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.
- 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.
- Meet developers. Attend IGDA chapter meetings, or, better yet, a conference like GDC.
- 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.
- Take notes. An easy step that almost everyone misses.
- Go home and read up some more. This is the second tier of the education process.
- 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.
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.
- Early Advice
- Taking Notes
- Make Yourself Memorable
- Your Fellow N00bz
- Weak Ties
- Know Everyone
- Be Educated
- Bathe. Seriously.
- GDC Guide Pt 1
- GDC Guide Pt 2
- Get a Website
- How to Work a Room Pt 1
- The Pitch
- Don’t Badmouth People
- Fan From Hell
- Behaving In Lines
- Community Service
- Be Selfless
- Focus on the New
- Make Mistakes
- Talk Around the NDA
- The Art of Finding People
- When Not To Network
- Don’t Be This Guy