Getting Into Games
After five years in retail I knew I needed a change. I reached out to all my friends and family for advice, and was put in touch with someone who actually worked in the gaming industry. We talked about my skill set and whether there were any roles in the industry that would suit me. As I now had a background in management and sticking to targets/deadlines she suggested production as an area I should look in to.
I was lucky to have someone to talk to about the games industry, and I want to pass on what I learned. There are more roles in the games industry than you might expect! If you’re not happy where you are, reach out to the people you know and see what advice they have. My biggest revelation was that you don’t need a games degree to work in games! Whatever industry you’re in, there are skills you can transfer to games.
For me, the more I learned about what production work entailed, the more it sounded like a great match. Coordinating teams, striving for a common goal for something I was passionate about, organising budgets and time, being the backbone of a team, etc. It all sounded relevant to what I’d already been doing. Suddenly the last five years no longer felt like wasted time, but in fact had been training for my dream role.
Finding a Job
I started researching more in depth what was required to be a Producer, watching GDC talks, reading articles online and learning about the different project management methodologies like Waterfall, Agile, Scrum, etc. I found all of it really interesting, and I highly recommend doing the same if you’re looking to get into a production role.
So I knew what I wanted to do now, which was great, but due to my lack of direct experience in the games industry, I needed to find a junior or entry-level position. In the meantime I applied for management roles in other industries I was interested in, like music, but then I found a position for a Junior Producer (Associate Producer) in London.
These kinds of positions do come up frequently, but competition can be fierce. I wrote a personalised cover letter with details relevant to the company, updated my CV and sent off the application. I was open and honest about my current position and highlighted my transferable skills that would be relevant to game-specific production.
The company contacted me to have an initial Skype interview with two of their Producers. Very nerve-wracking! But instead of panicking, I threw myself into research. I cannot recommend enough getting lots of information about the company you’re applying to. An initial interview is a good chance for you to ask questions as well, to find out about the values and vibe of a company, and whether it’s somewhere you would be happy to work. The interview seemed to go well and it felt like a good fit. I waited with bated breath, and a week later I got an invite to the final interview face to face.
The Hiring Process
This final interview would be with nine people over three hours – something I had never experienced before – which felt very daunting. I felt that this could be my only chance and I could be interviewing against people with more commercial experience than me, carrying games-related degrees and/or production-related qualifications. I had to make my peace with that, it was out of my hands. So, what could I do to make myself stand out?
There are some things you can’t change and some that you can. Without a more traditional academic games background, you need to focus on what you can bring to a role, what skills you do have and how they can be just as valuable. No team is made up of identical people. Play to your strengths but be honest about your weaknesses. What makes your combination of experience and skill unique? What do you want to improve and, more importantly, how will you do that?
I decided to project manage my preparation for the interview using the Scrum framework and present this in the interview. I knew that as I didn’t have a background in the games industry, I had to make my passion and commitment as clear as possible. I set to work creating a PowerPoint document on how I had set tasks on what I was going to work on that day to prepare for this interview. Very meta, but I had to hope that it would make me stand out.
The Interview Day
The day had arrived, and I was extremely nervous, however I took comfort in the knowledge that I had done everything within my power to prepare appropriately and prove that if given the chance I would a be a good fit for this role.
I went up to London and shared what I had been working on, along with all the research and prep I had done for this interview. I met all the leads and directors, being open and honest with all of them. I acknowledged that hiring me could be a risk due to my lack of commercial experience, while following that up by highlighting my strengths and determination to succeed.
It was done. I was drained but had no regrets. A few weeks later they gave me the call to offer me the position and my life has never been the same since! I have made more mistakes than you can imagine, and sure I felt a healthy dose of ‘imposter syndrome’ at the start (which I have since learned we all experience!). But I pushed through it all, learning from every stumble to get to a place I’m proud of.
I now work at Studio Gobo as a Producer. I manage a good-sized team on a fascinating project and I love what I do. I am still learning every day from the amazing team around me, working in a creative, fun and diverse environment on world-class projects in the industry I love.
The message I would like you to take away from reading this - as cheesy as it may sound – is don’t give up. Be tenacious, be passionate, reach out to people that can help you achieve your dreams. If you’re reading this and you want to work in the games industry, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. There are discords, twitter threads, local game events. If you want to work in games, use what’s out there to your advantage. You do belong there, even if you don’t directly create games, code or create digital art.
And if you get the opportunity to have an interview, make the most of it! If I’d have gone into the initial interview I had with nothing more than enthusiasm, that just wouldn’t have been enough. You need to be creative and passionate, but you also need to be practical. Breaking into the games industry can be tough,
If you do have any questions, reach out to me on LinkedIn. Someone was kind enough to introduce me to the inner workings of the games industry, and if you don’t have anyone to do that for you, I am happy to be that person for you.
Good luck on your journey!