Every week as I rack my brain trying to figure out something new to discuss I always fall back to asking myself “what do I constantly think about when playing video games?” This question always circles back to the fact that I wish I was employed in the video game industry working towards leveling out the playing field for women in video games. A year and two months out from graduating from Purdue University I am still on the hunt for that “dream job” and have applied for over 200 positions with many different video game development studios. Along the way I have learned quite a bit and figured I could share some partial advice to those of you who may be beginning your search for a job, as a female, in the video game industry.
I figured out somewhat late in the college game that I wanted to work in the video game industry. Initially I came to Purdue with every intention of becoming a Mechanical Engineer, but as time went on my first semester I slowly realized that while I could easily do the work my heart just wasn’t in it. As someone who has a deep desire to be fulfilled by the work that I do in life, I knew I had to find something else. Eventually, over a two year time span, my heart’s desires landed on video games and I’ve been running with it ever since. Unfortunately, this squandered time cost me time that I could have been using to do small independent projects that would impress video game development studios. So here comes advice number one…
1. Spend as much time as possible working on independent projects
One thing that has been brought up time and time again when pursuing jobs is my lack of experience. When applying for an “entry-level” position one might scratch their head and wonder how they expect you to get that experience in the first place, but there are a lot of people working on independent projects that gain them experience. Aside from the experience that this will gain you, it also looks pretty impressive on a resume because it shows that you can take initiative for your work without being pressed to by school or job obligations.
If you live in a largely populated area there is a very good chance that there are indie game development studios around you, gamedevmap is an awesome resource to find studios in locations near you. If you happen to be near an indie studio take the time to reach out to them and offer your services free of charge. Volunteering your help allows you to gain experience while also offering the opportunity to see a game from beginning to end, which is extremely valuable knowledge to have under your belt.
2. Apply early and often
Another disadvantage to being late to the “job in the video game industry” game was that I had very little time to prepare and apply to jobs prior to graduation. While I had an interesting experience (to say the least) my senior year with a potential job, it didn’t pan out and it cost me a lot of time that could have been spent finding jobs or gaining experience elsewhere. I would honestly suggest starting to look at applying the end of sophomore/ beginning of junior year so that you can get a feel of where you stand before your senior year gets started. That way, if you need more experience in particular areas, you can use your senior year and class options to gain the experience you lack before truly hitting the job market.
Another perk of starting to apply to these jobs early is that you’ll be able to apply to a lot. So take advantage of that fact; apply to as many jobs possible, even the ones you aren’t qualified for. Putting your name in the bucket shows not only your interest but your persistence. AAA development studios see thousands of applications a day, Human Resources isn’t going to remember your name just because you submitted an application once for one single job. Smaller companies won’t remember your name unless you stand out and one way to do that is to be ambitious and determined in obtaining that job.
3. Go through the process understanding that there are people out there better suited for the job than you
One of the most difficult things I have had to overcome through this process has been accepting the fact that there are a ton of people who are way more qualified than I am applying for the same jobs as me. That will be true for any job you apply for but the truth is that while they may appear to be more qualified, you have an arsenal of qualifications that are specific to your experiences that make you a more ideal candidate than them. And this is something you will have to keep telling yourself when round after round of rejections come through. While someone may look good on paper, a high GPA isn’t going to get them the job. One of the most common words that you’ll see on development studio’s job ads is passion. Passion will take you pretty far if you have the experience to back it up and the best way to show your passion is to take time out of your day to work with video games. Like I said in the first point, volunteering or starting something of your own is the way to go.
Something that has been even harder to accept for me is that there are a lot of women who are willing to exploit their gender to obtain a job. Most recently I had applied for one of the two positions with Microsoft to work for “Team Major Nelson” and was lucky enough to make it to the second round. They asked for a two minute video explaining why applicants should be picked and encouraged us to be creative in our approach. I spent hours organizing my toys/figures/posters into a “geeky backdrop” for my video and approached my content in a very logical manner. I spent two minutes explaining to them why I was qualified for the job and why my passion would take me far with their company. Many people posted their videos to YouTube/Twitter/Facebook and made it searchable by using the hashtag #TeamMjrNelson which allowed second round applicants to view their competition. Unfortunately, some of the most popular videos were of girls who were applying and using their bodies and/or “feminine charms” as their two minute “reason to hire me” application. It was extremely disheartening to see and I seriously doubted my video would get any attention because of how straight forward I had been. Fortunately (and unfortunately) it seems as though none of those women moved forward (I did not either) , but the unfortunate piece is that I believe they have narrowed it down to only male applicants!
Don’t stoop to that level; you will never be respected if you obtained the job because you used your body to get it. This should be common sense, but I have been shocked time and time again seeing how some people still do not understand that fact. If we are to do the video game industry any justice by being female it will come from our abilities to do the job and do it well, not flaunt sex to influence decisions.
4. Last, but most importantly, DON’T GIVE UP
This point is the most difficult and the most important. It will feel hopeless time and time again when you are receiving rejections on your application. Just because they don’t want you for that job doesn’t mean you can’t get a job in the industry, it just means you need to refine your approach. Gain some more experience, have a friend look over your resume, apply for jobs you’re over qualified for, but don’t give up. Many of my friends that have wanted to work in the video game industry but were rejected time and time again have given up and have since moved on to other careers. This is the last thing I would advise you to do, especially if you know that working in the video game industry is your calling. There are a lot of people who want jobs in the industry and I know there aren’t enough jobs to hold the amount of people who want them, but this is still a young media and there is so much room for it to grow.
One of the most amazing things in my life during this process has been the support I have received from people who believe in what I am trying to do. My family, my boyfriend, teachers, friends, etc. have all offered support to me in times when I have had doubts and it has made all the difference. A support system will help you in times when you feel like you can’t do it anymore and trust me that moment will come. Fight past it and apply for the next job!
As I wrote this article I opened my bottle of Sweet Leaf Sweet Tea and under each cap is what the company calls a “Grannyism.” Today’s “Grannyism” fits perfectly with the post and so I will end my advice with it:
Links to helpful sites:
Games Jobs Direct: http://www.gamesjobsdirect.com/
Names in Games: http://www.namesingames.com/
Gamasutra Jobs: http://jobs.gamasutra.com/
Game Industry Grunts: http://gameindustrygrunts.com/