It might seem difficult, but outside of conventions, developers can still find ways to network. Albeit more accessible methods, because those conventions aren’t cheap! Too many people undervalue the power of social media and forums. Indie work, or game jams are oftentimes considered thankless projects, the kind no one really gets recognition for.
But nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s simple methods, simple answers, that really make all the difference when meeting other like-minded individuals. Meeting new people and making friends, it’s all part of what makes the industry what it is: tight-knit. It helps the industry become a more friendly place, and it helps developers find more work. It’s a win-win!
Even if you just limit yourself to one type of social media, you can find a lot of value if you use it to its fullest potential. Forget the pictures of beer pong, forget the random dog or cat pictures. No one wants to know what you ate, or where you took your partner out for a night on the town.
Instead, focus on what matters: meeting people. Fortunately for you, these days all social media features a friendly search bar where you can plug in key search terms, or hashtags. Search for accounts, or even just topics, and voila: goldmine of developers right at your fingertips. Follow these guys, tweet about your games, and don’t be afraid to share your Twitch, if you have one.
Think of social media as a way to talk about games with other people who love to talk about games. Use the common ground, and feel free to retweet what other people are doing. The favor will get returned in due time.
Yes, they’ve been around for a long, long time, but forums still remain one of the best ways to get your ideas out there, and participate in conversation with perfect strangers. Forgo the perspective of angry video game nerds bashing each other on forums. While that might be true, there is such a thing as forums for developers to talk to each other.
For instance, if you haven’t joined IGDA already, you probably should. They have a writers SIG, but also one for programmers, designers, directors, etc.. These forums are membership-based, but they keep raging players out of the equation and are thus great places to meet other developers. Many times, they even post about projects they don’t have time to take on and will pass on the information.
No, you don’t need to be a part of AAA projects to be a successful developer. There’s a misconception that you haven’t made it if you’re not doing AAA work. It’s toxic thinking! Plenty of indie developers choose to stay in the indie sector and love it.
To join an indie team, reach out to people, show them a clean, sleek portfolio with your best work, and cross your fingers. Eventually, you’ll find a team that takes you in, and then it’s all rainbows and fluffy clouds from there. Always behave, talk about games, and do your best work. Ask questions and learn from the other developers. Soon, by just being a friendly person, you’ll realize you’ve made friends.
Don’t be afraid to join several teams (not at once) and make friends. The more people who can vouch for you, and link you to other opportunities, the better it is for you.
Much like indie work, joining game jams is a great way to make friends and potential connections that can line up future work. However, they are much more small scale. Rather than be a part of an actual indie team, you’d be making games with other aspiring developers who want to build up their portfolios. Everyone is independent, and not a part of a named team.
But don’t be fooled: it’s not just noob central. Some game jam members are actual developers who just don’t have another paid project lined up yet and want to continue making games. That gap between games can last a while, so they make use of their time and expand on their portfolios.
Other times, game jam members are just well connected aspiring developers. These people are the ones who know someone, or have friends who know a few people. Whatever the case, they might be well worth getting to know!
Just make sure to treat game jams much the same way as indie or AAA work: with concern over producing good work. Focus on meeting deadlines, talk to everyone, and ask questions. Learn from others, and show what you bring to the table too.
Live, Breath, Indie
Networking outside of conventions, where everyone is there primarily to meet other people, might seem difficult at first glance. However, these methods are just cheap, or even free, ways to meet other developers. Social media and forums can be used to better build your career, if you just refrain from posting the wrong content. And game jams and indie work is more than enough of a way to make lifelong friends, get recommendations, and even job leads.
So, next time you have to miss a convention due to time constraints or financial instability, remember: You can still network and build a promising career in gaming. You just need to get out there in more than one way. Once you do, you’ll find that most people in the industry are pleasant to be around, and befriend!