Posted on: 30 May 22
Leah's top 5 tips for networking in the games industry
Leah Philpot, whose online alias is Lolon, is a game developer at Story Juice, working on The Glass Ceiling Games and our other projects. She also freelances as a narrative and level designer and moderates Trans Game Dev, an online community of transgender game developers. Here she shares her top tips for 'networking' and finding your home in the industry.
I was taught in college to fear ‘networking’: I thought wearing a suit, dropping into a cocktail party and giving everyone you see business cards, was an essential part of ‘Making It’ in games development. Years later, experience has proved to me that this fear is misplaced and what I thought was networking isn't actually the case.
In this blog, I want to tackle those misconceptions, which many people finding their way into the games industry share, as well as give some pointers that I’ve found useful for being connected in games development. Here are my top five bits of advice!
1. It's not all suits and ties
The first misconception to break from is that all networking occurs in fancy venues or bars, which, considering I made my strongest industry connections during the pandemic, simply isn’t true. Networking, or to define it differently to disconnect it from the gravity of that word: talking with and connecting with others in your industry, occurs whenever you communicate with someone who is also in game dev, whether it be on Twitter, Discord, Slack or Zoom, as well as at physical events. Festivals, meet ups and social events are a really great way of making connections with others in the industry, so don’t rule them out, but don’t feel that you cannot break into games if physical events aren’t feasible for you; online networking is just as important.
But social media is vast, there are so many Discord servers and the meet ups advertised in your area might seem quite niche, which one is best for you? Well, the best thing to do is…
2. Find your crowd
Like choosing a friendship group in school, you go for those who you relate to and who you feel you will connect the most with. Same goes for networking! The best thing you can do when networking is make friends, so if you’re stuck on where the best avenue is for connecting with the industry, find where you feel you can make friends. If you are a part of a minority, there are exclusive Discord communities that you can join and start chatting (for women, there is Women in Games, for transgender developers, check out Trans Game Dev), and there are many others targeted for specific industry roles, game genres, and experience levels. On social media, it’s about finding those you want to follow and joining in!
Still stuck in finding the best start? Then…
3. Start with events
Game jams, festivals and conventions are all great ways to start making friends and ties in the industry. Especially game jams, where you are tasked with making a game (or a part of a game) in a short amount of time, often a weekend—working in a team, being creative and learning new skills in the process. You can find ongoing and upcoming game jams on the indie game hosting platform itch.io, all with different themes, twists and lengths. I highly recommend game jams, or any physical or virtual event, as a great way to start networking!
You’re in! Now what? How do you act? My advice is:
4. Put yourself forward
You don’t need to wear a suit to a physical event if you don’t want to; other people want to talk with the authentic you! Networking is about connecting with and befriending others, so bring your true professional self to social events and you'll be making connections in no time!
My college didn’t portray what networking means to me very well, but there was one thing they did get right:
5. Have some business cards ready
Business cards are an invaluable way to share links to your work when physically networking, as well as providing a reminder of who you are. Make professional business cards that are clearly identifiable as you, and put links to your social media and/or your portfolio for others to reference. On mine, I have my name, what I do, an illustration of myself, my Twitter handle and a QR code to my portfolio. In terms of how many cards you need, you can usually purchase them in packs of 100 plus, which is more than enough for a year or two. Make sure what you put on them is accurate for years down the road so you don't have a bunch of out of date cards lying around.
I soon realised that, in our industry, it’s easy to find a group of people in the same boat that you can bond and be friends with; and with them you can work together to progress forward professionally. That's what I believe networking really is about! I hope this advice is helpful to you!
Thanks for reading!