. Attend IGDA chapter meetings, or, better yet, a conference like GDC.
  3. Make friends. People think that networking is all about being fake and kissing ass and whatnot. I find that the most effective networking happens when you’re being absolutely genuine and making very good friends with people. It’s about sharing a beer over dinner, not talking shop.
  4. Take notes. An easy step that almost everyone misses.
  5. Go home and read up some more. This is the second tier of the education process.
  6. Keep in touch. This is part of that whole “make friends” thing, and it will ideally come naturally. You should genuinely like the people in your network. If you don’t, then why are you taking the time to get to know them? Because you’re mercenary? Believe me, they can smell it on you.
  7. Repeat.

This is a very rough outline. Each one of these steps will be expanded out quite a bit in the future. While I could maybe write 5 pages about step #4, the most complex step, #3, could be 30 pages in its own right, and I’ll probably break it down into substeps.

And please, if you have any comments on my stuff, all of this is in draft stage! Be my editor so I don’t have to.

EDIT: I’m adding a list here of all the articles in the series so far, since some people are being directed to this post.

  1. Introduction
  2. Early Advice
  3. Taking Notes
  4. Make Yourself Memorable
  5. Your Fellow N00bz
  6. Weak Ties
  7. Know Everyone
  8. Be Educated
  9. Profiling
  10. Bathe. Seriously.
  11. GDC Guide Pt 1
  12. GDC Guide Pt 2
  13. Get a Website
  14. How to Work a Room Pt 1
  15. The Pitch
  16. Don’t Badmouth People
  17. Fan From Hell
  18. Behaving In Lines
  19. Community Service
  20. Be Selfless
  21. Focus on the New
  22. Make Mistakes
  23. Talk Around the NDA
  24. The Art of Finding People
  25. When Not To Network
  26. Don’t Be This Guy


Craig Perko October 21, 2005 at 3:13 pm

I’ll keep an eye out for edit-stuff. Me spel good.

I should point out that what would be better than a step-by-step guide on “how to network” would be a step-by-step guide on “how to network a little more”.

It’s rare for people to wholly change their approach to life, but learning to be just a little more networky would be a solid benefit. And, after that, a little more networky. And, after that, a little more networky. Until they suddenly turn into YOU.

viberunner September 25, 2006 at 12:04 pm

Great stuff, networking is the key to any industry, but particually one that requires high degrees of competences, a competitive media environment, and relatively few companies (compared against, say, ordinary commercial business that employ programmers).

I’ll be sticking around and posting now-and-again, if that’s okay. I’m an ex-commercial-programmer currently studying game design.

Darius Kazemi September 25, 2006 at 2:08 pm

viberunner: No problem, comment all you like! You seem to have a unique perspective on this that I don’t.

Anonymous October 8, 2006 at 4:30 am

I found my way over here through Herbie. Great series of posts. I especially appreciate the emphasis on meeting “excellent” people and not famous people — that is very well put.

John J (from high school)

وحید March 7, 2008 at 8:56 am

Just have joined your blog readers wanted to say hi!

Lauren Liebowitz July 1, 2008 at 9:30 pm

Aha! I heard you speak at the Austin GDC last year but lost my notes, so it’s great to have all of this easily available online. I don’t know if you still read these comments, but I do have a question for you. What do you do if you’re terrified of coming across as a brown-noser? I’ve met a number of people I find fascinating, who share my interest in games or books or writing (I’m trying to break into the writing end of things) – but I’m afraid that somehow my enthusiasm for talking to them will come across as creepy stalker brown-nosing. I don’t actually expect a job from any of them; I just want to be friends, or at least pleasant casually-talking acquaintances. I think I’ve let a few potential friendships wither because I’m too worried. Any advice?

Darius Kazemi July 2, 2008 at 2:22 am

Hi Lauren: largely you can avoid looking like a brown-noser by listening instead of talking! But more to the point, if you are truly sincere about wanting to be the friend of someone in the industry, then you probably won’t come off as a brown-noser when you interact with them.

In extreme cases, like when I’m trying to befriend people with significantly more experience than me who actually ARE my heroes, I basically don’t talk to them unless I can help them in some way. “Oh hey, it’s been a while since we talked, but I remember you were researching X. I just came across a great article on X you might be interested in.”

Arleen November 3, 2009 at 2:42 pm

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Daniel March 5, 2010 at 9:21 am

Very helpful information, I was reading an article that lead me here, I’m glad I did.


Andrew U Baker January 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm

I just wanted to mention that the URLs on this page have been broken by the move from Blogspot, in case no one had mentioned that yet.

Andrew U Baker January 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Followup. Noticed that a lot of URLs on the site are broken, so here’s a regular expression you could use to update them all:
s.replace(/http:\/\/tinysubversions.blogspot.com\/([0-9]+\/[0-9]+\/.*)\.html/, “http://tinysubversions.com/$1″)

Darius Kazemi January 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

Thanks, fixed!

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