Happy New Year everyone! With a new year comes new beginnings, and that has been the theme of my blog posts this week: creating new beginnings – or rather, creating a new life for yourself by getting your foot into the indie game industry. I have detailed how to build a portfolio for not only artists but those with other skills as well. Moreover, I have also detailed how to create an awesome game development resume as well, and while this killer combo can make the difference between getting an interview and failing to get a reply from a hiring manager altogether, experience is necessary.
What can you do if you are finding that, when creating your resume, you do not have enough game development experience (or you do not have enough experience where you are comfortable with applying to various indie development jobs)? What is your next move when a hiring manager says, “thanks, but we’re looking for someone with a little more experience?” You want that big break – heck, you need it – yet you’re experiencing the catch-22 of most creative fields: the need for experience, the inability to obtain it. When this occurs, you need to live by the following mantra:
If nobody is going to provide me with experience, I have to make my own experiences.
You want to show the world what you can do right? Then show future hiring managers exactly what you are made of. Here are a few ways you can do this.
Developing your own game(s)
This is the most obvious way to gain experience. To show hiring managers what you can do, consider developing the game you have always wanted to develop. In short, make a game for you. By making a game you have always wanted to develop, your vision can remain clear and true, and your true talents will certainly show through to those you are trying to impress. Look at Minecraft as an example. Notch (the developer of Minecraft) made a game that he knew he would enjoy playing, and as a result, his true vision shined through.
And guess what? Minecraft is now on its way to becoming the best-selling PC game of all time. An amazing byproduct of what can happen when you make a game for yourself and remain true to your vision. And the best part? Potential employers are more likely to be impressed with your results when you develop a game made the way you want to develop it.
Valve and Bioware have a history of hiring modders that create incredible mods for their games. While it isn’t necessary for you to mod a game developed by your potential employer, creating stellar mods for games is a good way to showcase exactly what you can do. The more creative and solid the better too, because believe me, if you can mod a game, turn it on its head, and make it completely unique, you’re going to impress the right people.
Help other small, independent developers (for free)
Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock has stated numerous times that the money he is making now as a filmmaker pales to the amount of work he did for free before making his big break. There is value in working for free, and while I understand that the very thought of working for free makes your skin crawl, it’s worth considering. I get it: many people want to take advantage of creatives by letting them work for free and earn “experience” instead of pay, but when you have little to no experience, you are not below this. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many days I have worked for free as a gaming journalist, but you know what? The work I did for free allowed me to get my first paid game-related writing gigs, and from those jobs, better gigs came about.
Thus, attempt to find small, indie developers that need help with their game. These people could be sole developers of their game, and if you can show them what you can do, they are certainly going to welcome the help – especially if it means they do not have to pay you. What’s even better about this? You will be making contacts in the industry, and who knows: years down the road, the indie developer you helped to develop their game could be a major player in an indie studio and could offer you a job. Sure, you are not getting paid for your experience, but you are networking and getting experience that could get you a decent job sooner rather than later.
Experience, whether you are being paid or not, is experience – and you need it. It could mean the difference between getting your dream job and not getting a job at all. Remember: if you scoff at a development gig that only pays in ‘experience,’ somebody else is going to take the position and may very well benefit from it in the long run.