JOBS IN GAMES: Why you should go indepedent

Throughout this month, MCV will be talking to recruitment agencies and established industry players as part of our Jobs In Games special, in association with OPM.

But James Dance, founder of Cornish retro games cafe Loading, says there’s alternative ways to get a career in games that don’t require these companies.

Why pay to win isn’t your only ticket in to the games industry

Those famous words of rejection – "You don’t have the experience we’re looking for…" But how do you go about getting that experience? Maybe internships or a placement, but there is another option…

Go independent.

Why? Firstly, no painful interview process; you’re guaranteed to get the job you’re after as you’re the one doing the hiring. You’ll have to be willing to put in the time, but it’s a way into the industry. You’re gaining the freedom to do whatever excites you most, rather than making tea or working your way up.

In most sectors the entry barrier is as low as it’s going to be. Budding game designers/bedroom coders are enjoying a renaissance with the advent of mobile gaming and Steam/Indie bundles. Interested in PR? With so many launches and the advent of new media, companies are looking into completely new areas for inspiration/staff. With companies trying to cut costs there’s been a shift to hiring short-term freelancers rather than having the staff on permanent contracts.

Because I had little to no finance, launching took time; I was 24 before opening but over that planning stage I learnt so much and still got countless opportunities I would have never got just emailing as an individual. Heading to Leipzig Games Convention In 2008 I went from serving roast dinners to meeting PR executives in 24 hours because I was technically ‘in’ the industry. Not everyone is going to take to you, I did get shunted by a few companies for looking like I’d lost my guardians and snuck in from the public section, but thanks to the growing influence of social media like Twitter you can get in touch and make business contacts far easier than in years gone by.

The main problem is having the confidence/stupidity (delete as applicable) to go for it and consider yourself a worthy addition to the industry. If your happy making sure people have heard of you then half the battle is won. The majority of questions I get from people who visit Loading or email are asking why did magazine X cover you or why would they sponsor you? While part of that is timing, the biggest element is telling people.

"I play games 24/7" – Keza MacDonald made a point on the IGNUK podcast discussing the need to have other interests/skills beyond gaming, Loading came around because it combined a number of interests and skills I had – former Head Chef so I knew suppliers, production from film studies and finally games as they’d been around my life since I could remember. No matter what role you’re aiming to end up in the experience of running your own business is perfect to broaden your skill set.

Going it alone as a start up isn’t going to work for everybody, but if you’ve the desire and as you’re reading an industry magazine/website you must have more than a passing interest in games, work out what your strengths and interests are and set your company up around that.

So what happens if you set up your own office, the work doesn’t pile in and you’re forced to close your doors?

When I set about planning Loading it was only ever intended as an alternative to a gap year and if it went well I’d keep doing it, if not it had only cost the same as say travelling for a year, it would also mean I’d no longer be yet another 21 year old with an arts degree and experience in hospitality. I’d be alot more employable as I’d have gained this sometimes mythical ‘experience’ of being a manager – running a business.

In the same way you can pay to win in games, if you don’t have the rich parents or trust fund to bank role a relocation to London there’s is still an option for you to get to where you want to be, provided you’re willing to put in the time there’s nothing stopping you.

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