Work as Play: Why Your Career in Gaming Can Start Now
The video game industry went through a phoenix-like transformation during the pandemic. Global game sales rose by 20% and 227 million Americans reported that they played video games regularly. To support that demand, a host of professionals, commentators, and players have pivoted their careers to gaming, and are reaping the rewards of working within a booming industry. For folks who aren’t sure of their next move, a career in video games is no longer a pipedream—it’s a viable industry to target.
People have been gaming professionally for decades. Even in the 90s, top pro gamers like Dennis Fong, known as Thresh, were able to command six-figure incomes through tournament play. Now, with sponsorship deals, tournament winnings, and monthly salaries, eSports players can make a regular income that rivals many top athletes from other sports. However, like many sports, aspiring eSports competitors face stiff competition to land lucrative professional gaming contracts, and very few gamers can make a full-time career from gaming alone.
While your chances of becoming an eSports pro are low, it is a great time to gain popularity and income as a streamer. Over 1 billion people watched video games streams and content in 2020, which represented a viewership growth of 25%. While streamers are almost always in the top 10% of players in their respective games, becoming a successful streamer doesn’t necessarily demand that you be among the very best. Instead, streamers like Broxh prove that gaining a following as a streamer is more about personality and interaction than grinding to become an elite-level gamer. By uploading high-quality content, you can gather a dedicated following which may lead to sponsorships on top of donations from viewers and ad revenue.
It takes a lot to create and maintain a video game. Beyond the coders and writers, most major game studios hire hundreds, if not thousands, of people from many different professional backgrounds. As of 2021, 273,379 people work in the US video game industry and economic analysts expect that number to grow in response to increasing player bases globally.
The wonderful thing about working in the gaming industry is the diversity of skills, knowledge, and life experiences it takes to bring a game into life. Big budget, AAA games like Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us II employ thousands of writers, administrators, sound designers, software engineers, researchers, and actors. That means that, whatever your current profession, there is a niche for you to explore in the gaming industry. Even if the idea of making a career change is daunting to you, it’s worth remembering there are few industries with more energy and upward potential than the gaming industry.
The Commentators and Critics
If you spend time gaming, then you probably also spend time reading about gaming. This means that there is now a thriving community of critics, commentators, reviewers, and experts creating content about the video game industry. There are thousands of blogs dedicated to different games and platforms, and major news outlets like the UK’s Guardian and the US’s New York Times have entire sections dedicated to gaming. You can choose to write about anything from quick listicles to personal essays, like Ciaran Conliffe’s brilliant “A Bridge To The Future: How Death Stranding Helped Me Cope With 2020”.
There are a few ways to become a gaming writer. The easiest and quickest way is to create your own blog and start writing. The most common route, however, is to start pitching websites and blogs like HeadStuff. To write a good pitch, take the time to read at least a half dozen articles from the website you’re pitching to and read a site’s submission guidelines thoroughly. This will give you a good idea of the site’s tone and will let you know if your idea is a good fit. Over time, you can build an increasingly impressive portfolio of work and find your niche as a gaming writer.
Remote Work Makes It Possible
In the early days of the pandemic, studios that transitioned to remote working had to push back their release dates and reduce the number of updates they could implement. However, in late-2021, many developers remain open to the idea of remote working, and some are even finding that remote working allows them to find better talent due to advancements in online collaboration tools and technology.
For small studios like Owlchemy Labs, the transition to remote work has improved their business. Speaking to Bloomberg, Andrew Eiche (Owlchemy Lab’s COO), said that employees benefited from working remotely and that working remotely allows the studio to “find new and exciting talent across the United States and Canada”. The idea here is clear: remote working helps companies to find the right talent for their projects and means that you can find more opportunities in the gaming industry without having to make a major relocation.
Making It Happen
There are plenty of opportunities in the gaming industry. The biggest piece of the puzzle is figuring out what you want to do. If you love writing, you can easily find blogs calling for submissions to grow your portfolio. If you are looking for a full-time career change, you might be surprised by the number of opportunities that arise through gaming studios. Regardless of the route you choose, it will take persistence and hard work to gain access to the gaming train, but once you’re aboard, you can expect to become part of a thrilling journey.