Everyone who works in games has their own unique story of how they started, after all, it’s a fairly new and rather small industry. The best way to describe how I got my first job in games is that I really just stumbled into it.
All my life I’ve been a nerd, I like to say that I was born into it. Both of my parents, despite my mother’s protests, are super geeky, and my older brother grew up on comic books, cartoons, and video games. Now, this doesn’t necessarily make them nerds, until you factor in that our family’s vacation each year was a trip to San Diego Comic-Con International. The same Comic-Con that now has an online lottery-style waiting room over eight months prior to the con just to try to buy tickets. The first year my family went, my mother was still pregnant with me. Pretty sure that was the beginning of the end of my hopes of ever growing into anything other than a nerd, and I wasn’t even born yet.
As a child, I really didn’t see myself as too much of a nerd. Sure I played games on an hand-me-down Gameboy and would beg my brother to play Duck Hunt for the NES any time I saw him playing Super Mario, but I also liked Books, Sailor Moon, Barbie, tag, Disney, jungle gyms, and Saturday morning cartoons. As I grew older, I tended to prefer to watch my brother play video games or sometimes play multiplayer games like Golden Eye and Star Fox 64, only really playing games like Pokémon on my own and usually preferring to read if I had free time. I remember it wasn’t until about the time that GameCube came out that I really began playing a lot more games, and it wasn’t until I got my own PS2 that I started considering myself a “gamer”. I remember one Christmas I got a copy of Animal Crossing from my brother. He shrugged when I opened it and confessed that he went to a game store (back when there was more than just Game Stop) and asked for a video game for someone who doesn’t play games.
Ooh were they right. I spent hours playing animal crossing, and later discovered the wonderful world of The Sims, which I sunk more of my life in then I care to admit. It was around this time as well that I began discovering anime (outside of Studio Ghibli, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball Z). My best friend also began introducing me to JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games) like Final Fantasy, the Tales series (at the time specifically Tales of Symphonia), Star Ocean, and Lunar. Not too much later, another friend of mine got me started on an MMO called Guild Wars, and with that I was hooked.
Throughout high school and college I spent at least 8,000 hours on Guild Wars & Guild Wars 2 collectively. Plus I played through Kingdom Hearts, Ratchet and Clank, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit (GameCube), Rock Band & Guitar Hero, Super Mario Sunshine, Paper Mario, God of War III, Mario Kart, Portal & Portal 2, Minecraft, Borderlands & BL 2, and countless others. Not to mention all the anime, manga, sports, job, clubs, and of course school work I kept up with too (thinking back on it, I wonder if this has anything to do with my insomnia).
Anywhozies, all of that was to lead up to me graduating college wanting to go into sleep research or something dealing with artificial intelligence. So working in a lab that monitors people as they sleep, for research. Only problem, I had no idea where to find a job in a sleep research lab or what to even look for to apply for such a job. Instead, my first job out of college was at this terrible scam of a company which forced us to cold call people and try to convince them to refinance their homes (there’s more to talk about with them but I’ll save it for another time). After working there for less than a week, I decided to apply to just about any other job I could find. When my mom noticed how much I hated the place I worked, she suggested I should apply to video game companies in the area, since I spent so much of my time playing games. After she convinced me that there was really nothing I could lose by just applying, I sent my resume to just about every game company I could find a listing for (in addition to still applying to all the random other jobs I came across). I got lucky. After about a week of sending out my application, I got an email asking me to come in for an interview for a Quality Assurance (QA) tester for a video game publishing company, which I was entirely over dressed for (game companies are pretty casual, going into an interview wearing a blouse, blazer, skirt and heels to be interviewed by a guy in shorts and a t-shirt is, well, awkward). They hired me about two weeks later and I began working on my first game, Barbie.
TL:DR – I was a nerdy kid with a nerdy family. I wanted to work in AI or sleep research but didn’t know where to apply. I found a list of local video game companies and sent my resume to everyone who was hiring. I got a job as a QA tester a few weeks later.