What Are You Doing RIGHT NOW To Move Your Gaming Career Forward?

If you want to get into the games business working for yourself or a big publisher or you want to move from working for a publisher to being independent or vice versa, this is the most important question you can ask yourself. What are you doing right now to make it happen? The easiest thing to do is nothing, to make excuses, to wait for your big break to be handed to you, but if you don’t move forward, there are other people that are, and they will get what you want.
Opportunity Knocks
There are all kinds of excuses for not moving forward. Here are some hypothetical examples:

Joe Indie is waiting for his favorite $100 game engine to get Crysis-like HDR shaders, or looking for an out of box MMO engine, or super large terrains, or poly-soup collisions, or whatever feature his favorite AAA game has. He feels he cannot move forward until technology-X is implemented. This is simply not true. Even if he had access to that technology, there would just be another excuse for not moving forward. He needs to design to his game or product to technologies that are proven and available. Making cool games is technology independent. Look at flOw, Line Rider, or N. Those games were made in Flash, and have made the developers famous.

A CIS major is waiting for Career Day to get access to all of the waiting job offers and thinks his course credits will be enough, so chooses not to work in his off time to learn new technologies or make small games. This is a huge mistake. If he wants to stand out, be noticed, and get the good job offers or good indie team offers, he needs to get on the stick and start making a tangible resume. That could be getting involved in an Open Source project like Ogre or pyGame or making small Flash games. These kinds of projects are MUCH more valuable to a resume than getting an A+ in a database class.

A programmer working for a large publisher wants to explore going Indie, but is afraid of his agreement not to compete in his off time. Well, a lot of things that need to happen before he can go Indie would not be considered competition. First of all, his project will need a technology base. There are a lot of inexpensive options that need to be explored, i.g. Torque, Unity, Blitz, etc. Downloading and evaluating these technologies is not competing. Next up, he will need a team. Writing a blog, participating in communities and social networks to find potential team mates is not competing. Finally, just talking to his company and exploring the possibilities for what they would allow may find that it is easier than he thought it would be. In fact, talking may open up even more possibilities at that company once they find out about his drive to go independent.

These examples are pretty superficial, but there is no “one, true path” to moving forward toward your goals. Just make sure you are always doing something to move forward.

-Jeff Tunnell, Game Maker
Make It Big In Games

  • Eastbeast314

    Haha – a timely pep-talk for me, since my first day at Wideload is tomorrow ;)
    However, I definitely see these stereotypes playing out all the time and it's awful. I'll link people to this post from now on.

    It seems that your example people just have a general problem of waiting for things to happen to them instead of doing it themselves. I wonder how much of that is learned and if it's the sort of thing that can be fixed by reading blogs like this.

    In any case, great to see the continuing output here. Always an interesting read.

  • Eastbeast314

    Haha – a timely pep-talk for me, since my first day at Wideload is tomorrow ;)
    However, I definitely see these stereotypes playing out all the time and it's awful. I'll link people to this post from now on.

    It seems that your example people just have a general problem of waiting for things to happen to them instead of doing it themselves. I wonder how much of that is learned and if it's the sort of thing that can be fixed by reading blogs like this.

    In any case, great to see the continuing output here. Always an interesting read.

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Thomas, you are the poster child for just what people SHOULD do that want to get in the games business. Besides making all of those cool little games, interning at interesting companies such as GarageGames and Wideload is a huge win. You will have people falling all over themselves to get you to come to their company when you finally go on the market!

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Thomas, you are the poster child for just what people SHOULD do that want to get in the games business. Besides making all of those cool little games, interning at interesting companies such as GarageGames and Wideload is a huge win. You will have people falling all over themselves to get you to come to their company when you finally go on the market!

  • Donald Harris

    The nail has been hit square on the head 3 times. I am doing everything I can to get back in the industry. Pulling together teams working on small projects and meeting with investors and publishers. Anyone who sits on their butts and waits is not going to accomplish much of anything except for continue to get a paycheck from that job that does not inspire you or allow you to have a creative outlet.

  • Donald Harris

    The nail has been hit square on the head 3 times. I am doing everything I can to get back in the industry. Pulling together teams working on small projects and meeting with investors and publishers. Anyone who sits on their butts and waits is not going to accomplish much of anything except for continue to get a paycheck from that job that does not inspire you or allow you to have a creative outlet.

  • http://ianmorrison.wordpress.com Ian Morrison

    I've got a question. I'm a CS Major who makes games in his spare time, but is that *enough*? I'm very aware that projects under my belt will do more for me than that fancy degree when all is said and done, but there must be even more that I could be doing to make myself more marketable. Unfortunately, I'm pretty crappy at that “networking” thing.

  • http://ianmorrison.wordpress.com Ian Morrison

    I've got a question. I'm a CS Major who makes games in his spare time, but is that *enough*? I'm very aware that projects under my belt will do more for me than that fancy degree when all is said and done, but there must be even more that I could be doing to make myself more marketable. Unfortunately, I'm pretty crappy at that “networking” thing.

    • Donald Harris

      First off stop doubting how bad you are at Networking. Networking in the video game industry is not that difficult.

      First rule with meeting someone new is that you have to remember they are just an everyday guy. They don't want to be bugged just like you do.

      Have you attended any conferences? And do you have a linkedin.com account? Also a real biggy is being active on different social networks such as Garagegames,linkedin or this blog. For instance now I know that you are a developer… I am meeting with a studio sometime this week who needs help building out there team, if you had a linked in account I could get your work history and figure out if you were a good fit and maybe suggest you. That's just one example… In others just make yourself known with out bragging so much. Just let people know what you are working on. Also contributing to communities is a quick way to get you in to different social groups.

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      Donald's comment about networking is right on. You don't have to be “good” at networking, you just have to do it. Remember that the people you are connecting with are just people. They want to find talented people like yourself to hook up with to make products or companies. If they already work for a company, they want them to hire good people so their project and company will be more successful. Having a game as a calling card is a great first step, just keep it up.

  • Donald Harris

    First off stop doubting how bad you are at Networking. Networking in the video game industry is not that difficult.

    First rule with meeting someone new is that you have to remember they are just an everyday guy. They don't want to be bugged just like you do.

    Have you attended any conferences? And do you have a linkedin.com account? Also a real biggy is being active on different social networks such as Garagegames,linkedin or this blog. For instance now I know that you are a developer… I am meeting with a studio sometime this week who needs help building out there team, if you had a linked in account I could get your work history and figure out if you were a good fit and maybe suggest you. That's just one example… In others just make yourself known with out bragging so much. Just let people know what you are working on. Also contributing to communities is a quick way to get you in to different social groups.

  • Keith Johnston

    Jeff – you once posted about the different paths you can take to creating games – one of which was to take contracts and work on your own games in your spare time, and then scale back the contracts as your own games take off. This seems to me like a really good idea – but can you discuss how / where to find contracts?

  • Keith Johnston

    Jeff – you once posted about the different paths you can take to creating games – one of which was to take contracts and work on your own games in your spare time, and then scale back the contracts as your own games take off. This seems to me like a really good idea – but can you discuss how / where to find contracts?

    • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

      You find contracts that same way that i described above. Get involved. Get your name out there. For instance, every employee we hired at GarageGames came from our community. How did we find them? Well, we didn't have to try very hard, the best people were constantly answering forum posts, posting resources, and generally riding above the crowd. GG is just one small technology company. There are many, many out there. Once you have proven yourself, they will give you contracts. It is too much to post is a comment answer. Maybe I'll do an entire article about where and how to find contract work.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    Donald's comment about networking is right on. You don't have to be “good” at networking, you just have to do it. Remember that the people you are connecting with are just people. They want to find talented people like yourself to hook up with to make products or companies. If they already work for a company, they want them to hire good people so their project and company will be more successful. Having a game as a calling card is a great first step, just keep it up.

  • http://www.makeitbigingames.com Jeff Tunnell

    You find contracts that same way that i described above. Get involved. Get your name out there. For instance, every employee we hired at GarageGames came from our community. How did we find them? Well, we didn't have to try very hard, the best people were constantly answering forum posts, posting resources, and generally riding above the crowd. GG is just one small technology company. There are many, many out there. Once you have proven yourself, they will give you contracts. It is too much to post is a comment answer. Maybe I'll do an entire article about where and how to find contract work.

  • http://evilartstudio.blogspot.com/ Evil Dan

    Good stuff! Exactly what I need to hear. I've been building a fairly big (but easy to program) Flash game for about 6 months now. I've got most of the game base built, but have about 9 months worth of Art assets to create, not to mention all of the balancing. So far I've been doing a pretty good job sticking to my production schedule, but it sometimes feels like I'm trying to empty an ocean with a teaspoon.

  • http://evilartstudio.blogspot.com/ Evil Dan

    Good stuff! Exactly what I need to hear. I've been building a fairly big (but easy to program) Flash game for about 6 months now. I've got most of the game base built, but have about 9 months worth of Art assets to create, not to mention all of the balancing. So far I've been doing a pretty good job sticking to my production schedule, but it sometimes feels like I'm trying to empty an ocean with a teaspoon.

  • http://thomcult.blogspot.com/ Thom Dinsdale

    Such a good post. It's easy to make excuses and blame lazyness on things that are out of control.

  • http://thomcult.blogspot.com/ Thom Dinsdale

    Such a good post. It's easy to make excuses and blame lazyness on things that are out of control.