Imagine for a second that you are in your final year of a degree in business management. You are exploring your career options but you know that regardless of the path you take you are looking for significant early responsibility.
You want the ability to quickly develop your career, the opportunity to travel and explore the world, for your work to have a real impact on the running and evolution of your company and to be surrounded by other equally hardworking and driven people.
The sad truth is that whilst each of these requirements can easily be met in a career in video games (one of a few industries where they can) you are unlikely to consider the development of video games as a route to professional satisfaction.
Why? Because video games studios are not doing enough to target you with their recruitment efforts. Your education background is not games-specific, so you are side-lined.
This makes you ignorant of your potential in one of the fastest growing, most profitable and most valuable industries in the world, and it is desperately ignorant of you.
There is more to the business of games than code, art and design
This is a terrible situation. Not just for students, but for the video games industry as a whole. Our industry appears to be side-lining a huge pool of talent because we seem determined in our recruitment efforts to focus on student coders, artists and game designers.
This is not to say that code, art and design are not deserving of robust recruitment attention – that would be absurd.
This is instead to say that marketing, business development, production, studio management, community development, data analysis, sales, etcetera, are each as essential to the running of a successful games business and that high quality student-level acquisitions for these positions can prove as invaluable.
What’s more, because students with comparatively generalised, non-gaming specific education backgrounds can often adequately mould themselves to these positions, studios have huge market-reach in deriving exceptionally talented individuals.
These are people with the ability to continue the development of our industry and who are crying out to be approached by dynamic companies who can offer them the kind of early responsibility they will simply not be given in other industries.
I truly believe that there are fantastic opportunities in video games for students of every major. The trouble is that those students are simply not being made aware of them.
Chance rather than design
Coming from a non-gaming university background myself I know how difficult it can be for a student studying a non-gaming specific degree to discover career opportunities in video games.
Due to final-year studies you have very little time to explore out of-the-box career opportunities, and your general ignorance of the video games industry makes it difficult to even know where to begin.
This makes you reliant on careers advisors who, unfortunately, are equally ignorant of alternative industries, ultimately leaving you horribly underexposed to alternative careers and more likely to toe the line than not.
Of course, people do come into the video games industry from university via alternative routes, and I know of a few non-gaming students like myself who ‘kinda stumbled’ into their video games careers while casually surfing the web, but these were chance rather than design moments. Nothing more.
Because while banks, financial service firms, professional service firms, etcetera, were clamouring for our multi-disciplined signatures through recruitment fairs, direct mail, contacting career advisors, and other creative means, we were never approached by video games studios to inform us of the opportunities we had available to us.
We were left oblivious to the fact that we could work with the products we had enjoyed our whole lives. Which reminds me:
Video games are freaking cool!
They really are. Working with video games is awesome, and by working in games I think we tend to forget how interesting our jobs can appear to students.
The dynamism of the working day, the people you work with, the products you get to fool around with, the opportunities in your future, taking calls with people in the states/japan/everywhere, the responsibilities you are given from the get go, the fact you don’t have to wear a suit (although coming into the studio in a full tux + cummerbund every once in a while is a joy), etcetera.
There are many compelling reasons, both professional and personal, why top students from every major university discipline should aspire to develop their academic careers into professional video games careers, and, if approached, I certainly feel it wouldn’t be difficult for games studios to turn their heads towards our industry.
We have to do more
It is becoming more and more prudent as our industry evolves for studios to expand and adapt their recruitment policies according to the human resources required to stay viable.
Who would have known how important economies in new iAP service and freemium-model games would become.
Valve’s hiring of Yanis Varoufakis may have been an anomaly last year, but we may see a day soon when economists are as vital to the games industry as they are to the financial industry, thus putting the two in direct competition for top talent.
Similarly, as more and more studios move to self-publishing on mobile platforms, marketing students, psychology students and others may become superior to lateral intra/inter-industry hires through virtue of the fresh insight they can bring to fresh challenges.
However, unless video games studios from independents to the big triple developers become more proactive in promoting not only themselves to fringe students but the video games industry as a whole as well, those students will become increasingly alienated from the profession of games development and will continue to dismiss it as a route to professional fulfilment.
By at least matching the recruitment efforts of other successful tertiary industries we can quickly catch up.