Effective Networking (Community Service)

by Darius Kazemi on October 9, 2006

in networking

Let’s say you are a lowly student. You have snagged no internships. You hardly know any game developers. Fret not: there is a relatively easy solution to all of this. I’ll get around to it in a bit.

What You Have

You say you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get into the game industry. What’s the one thing that you as a student have that most professional game developers do not?

Free time.

You might balk. “I have classes and exams and labs and blah blah blah blah blah.” I don’t care. You are not crunching 70 hours a week. Nor are you probably spending 40 hours a week on classes and homework.

You possess time, the most precious of all resources, and willpower, the thing that transforms time from potential into reality. Do not underestimate this facet of what you have to offer.

What You Can Do

Volunteer. There are many organizations within the game industry that are looking for volunteers. Not to do direct game development work, but to help out the organization itself. The best example I can think of is the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). The IGDA is often looking for web developers and other volunteers. In fact, they maintain a page with some volunteering info. The IGDA is important within the industry and getting more important every year. You could offer to help out one of the individual Special Interest Groups (SIGs) or local chapters.

As Ian notes in the comments, getting into a (preferably closed) beta for a game is a really great way to show developers you mean business. Report bugs really well and give good, civil feedback and you’ll be rewarded with anything from swag to a job.

If you can help out with the IGDA or some similar group, even in a small way, you’ll get to put it on your resume. But even more important is that you will get to work with the people who coordinate the group, who are often professional game developers. And if you do a really good job, they will like you for it.

By serving the game development community, you can help get your name out there. I’m not saying this is a silver bullet, but it’s a great thing to do especially if you find yourself with an internship-free summer of nothing planned out ahead of you. You’ll build weak ties, probably some strong ties, build up your resume, maybe learn a few skills, and definitely learn a lot about the organization that you’re helping.

It’s a win-win situation for you and the organization. Serve your community!

(And then keep it up once you’re a developer, too!)


Ian Schreiber October 9, 2006 at 9:56 pm

Another volunteer effort not to be forgotten is public-beta testing. I mean REAL beta testing — looking for bugs, reducing them to the smallest number of repeatable steps, and writing coherent reports to the developer. Be active in the game’s beta community, and be supportive of the developers within that community.

It’s easy to stand out from the crowd in a public beta, because most people are just there to play a game for free.

At worst, you’ll have a developer willing to vouch for your excellent communication skills. At best, you’ll score a job with the developer that you beta tested for. For what it’s worth, that’s (more or less) how I found my way into the industry.

Anonymous October 10, 2006 at 1:54 am

I’ve been trying to help Manifesto by sprinkling user content throughout their site, are there any other capacities I might be involved in that I don’t know about?

Tom October 12, 2006 at 6:16 am

I think another option is to MAKE A GAME. Find some other students over the summer and start making a game. Unless someone has a game engine, I would advise against that idea and pick up a pre-existing engine, such as UT2004,Torque, or Panda3D (or is that just a rendering engine?) and build a game from start to finish. Finishing is really important, so it shows determination and willingness to work through the boring crap.

Oh, and speaking of betas, can you hook me up with some LOTR Online love? I got a key from E3, but haven’t heard from Turbine at all!

jon October 12, 2006 at 7:57 am

Hey great post, I didn’t even think of all of these opportunities out there before. I’ll definitely pursue some of these things now.

Tynan February 25, 2008 at 10:09 pm

Personally, I’d recommend spending the majority of your time actually working on your craft. Volunteering and networking are great, but you need to be really kickass in the first place for it to be worth it. Most students who I see volunteering would be better off just improving their work.

Elisabeth September 24, 2008 at 8:54 pm

The only thing I didn’t agree with this post is the fact that you said that students have time. I can tell you that I only have about an hour a day at max for “free time” every day because I have immense amounts of work for all my classes. Having worked in the game industry over the summer, I found that although I didn’t stay up as late, I ended up having more free time. The difference is, once you leave work, you’re pretty much done. In school, once you’re finished with classes, you have to start projects. And whether it’s modeling objects in 3D or programming, making games for classes takes time if you want to make them look good, especially at my school where you have less than 7 weeks to make games.
If I had free time I think it would be more constructive to actually work on creating games or more portfolio material rather than volunteering.

Ben January 13, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I have always had trouble getting into closed beta’s. Any advice on snagging a spot. I mean business when it comes to testing but cant find the opportunity to prove it.

Max Nichols June 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm

The original article here could not be more true. I’ll just throw down a few bullet points, then relate a personal story. By the end, you should all be clamoring to help out the IGDA, hahah.

1. What sort of people do you find in volunteer organizations? Well, they tend to be passionate, opinionated, interesting. They also tend to be in leadership positions, or, as Darius might put it, “excellent people,” because the same qualities that allows successful volunteerism help people succeed in other areas. Finally? They’re usually volunteering out of a genuine desire to help. The IGDA is filled with helpful, interesting, well connected people? Sign me up!

2. What is the number one thing (short of the essentials, like competence in your field of work) that someone trying to break into the industry needs? They need to stand out. Volunteering helps you do that. It shows that you have initiative, passion, energy, and an ability to seek out and solve problems. This will help sway anyone, but it will be especially useful at making an impression on other volunteers.

3. A volunteer organization doesn’t ever turn anyone away. Not really. If you have some competence and time, you can and will find a way to get involved. Not only does this mean it’s easy to get involved, but it can be a nice change if you’re going through a job hunt period and getting turned down repeatedly.

4. It gives you something to talk about, and educates you. There is no better way to immerse yourself in the problems, challenges, and pressures of the meta game industry than getting involved in the IGDA. You’ll end up exceedingly knowledgeable about quality of life, events going on, crediting problems, etc.

5. If you’re a social animal and you enjoy the game of politics and drama, then it’s got that, too. Just don’t do anything stupid, and play nice.

I myself decided one summer that I’d start hanging out at the official IGDA message boards. At this point I’d been to a bunch of chapter meetings, helped Jason Della Rocca out with some summarizing at his chapter’s website, etc., etc. Nothing major. Then the Tim Langdell controversy hit. Long story short, there was an incredible amount of drama, anger, and misbehavior going on at the official forum. The moderating team was too disorganized and disjointed to deal with it, and the board was too busy to give it the attention it deserved. Having moderated forums with thousands of users for several years, I figured I knew what I was doing, so I emailed the board a couple pages describing the steps I thought they should take to diffuse the forum situation without stifling the community. Next thing I knew, I was hobnobbing with the board – comprised of company ceos, game designers, people who give talks at GDC, game lawyers, and more – and placed on a “taskforce” to fix the problems. Which we did.

My efforts to reform the way moderators were organized and the way the rules were written were largely destroyed when the new site hit, but hey. The lesson here: you have eclectic skills. Volunteer organizations need those. Find the need, and it’s always there, and offer to fix problems. It can have great results.

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