Welcome to Guest Post Friday, where today’s words of wisdom come from John Baker at Zazzle, as he weighs up the career options for games enthusiasts:
Long-time players will remember video games taking 15 minutes to load on a flickering screen, literally screeching data from a crude device called a tape into the machine. Blocky, simplistic graphics, poor sound, and no interactivity with the outside world other than shouting for a cup of tea from your mum.
That era is long gone, shifting so momentously from the 1970s and 80s days of the Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Sega Master System that comparing Jet Set Willy and Outrun to The Witcher and Gran Turismo 6 is akin to equating Shakespearean English with emojis and text speak.
In those days gaming was only a hobby or distraction to working life, unless one actively pursued a career in programming. But the shifting sands of the technological world have opened up to a completely different level in imagination and potential for those on both ends of the gaming experience, an industry predicted to hit $113bn by 2018.
Gamers and game creators alike need to think laterally and creatively. They need to make real friends on the other side of the planet to overcome adversity. They need to plan ahead, think on their feet one moment and be patient the next, and be adventurous and stealthy in equal measure. If a serious gamer can harness these skills in ‘real life’ they can be taken forward and applied in the professional world – and not just into a sole career in gaming. A knowledge of the industry could take one from gaming into programming, design, coding, website maintenance and architecture, and even engineering, writing or marketing.
For those who do wish to work in gaming there are some big paying opportunities, even for those who aren’t experts at actually playing. Devouring comedic commentaries via vlogs of games such as Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto can become a part of the 21st century experience to some gaming obsessives. These videos, which might show how to progress through a particular level, or highlight a quirk of the programming, or just showcase game-related silliness, are part soap-opera, part-learning matter, part comedy to the devotees.
It’s no laughing matter for the video creators who have crafted careers and movie- star lifestyles from spotting a gap in this new market, and attracting the advertising, and product placing of giant companies desperate to find the ears and eyes of receptive youngsters. Take the example of Swedish sensation PewDiePie, a multimillionaire at 24 with more than 25-million YouTube subscribers known as the
Bro Army. PewDiePie, Tom Syndicate and others have found a niche that could not have existed even 10 years ago (YouTube was only launched in February 2005), combining gaming and entrepreneurship into dream lives.
These guys know how to analyse a game and its nuances, but what about the elite gamers themselves? Esportsearnings.com has assembled a table of earnings for players across the world, topped by Chen Zhihao who has garnered more than $1.2m in prize money through the multiplayer battle arena game Dota 2 – no small beer for a 24-year-old. Events such as Gamehack take the elite players around the world, to raucous arenas packed with thousands of disciples while commentators unpick strategy.
As in any industry, these are the megastars. Not everyone can make it to the big bucks in the esports arena, just as not all ‘traditional’ sportsmen can be Lionel Messi or Floyd Mayweather. What gaming virtuosity can be, however, is a tool to impress potential employers to recognise the extensive talents that knowledgeable players can bring to the table and pay handsomely in their own right.
For example, Peterborough hosts its first ever gaming experience in August in the form of CityLan, an eSports careers and technology expo which is expected to bring in more than 600 gamers and teams and a cash pot of more than £10,000. Some Halo and FIFA devotees will no doubt only want to see the gaming action but for those who are looking for career direction there will also be stands promoting careers in digital, IT, and gaming industries, while promising app and game designers can showcase their work on 42ft screens before an expected 200,000 shoppers in the city centre.
CityLan marketing manager Nick Betts – who went from first person-shooters as a youngster to learning to code and run his own gaming server, said: “Young people today are growing up surrounded by new forms of electronic media and are therefore developing new ways by which to interact with the world.
“Video games are a part of their play. They are the toys of today, as much as items like Barbie, G.I. Joe and Hot Rods were for other generations. Video games are a part of how children develop their imaginations and how they play independently as well as with their friends.
“Patience, perseverance, forward thinking and strategic planning, leadership, socialisation, mental and creative prowess, sympathy and empathy are just a few of the skills people young and old gain from playing games.
“From games that are designed to improve and train brain functionality to games with such powerful story-lines they are considered a work of art by many, not just a game.”
The fact that events such as CityLan exist to integrate gaming and careers should be heartening to parents of young gamers, perhaps concerned that their offspring’s apparent love of the console or PC could threaten their life progress. Gaming can be a platform for a career, both at the start and further down the line.
Case in point: Andy Gray. Andy progressed through the various platforms from the humble Commodore 64 through Gameboys, Atari, N64, Playstation, and many more. That took a love of gaming and sport into a job as a PR manager for a small games company in Sheffield, and then eventually to a role as global PR manager with long- established gaming company Codemasters, for the official Formula One and Ashes games. His jet-set lifestyle took him across America and Europe, to glamorous parties and promotional events. And then he decided he wanted to leave.
Andy said: “They were amazing times. I was there for five years, won a BAFTA, had a few number ones and generally had a good laugh while working with some incredible people. There were a variety of reasons behind me moving but essentially I had been there for too long and needed a new challenge.
“I knew F1 the sport and the game inside out and it felt like a rinse and repeat process year-on-year. I also felt it was time for me to ‘grow up and get a proper job’ which was a very gradual process. After all I didn’t want to be the oldest person at E3 (entertainment expo).”
So Andy departed, spending time in London before finally applying for a job at insurance giants The BGL Group, where he became PR manager. It’s not a decision he regrets, but one made easier by his former role.
“My gaming background has proven invaluable. I have a different way of thinking about things compared to ‘traditional PR’. Games, by their very nature, have tech savvy audiences so social media and video play a huge part in any of your campaigns. I’m always happy to try something new and change things. If it doesn’t work then so be it, but if it does then you can really effect change across your organisation and having that freedom to try things out definitely speaks to my days in gaming.”
Some of Andy’s friends have remained in the industry and have no plans to follow him to BGL or Comparethemarket.com, where a variety of potential jobs exist that could be of interest. Should they change their mind they might be aware that young people have never had more of an opportunity to take their love of gaming into a career, in computer laboratories or arenas; in their own bedroom with a headset, or a corporate setting employing thousands.
Gaming is as close as many will ever get to warfare in foreign lands or racing around Monaco in a grand prix car. The good news is that even if they ever put down their controllers and want to move on, the skills they will have acquired will stand them in good stead – so that for their career, it definitely won’t be game over.
Inspired by these stories? Check out Adzuna for your next step on the ladder.