The UK video games market is the sixth largest in the world and worth approximately £2.96 billion, with 2,416 developers and publishers currently active throughout the country (head to Games Map UK for an aerial view). With an estimated 2.1 billion gamers and counting worldwide, the video games industry continues to grow. This coincides with a constant evolution of new media technologies, creating ample career opportunity in video game marketing, social media, digital content creation and community management.
What follows is careers advice and insight from the very people who work in these types of role; from the Community Manager at Nintendo UK to the Social Media Manager who deals exclusively with Sports Interactive's Football Manager franchise. What did these people study? What was their transition like from being a graduate to finding work within the gaming industry? What advice do they have for others who are looking to work in similar positions? Read on to find out.
James Bowden, Community Manager at Nintendo UK
Nintendo created such iconic franchises as Mario and The Legend of Zelda.
James graduated from Staffordshire University in 2009 with a BA in Media & Journalism. Starting out in video games retail with GAME, James went on to freelance as a journalist, having work published in Games Master, Nintendo Gamer, Gamer Guide and more. He became Nintendo UK's Community Manager in 2015. He says:
Being a media and journalism student was a key stepping stone in my drive to finding a job in the games industry but it would have been a trickier transition had I not invested a big chunk of my time in personal pursuits, namely the forming of Nintendo UK communities StreetPass Manchester and StreetPass UK. Building those groups in my spare time to drive my passion for Nintendo and multiplayer gaming was key to my career advancement as they enabled me to practise event organisation, social media marketing, networking etc. These are all vital skills and the StreetPass groups provided potential employers with evidence of my toil. I had a pudding to back up my claims.
Where media and journalism studies helped was that it taught me a lot about key disciplines, good manners and drove me to do things for myself. I learnt about PR, posters, editing and strong news writing. All those things I sat in hour-long lectures for gave me skills that I took and applied in the promotion and advertising of my Nintendo StreetPass fan communities, and this got me noticed. I was doing freelance writing on the side, too, so I could wrap all of my passions up in a lovely package known as 'my life'.
It's hard to make the slide into the industry as lots of people think they can write a review and news is fifty a penny. I should note that my forming of those StreetPass groups was not done with the anticipation of 'this will land me a job for sure' but they were something I was passionate about which meant I did them well and it paved a road that was previously invisible. So I suppose my lesson, in short, is that you shouldn't take everything you learn at face value – it's all about how you apply what you learn to get yourself noticed, so pay attention and be magnificent!
James is on Twitter: @Dalagonash
Raquel Gómez Frías, Community Manager at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
The PlayStation brand has many notable exclusives, such as Uncharted, Ratchet & Clank, LittleBigPlanet and Flower.
Raquel studied Media & Communications at the University of Valencia, joining the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne on her Erasmus year. Graduating 2012, she would go on to gain an MA in International Multimedia Journalism, before working various journalism and social media roles. She joined Sony Computer Entertainment Europe in 2016. She says:
After finishing my degree, I joined a TV company in Spain as a video editor and ended up working on a prime time news program. This is where I realised what I really wanted to do was to tell stories. I kept working both in TV and radio while studying a second degree for a few years until I decided to move abroad to do a masters and continue my career in the UK. Having relevant work experience and a collection of degrees didn’t help me much at the beginning. It was only when I did something that made me stand out from the crowd that I got my first job in social media. When the Harlem Shake video went viral, I looked for volunteers on social media to organise one for the university. The agency that was managing the social channels for Newcastle University got in touch and, after a tough interview, they offered me a job.
Finding your first job in the media industry is not easy because positions are limited and competition is high. You might need to accept unpaid internships at the beginning but stay focused and work hard until you get a job that makes you happy.
Over the years I’ve learnt that all skills you pick up are useful and that a regular CV and cover letter won’t drive you to the top of an employer's list. If you want to work in social media then don’t just wait until you finish your degree. Start building up a portfolio including eye-catching pieces of content that you can present in future interviews. Creating your personal brand on social media is also important. Treat your online profiles with professionalism and avoid posting something you might regret in the future!
I feel that it's possible to succeed in an interview if you try all of the above. However, it is not a guarantee that you'll be satisfied with where you get. My current job feels extra special since I’ve grown up playing videogames on PlayStation consoles. Also, I have always been sociable and at times very talkative. The best part of my job is that I get to tell the story of the company through daily posts and exciting campaigns. One of the perks of working in the video games industry is that community managers create a unique bond with the most engaged customers. For example, I’m travelling to Barcelona to attend the Barcelona Games World convention next week where I look forward to meeting some of them between tweet and tweet.
All in all, at the end of the day, your job needs to fit your personality so you can exploit the best of it. Only when you stick to the authenticity of yourself you may become charming and inspiring.
Raquel is on Twitter: @qeli_nda
Grace Carroll, Social Media Manager at Creative Assembly
Grace works on the Rome: Total War series.
A 2012 Journalism Studies graduate from the University of Sheffield, Grace's CV includes stints as a Social Media Manager at both Horner & Roberts and Ware Anthony Rust, as well as Community Manager at Jagex. In 2015 she joined Creative Assembly as a Social Media Manager, where she works on the Total War brand. Grace says:
Transitioning from journalism to social media wasn't something I set out to do intentionally, but it made a lot of sense in hindsight. Surprisingly (to me), a lot of employers look for a journalism background in social media managers, and it can be a real advantage in standing out from your competitors. The journalism background gives you the building blocks for social media skills, especially if online journalism is something you've gravitated towards – they know, for example, that you are capable of writing clearly and concisely which is obviously a great skill for Twitter's 140 characters. You can engage a reader, get your point across, come up with content ideas, and you're used to dealing with vociferous readers in the comments section. A good way to make sure you're selling your skills properly is to look at job descriptions for roles you want and see how they phrase things. If you're saying that you write content, but job descriptions are asking for someone to 'create sparkling and engaging copy', then try rephrasing your pitch into something more fitting when applying for similar roles.
The marketing sector within video games is one of the few that I feel requires relevant experience in marketing sometimes more so than in the games industry. Of course, passion for games is a must, but marketing experience is equally valuable even if it is outside the industry. When I got my current role at Creative Assembly, I only had three months experience working within the games industry but three years of social media experience. A lot of marketing/social media skills in other industries are easily transferrable, and if you know games and are a member of gaming communities then it's relatively doable to mold them into the skills required. Also, don't discount PR and marketing agencies – a lot are starting to work with games industry clients, and sometimes this can be a way in and a useful method of gaining relevant experience and making contacts without immediately working client-side, which can be more difficult to break into straight away. Another key thing is to be persistent – there are fewer jobs than people after them, and sometimes you just have to keep applying and applying, even if you don't feel like you are getting anywhere.
The number one takeaway for me is don't go into marketing if you just want to work somewhere in games and feel this is your way in. You need the passion for both the relevant job role and the games industry. If you're genuinely passionate about marketing and you feel the games industry is where you want to be, you have a much better chance. I love the games industry, but I would be working in social media still if I couldn't get into games. I know that employers have told me that my excitement for social media is equally as important as my excitement for video games – this just happens to be the perfect combination of both!
Grace on Twitter: @graceblaise
Asim Tanvir, Online & Social Media Manager at Konami Europe
Asim with Borussia Dortmund footballer Shinji Kagawa, promoting Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 at Gamescom.
Asim graduated from the University of Westminster in 2008 with a BSc in Computer Games Design & Programming. During his student years, Asim worked in video games retail with the likes of GAME and Gamestation. After graduating, his career would include stints with Sky, Yomego and EE in social media and community management roles. He joined Konami in 2016. He says:
After studying Computer Games Design & Programming, the dream was to get a job doing exactly that, but reality didn’t match up to what I had planned. Every job I applied for asked for at least three years experience, which was something I did not have. I didn’t let this bring me down and was determined to get into the industry one way or another. This led to a job in retail at GAME and then Gamestation, followed by a brief stint doing QA/testing for SEGA. It was tough at times, but the passion for the games and the industry kept me going. That was key as it led to a few university friends and me starting up a website called GodisaGeek. Frustrated at our struggles to get into the industry proper, we thought this would be the best way to make an impact and hopefully find a way in. It took plenty of hard work and no real social life for a while, but it worked. I ran the website from an editorial point of view, also looking after our social media presence, and GodisaGeek went from strength to strength. This is where I realised I had a knack for social media engagement/management, from both a professional and personal standpoint. Not only did the GodisaGeek’s following and readership grow, but I started to build my own presence on social media too.
It’s at this point that I started looking for jobs in the sector (while running and writing for the website), eventually landing a role at BSkyB and working my way up the company in a three-year period where I was soon looking after the social media channels as well as being in charge of a team. I learnt a huge amount, from basics like how to run/manage a content calendar and team management to working with external agencies and executing/running huge campaigns. This was all done while working on GodisaGeek, but by that time I had moved on and started up another website called Next-Gen Gaming Blog (NGB) at Kitana Media Network. This is where my career really started progressing towards where I wanted it to be. The network I joined, not only was I running NGB, but I was also involved in the biggest independent Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) website, Winning Eleven Next-Gen Blog (WENB). I was busy, to say the least, both in my full-time job at Sky and with writing about video games in my leisure time. The latter gave me opportunities to meet people in the industry, attend events like E3 and write a few freelance reviews for the likes of CVG and GamesRadar+. While I worked full-time at Sky, I always made time to work on website content, even if it meant I wouldn’t be out partying like a loon at weekends, and it paid off. It meant I was continually learning about the ins and outs of social media on the one hand and getting to know the games industry as well as network with people regularly.
Eventually, after leaving Sky to work agency-side for a year and a bit, the Online & Social Media Manager opportunity at Konami Europe came up. Being a huge PES, Metal Gear and Silent Hill fan, this was the dream job. As I’m writing this, you know I got the job, and it’s safe to say (especially if you follow me on social media) that I’m loving it and still learning new bits of information every single day. Regarding key skills that got me here, though? Obviously, experience in the sector is vital (in my case social media) as well as the ability to creatively think on the go. The world of gaming and social media is fast-paced and hectic at the best of times. Things can change in a flash or something can happen out of nowhere, and as a social media professional, you need to be ready for that. Always on! Above all, though, you need to be passionate about what you’re doing as it’s not always going to be sunshine and rainbows, so you need to love what you do. Plus, if you don’t, it will show in your content. The Internet knows everything!
You can follow Asim on Twitter: @AsimTanvir
Mike Adebajo, Assistant Brand Manager at Square Enix
Square Enix are responsible for franchises such as Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider.
Mike graduated from the University of Greenwich in 2011 with a BA in Digital Media Technologies & Marketing. Following a few digital marketing internships, he joined Sony Computer Entertainment Europe as a PlayStation Store Operations Assistant. He joined Square Enix as a Marketing Executive in 2014 before taking on the role of Assistant Brand Manager in 2016. Mike says:
Even before I went to university, I knew that I wanted a career in media and to work in an industry I loved such as video games. I knew that coming out of university with little to no involvement in the industry would leave me at quite a disadvantage, because sometimes having a degree simply isn’t enough. So alongside my studies, I did a few internships, started blogging about my interests and did some freelance work to help me build experience for my CV. Once I graduated, this proved to be vital in me getting job interviews right out of the block and meant I got a job at PlayStation three months after I graduated.
Working at PlayStation was an absolute dream and I learnt so much about the industry. Marketing plans and their execution, branding, PR, product life-cycles and the whole game development process as a whole are just a few things I got to be a part of during my time there. The knowledge I gained there has no doubt got me to where I am today at Square Enix. And I apply the experience I’ve gained throughout my roles every day. Hopefully, you’ve seen some of my work in the Final Fantasy XV marketing campaign! Personally, I found that employers usually value enthusiasm and experience above all else. If you can show evidence of this right after your studies, then you’re half way there!
Follow Mike on Twitter: @L1keMike
Chris Arnold, Senior Product Manager at Square Enix
Graduating from Oxford Brookes University in 2006 with a degree in Communications, Media & Culture, Chris initially worked in television with the likes of the BBC and Channel 5 before joining Square Enix in 2016. He says:
I actually worked in TV for ten years at the BBC and Channel 5 before switching to video games, so I'm not sure how relevant my advice would be for students wanting to specifically get into the video games industry! But both industries I got into by most importantly caring about the end product, understanding the viewer/customer experience and taking a logical approach. The insider stuff can be taught, but passion and genuine interest can't.
Chris on Twitter: @HeyChrisA
Alan Granger, Digital & Social Media Manager at Sports Interactive
Sports Interactive, part of SEGA, are responsible for the popular Football Manager franchise.
Graduating in 2006 from Glasgow Caledonian University with a BA in Communications & Mass Media, Alan's CV includes stints with the Scottish Football Association and Camp America. He joined Sports Interactive in 2014, before becoming a Social Media Manager with the developer in 2015. He deals exclusively with their Football Manager franchise. Alan says:
Social media in its current form never existed when I was at university, so the learning curve in my first role was fairly steep. There was a lot of trial and error in the early days, and a plethora of testing which then shaped best practice and strategies moving forward. Optimisation became a bit of an obsession, as we tweaked and tinkered to drive more reach and engagement. With the pace in which social media was developing and innovating, I quickly learned that continuous self-learning was the only way to stay ahead of the curve and I’ve been knee-deep in influencer blogs, webinars, books and online courses ever since.
The digital space is incredibly dynamic and keeping your ear to the ground is what’s required to stay ahead, and ultimately execute better campaigns. Even now, six years into my career, my learning continues, and I’m about to take the next step with the Post Graduate in Digital Marketing at the Institute of Digital Marketing. For as long as I’m active in this industry the learning will never end, and my advice to anyone who wants to succeed in this space is to prepare yourself for the same.
Alan on Twitter: @ZeGrange
James Day, Social Media Manager at Jagex Games Studios
James presenting an award at RuneFest 2016.
James graduated from the University of Durham in 2012 with an English Literature degree. During his studies, he gained work experience placements with the likes of FHM and FourFourTwo. He joined Jagex in 2014 as a Social Media Manager and is in charge of the social media strategy for popular MMORPG RuneScape. James says:
When I left university, I wasn’t even aware social media was a viable job offering; I’d always enjoyed using various social networks and blogging, but it never crossed my mind that I could make a career out of it!
The biggest transition I had to make was moving from the personal to the business – making sure that my output and creative ideas were aligned with those of the business, and to make sure there was a tight strategy behind whatever I did. As a lot of social is based around written and verbal communication, English Literature fitted quite nicely into it. Chopping 400 words off a Shakespeare essay to meet the word limit is pretty similar to shaving off 20 characters from a tweet (in fact, the latter can be more painful sometimes).
I had read a lot of marketing books before I started, but nothing compared to the reality of practically taking control of a brand’s social media strategy, content and output. Many, many times I was jumping in at the deep end; that’s what makes a career in social media so exciting. Every day there are new challenges, platforms and creative ways to achieve your goals.
Regarding skills, I’ve had to learn to be organised, meticulous with timing, and very disciplined. By its very nature, it’s easy to let social rule your life – it’s not exactly a 9-to-5 job – but I’ve learnt how to switch off from work, while still ensuring that we maximise our output and potential engagement.
Most other useful skills you learn as you go along, and it’s different for every business. What kinds of posts work best? When is best to post them? What are the success criteria for this campaign? Which channels are best for our brand? They all come with practice, and a fair amount of trial and (most likely) error.
One of the absolute key areas though that any social media manager needs to nail is establishing and maintaining a consistent tone throughout your social output – one that reflects your brand’s overall values and ideals, while also being approachable, helpful, and of value to those who engage with you. It’s a precarious balancing act, and improving this is one of the things that is an ongoing process that takes a long time.
James on Twitter: @JamesDay1607
What are the key points we can take from all of the above?
If you are starting at the very bottom of the career ladder then you might want to consider working in video game retail. A quick glance through the CVs of industry professionals shows that many started here, working at stores such as GAME and Gamestation. That's what Nintendo's James Bowden and Konami's Asim Tanvir did. It's a good way to immerse yourself in the industry from the get-go while studying and developing your skills.
Neither Sports Interactive's Alan Granger nor Jagex's James Day felt social media would be a viable career option upon graduating, but both would teach themselves how to be effective digital marketers through a mix of reading and doing – researching and experimenting. You absolutely must be getting to grips with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, viewing these platforms through the eyes of a marketer.
Remember that you may not find work in the gaming industry as soon as you had hoped, much like Chris Arnold from Square Enix, who spent the first ten years of his career working in television. Grace Carroll from Creative Assembly reminds us to keep our options open, stating that solid digital media and marketing skills are just as important as a passion and enthusiasm for gaming.
It is important to create your own content in order to show potential employers what you can do. Examples given above include James Bowden's StreetPass communities, Asim Tanvir's GodisaGeek website and Mike Adebajo's blog. Make the most of platforms such as YouTube and Twitch and be proactive within gaming communities both online and offline. As Raquel points out, it is important to start working on your portfolio long before you graduate.
Above all, work hard and play hard.