Due to request, this column is going to be a slight branch off from last week's topic of "High Expectations." Particularly where I talk about Execs calling the shots on a game, even though that may be the wrong decision and end up hurting the game in the long run. I got asked to take a closer look at certain elements, so I will do just that... only with several columns, instead of one large tome of a column (leave a comment below if you want me to talk about a certain topic, as well).
So this week I want to talk about gamers in the game industry. Now it is without a doubt that there are quite a few avid gamers that work in the game industry, but there are also quite a few people who, well, aren't gamers at all. Before we can talk about gamers working in the industry, we must first pinpoint what we consider to be a gamer, and what qualifications these people should meet.
First off, I consider a gamer someone who, even casually, plays a game. Not the, "Oh I played Mario when I was five. Nothing since then, but that makes me a gamer, right?" Wrong. In my opinion, you have to be active in some type of gaming, not "once upon a time in a far off land I used to play ______." I used to be good at playing the piano when I was young. I stopped playing before high school. I couldn't tell you how to play now or what new piano songs have arisen since. I am not a pianist.
As for qualifications, this should be easy. To qualify for a position you should probably have a fair understanding of the game you are applying for. Let's say, for instance, you want to work with ArenaNet on Guild Wars 2 (I'm using this because it is a recent game release, not because they do or don't do the things I'm mentioning in this article). It'd probably be a good idea to have a grasp, not only of the game you're applying for, but also of MMOs and the market in general. Now, I'm not saying you have to be some know-it-all guru, but you should have a fair understanding of MMOs.
I think that would be a completely fair qualification. Oh, hey! You want to work with us? Sure, tell me what you know about the game and other games like it. What are people saying about it? What is the current trend in the MMO community? Where do you, or other people, see MMOs in the next year to five years?
Honestly, you should be able to answer these questions, and perhaps some more in-depth questions, as well. Yet I feel like there are tons of people, especially "higher-ups" and marketing, that don't know a thing about games, trends, and what the community is seeking. They speculate and try to throw out the "WoW did it, so we will too" jargon, but it doesn't work like that anymore (if it ever did).
I actually worked with two different game companies (I won’t name either), but let's just say that for Company A, me having knowledge of the game was a BONUS and for Company B, me having knowledge of the game was a requirement. For Company A, I was baffled with how many people didn't have any knowledge of the game. Not only did I have those people coming to me for answers, but I had seniors also asking me questions in regards to X, Y, and Z because (as you may guess) not only did I know the game, but I had played it quite a bit as well. For Company B, they did not only test my knowledge of the game I'd be working on, but they tested my knowledge of other titles, as well. I had to provide in-depth answers about each product I brought up because, as you can probably guess, the people hiring me were also knowledgeable about those games.
This topic not only stems from last week's column, but from something SOE President, John Smedley had to say in a recent interview: "In my opinion, people that don't play games have no business in this business. It should be the gamers-only club, I think. I can't stand people that don't know what they're talking about when it comes to playing these things".
Not only do I agree with him, but I really can't wait to see more and more game companies take this thought into practice. I already know that there are companies out there, like Red5, Riot Games, and Trion that practice these ideals, but I'd like to see it branch even further and become a precedent in this industry.
What do you all think about this?
Hillary "Pokket" Nicole