MMORPG: What advice can you give to girls and women looking to get involved in the industry?
VM: The advice I give to girls and women is the same advice I give to anyone who aspires to get into the video game industry: Decide what you want to be and go be it.
Yes, that’s ludicrously simplistic way of putting it, especially in an industry like ours where just getting your foot in the door can be such a crap shoot. I’m one of the blessed few who sort of tripped into a way to earn a living doing the things I love surrounded by people I adore. Trust me, I know how lucky I am and I never take it for granted. On the other hand, I have a BFF who has done all the right things and busted her butt for years but still hasn’t been able to get that one big break.
And that’s what it boils down to, really, is that one big break. I say this all the time, that the game industry is so small and incestuous that if we had a theme song it would be “Dueling Banjos”. There’s not even six degrees of separation; usually it’s less than four. The trick is in landing that first game industry job. Once that happens, it’s sort of like moving around on a giant checkerboard.
In a recent Reddit AMA, our creative director/co-founder J. Todd Coleman was asked a similar question. His response was beautiful: “If you love doing something, you'll find a way. Just keep trying. Eventually, you'll find a way.”
First of all, remember that game companies need a wide range of talent. Programmers, designers and artists are obvious choices, but there are also spots for producers, project managers, human resources, finance, marketing, quality assurance and customer care – the list goes on, depending on how large the company is and how much they do in-house. I’ve worked at companies that had corporate chefs, event planners and even a person who designs the packaging for things like collector’s editions. (When you open those, you never stop to think that there was actually a real human person who chose whether it would have a sticky button or Velcro tab closure, but that’s an actual job someone somewhere has.)
Start by identifying what sort of job you think you’d like to do. Next, network to get access to the people who are already doing that job. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that has organizations like the IGDA (gamedevmap.com is a great resource for finding local groups), become involved in their activities and attend as many conferences and workshops as you can. Build up your contacts and try to find a mentor.
Two essential ingredients are patience—your dream job isn’t going to drop into your lap overnight—and flexibility. As I said before, landing that first job in the game industry is often the hardest part. Take whatever position you can: receptionist, customer support agent or quality assurance tester. From there, you can build up your skills and your contacts. You may even find that the job you thought you wanted isn’t the right one for you and there’s something else you’d rather do.
MMORPG: Is there any part of games development you'd like to try someday?
VM: I don’t think so. I’m really happy with where I am and what I’m doing now.