This week I am at Austin Game Developer Conference. Today's column will be short, but I wanted to write something for anyone who is interested in entering the video game industry as a career. As the down economy has impacted everything in our world over the last year, there are still pockets of growth to be found. After my first day here at AGDC I have seen some amazing stories of growth in video games. Sure, some of them are on a small scale, but those who have the drive to get out there and make games, even if it is from the basement of their house, have a chance to excel in this business. As technology and software expand further into our everyday lives, games are becoming a more common form of entertainment. This creates an environment that presents endless opportunity.
The mobile game market is booming and phone games are continuing to grow. The great part about programming games on this level is that they are not as complex as full scale games. If you have the desire to do something in this industry, mobile games are a great place to jump into right now. Smaller companies are being formed for just this purpose and it is great to see the drive they have to get their games out there.
The other area that is exploding with growth is in flash games. Sure they are much smaller than AAA titles, but smaller developers continue to put games out. While the quality and depth may be lacking from some of these games currently, it is only a matter of time before we start to see better and better free to play games. One of the conversations we had here was about how there are no "good" free to play games. Based on what we have seen coming, that will change and eventually F2P MMOs will have the depth we as players want without the heavy lifting some of the bigger titles carry for game play.
The best area of growth I have seen is among friends in the industry who have now been given their own products to work on. I cannot name names, but it is exciting to see someone who worked as a Community Manager four years ago now works as a Producer on a new MMO for a major publisher. I also ran into someone who had done marketing for years in this business and has now been given the chance to build their own game. Stories like these remind me that opportunity exists for everyone out there in this industry. They are fantastic tales of watching people truly climb the ladder in their careers because they work hard and get the opportunity when it comes.
It really bugs me sometimes when the older generation look down and say things like, "Oh my son works in video games, I have no idea what he does." Perhaps because we're not doctors or lawyers, they deem what we do as silly and playful rather than hard work. If they were to say, "He produces movies," people would stand up and listen at the family reunion each year. Well, from what I have seen, hard work in this industry does pay off. You may not enter and be given the budget to build your own game right away. However, if you thrive and push to become great at your area you can succeed in games.
Another thing that always surprises me about the game industry is just how friendly it really can be. Okay I understand I am press and well, everyone has to be nice to press, but still there is a camaraderie that exists among gamers. That camaraderie is built by our passion for games. In going to an industry dinner I can sit and talk with people from rival studios and have a great discussion about game design. Sure, they are not going to share all of their secrets, but they can smile and chat without being cut throat, at least for the time I am there. Every business has a cut throat side, I am not trying to paint gaming into a happy land of ponies and fairies. However, more often than not, the game business has this we're all in the boat together mentality. It might come from everyone having worked at every different studio at one time or another. That boat is not a bad place to be.
I hope some of these quick stories helped to inspire someone who may be thinking of joining the game industry. As more colleges institute game development majors and more companies look to expand games into our everyday lives there is plenty of opportunity. When the economy picks up again and money is not as hard to come by I hope gaming gets the bulk of that benefit. Even now though I am happy to see the opportunity in games remains for anyone willing to work for it.