I think what a lot of hopeful (and new) developers tend to overlook (especially the geeky, introspective, or socially awkward types) is that we have one of the greatest sources of shared experiences on the planet at our very fingertips. We play games, and a lot of games are an inherently social environment. Game developers will also generally play games too… not always video games, necessarily, but games. So if you want an in with some local developers, this is your best course of action - find them, get into a social environment, and game with them.
Play street fighter, play magic, play warhammer, play anything. Go to an IGDA Game Jam, and sign up to participate. Don’t just play games you’re familiar with or like, open yourself up to new games. Ask what games the others are playing and ask if you can join. It’s a game and they are having fun with it, so why not? Exchange PSN, XBL, Steam, or Origin friend requests. Game with them. Offer to host a tabletop night. Join or start up a pen and paper RPG campaign. Make plans to meet up at a tabletop gaming cafe.
A friend of mine at a AAA studio would constantly tell me about the awesome board game group at his office. Once, while I was in town for GDC, I got a chance to meet some of them at a barbecue. We played some great board games like Runebound and Nuns on the Run together. Not only do I get exposed to new game mechanics to analyze and study at these sessions, but I also get exposed to other trained and professional perspectives on those mechanics. It’s a golden opportunity to learn, as well as make friends and network.
Playing games together is an inherently social experience. It also helps circumvent those stickler issues like not being comfortable talking to strangers and such. It provides a common footing and basis for conversation, and establishes some familiarity. And even if you’re a total amateur or haven’t ever done something before, you’re in an essentially collaborative environment where people will encourage you and teach you.
One of the things that Yugioh taught me long, long ago is to always try to game with people and avoid turning down an invitation from someone in your chosen career industry to play games. If you were ever confused as to how to actually build a “social” network (and not just twitter, facebook, etc. but an actual network of people you can contact and talk with), this is how you do it. Play games with them, observe, and learn. Ask their advice and for suggestions. And make friends! This isn’t about using people for connections and career advancement, but it’s also a collaborative learning experience. Bounce ideas off of them, ask questions about why things are the way they are. Learn. Grow. By showing you’re interested in learning, that you’ve got decent ideas, and that you’re generally fun to play with, it helps establish those networking connections for the future. It may not pay off immediately, but that’s not the point. A year or two down the line, the friend who you played Yugioh with might be the one who not only helped you become a better developer, but also be the person who gets you the interview to show it.
This post was primarily excerpts from [Game Development Career Advice: Yugioh and “Social” Networking]
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