Gaming Industry Talks @ SXSW: Bridge Careers, Mentors & the Most Important Skills
During the recent SXSW 2023, Wursta and WRST Collabs had the pleasure of partnering with ATX Game Makers, a non-profit community dedicated to helping increase diversity in the gaming industry, to present the unofficial SXSW 2023 Game Makers Lounge. The event was held March 13-14, and mixed art and the web3 world with gaming, accompanied by several speakers. We’ve recapped some highlights from our amazing speakers, and you can also watch the recordings, all linked below.
“Video Games Are a White Man’s Job”
Monji Osso is a Game Designer and QA Lead with Zynga, currently working on Star Wars: Hunters. He encouraged people to try all the disciplines you can and mess up often because that is when you learn the most. Monji shared an experience of being told, “Video games are a white man’s job.” while he was attending a gathering at Houston Tillotson University. This response disappointed Monji because he saw video games as something for everyone. Wondering what he could do, Monji decided he needed to strive to open the door, make the path a little easier, and the door a little wider.
Training and Education
When asked about how to train new people to increase the pool of qualified candidates, Monji discussed sharing knowledge with those in education by working with teachers and professors on developing curriculum. Monji highly recommended joining the International Game Developers Association education special interest group and acknowledged that people working in games didn’t necessarily sign up to be a teacher or mentor. “Let me not talk around it, the games industry is obviously overwhelmingly white and male, and the way that you address that is by going into spaces where there aren’t a lot of white males and going, ‘Hey, you can go do this too.’ And enabling the people who are already in those spaces to pass that information along, enabling them to give training that you might not be able to give.”
The Most Important Skill in Game Development
When asked about the biggest challenges for creating good games, Monji quipped, “Good is a very loaded term in quality assurance.” He then discussed the need for specific technical skillsets and continued, “The most important skill I have seen employed in my time is communication.” He acknowledged that it sounds corporate and boring pablum, and listed communication skills that actually get things done:
- Frank and honest without being hurtful
- Not taking things personally or as an attack
- Ability to get people on the same page, so they understand what you’re trying to do
- Written and verbal skills
Finally, Monji shared his observation that successful, long-lasting studios tend to have a diverse group of people who are all very passionate about the game they’re working on.
3 Cs of Building a Diverse Organization
- Cast a wide net. It takes work to find different people.
- Culture. Having a successful organization that embraces different people requires the kind of supportive culture that allows people to come in and feel like part of a team.
- Castoro. “That’s me. My dad was a poor Italian kid from Brooklyn. My Mom was a sort of middle class African American woman from Arkansas… I grew up in Texas as a mixed race kid with, I think, probably a fairly unique experience and outlook on life. The way I see people, we’re all basically the same. It’s actually the differences between us that make us interesting and powerful… Ultimately, we’re all just people. We all want to be valued.”
The “Bridge” Career
Sadia described her career trajectory, from real estate to law to her “bridge career:” consulting with small businesses and supporting their IT needs, which led to a Computer Science degree and working in various tech disciplines. Prism works in game art, after having worked in retail, food service, and tech support for ecommerce.
How to Make Major Career Changes
The group discussed solutions to the challenges of making major career changes. Employers are looking for experience and the ability to learn, rather than all of the requisite years of experience in a given field.
Sadia described sharing work experiences that may be relevant despite being in a different field. Find something applicable. Understand what they’re asking for and select the portions that are relevant.
The group also discussed the strength in generalization and how to present yourself so you’re not jumping from one thing to the next, but progressing. Adding skills is like adding chapters to a book.
Prism advised presenting yourself as a person and more than just a resume. Our speakers discussed the benefits of having a mentor or advocate, and advised learning from that person. Sadia said, “Treat it like a bi-directional relationship and remember that your mentor is learning from you as well.”
Finally, while discussing current projects, Prism shared how accessibility is awesome, because it means more people get to play their game. Current accessibility projects at Owlchemy Labs include adaptations for visually impaired and smaller humans.
Looking for a Recruiting Partner
Theresa Prudenz, Director of Business Development at Nimble, discussed her journey creating a recruiting agency without recruiters, and what to look for when selecting a recruiting partner.
Great Times and Great Learnings for All
Over 1600 people registered for the event and we had support from several sponsors including Liquid Death, CLEAN Cause, and RedBull. Attendees learned excellent tactics for growing diverse teams as well as advancing their own careers. Additionally, everyone was able to network with industry pros, showcase the independent games they developed, learn about the Web3 space, and even enjoy a private concert by Nyzzy Nyce.