The question I get asked the most is how I got started in video games or how to get a job at Nintendo. I don’t have a crazy amazing origin story – I applied online. However, I can give you a bit on my background and a few pointers to get you started in the right direction!
One of the first things people usually ask me is what my degree is in. I don’t think this is a super relevant question and I will tell you why: gaming companies need people to do everything! You can be a level designer, accountant, marketer, receptionist, tester, lawyer or any of dozens of roles companies need to function. My advice is to find a job path you love and want to work in long term. Don’t force yourself into a position just to get a foot in the door. (But for those who are curious, my degree is in Journalism with a focus on Public Relations.)
If you want to stop here, I’ll go ahead and give you the TL;DR – pick a job field you love doing, get great at it and then apply for a games job!
I started my career at a small Public Relations firm, and then later moved to one of the biggest PR firms in the world. The accounts I worked on were about as far away from video games as you can get: heating and cooling, water heating, wood products, paint and stain and other building products. As time went on, it became obvious to me that there were several things about traditional public relations that I really disliked doing. The biggest thing I hated to do was the good ol’ smile-and-dial method of media relations, which many PR firms still use even though it is the worst and literally no journalist wants to hear from you that way.
I had been fortunate enough to do some digital work for clients. A blog post here, web copy there. Commercial building products didn’t have too much need for social media (keep in mind that this was before the advent of Twitter – social was still new and it was before everyone and their grandma had a Facebook account). However, my coworkers knew that I’m pretty goofy and fantastic at making dad jokes, and other client teams would come to me when they needed help crafting social messages. As I became known for crafting short social media messages, I was lucky enough to start transitioning into the digital business.
After working at PR agencies for about five years, I was doing some social media work for clients but I was still doing traditional PR as well. I decided that I wanted to look for full time social media work. At the time, Atlanta wasn’t a great market for social agencies (although now there are quite a few great social teams in the ATL!). I had lived in Atlanta all my life, and decided I was open to moving as long as I was moving for a job I absolutely wanted to do. I began to look at job listings in cities where I had friends or was interested in living in.
Quite a few of my friends had moved to San Francisco, so it was one of the cities on my list. I found a posting on SEGA’s website for an assistant community manager job that I applied for and assumed I would never hear back on. A few days later, lo and behold I had a Skype interview – and the rest is history!
Do I regret the years I put in at PR firms working on accounts that weren’t “sexy?” Absolutely not. The experience taught me a lot about making mundane topics interesting, helped make sure I was at the cutting-edge of social media and taught me a lot about work environments and hierarchies. I probably wouldn’t have been able to get into video games without that experience. Gaming is an incredibly competitive field to get into because so many people want to work in games. The unfortunate amount of turnover in the industry means that there are dozens of highly-qualified industry vets looking for work at any given time. If you can’t start out in gaming, I recommend getting into your chosen field and working on your skills for a few years to guarantee that you’re the most qualified individual for the job.