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BREAKING IN: YOU DON'T NEED ANYONE'S PERMISSION

26 Feb 2012

Whenever an aspiring game designer asks me how they can break into the games industry, I tell them: It's not about a college degree, it's not about paying your dues, and it's not about who you know. It's about just knuckling down and making games.

A while back I noted an article by Adam Saltsman where he gave similar advice:

Ultimately, whether you are aiming for big games or small ones, or somewhere in between, my advice is the same: start creating something right now, and keep doing it every day.

Well, here's another voice speaking up in favor of the direct approach, Loot Drop's Elizabeth Sampat:

That’s the big lie. There’s no “breaking in” to game development. Waiting for your break is like standing outside of a public library waiting for someone to invite you in. If you have the love and the drive, you can walk through that door on your own.

You really should go read the whole thing; it's a great story. But I especially wanted to point out this gem, from her response to a commenter:

When I was making (and self-publishing) these little games, and I got my first job interviews, and I thought SHIT! What do I put on my resume? I’ve been taking shit jobs so I had more time to make my games! It took a friend actually reminding me that the games I made counted, and were why I was being offered the interview in the first place. It is incredibly easy to de-legitimize the games you make on your own, but you’ve got to fight that urge. Take yourself seriously and other people will, too

I think Elizabeth is spot-on here, and I think this de-legitimization is the thing that makes people think they need to go to school, or get to know someone on the inside, or carpet-bomb studios with empty resumes: they've convinced themselves the games they might produce as amateurs have no value. Sure, those games might not sell, but with every game you make you learn a little more about what to do and what not to do, about what you're good at and where your skills gaps lie, about what ideas you have in you to express, and about how you can put it all together without killing yourself in the process. The skills you develop, and the knowledge you gain about yourself, are both infinitely more important to studios than your college degree or your social connections. And I know what I'm talking about: I was personally responsible for hiring the entire design team at LightBox, and I'm telling you right now what I did and did not look for in making those decisions.

Now stop reading this stupid blog and go make a game, already!

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game-design video-games