Getting into the videogame industry requires flexibility and resilience – Freeplay 2021

A career in the videogame industry is rarely a linear progression, so it’s important to be flexible and resilient.

A career in the videogame industry is rarely a linear progression, so it’s important to be flexible and resilient, as one Australian developer explained at the 2021 Freeplay Independent Games Festival.

Mitch McCausland, who works as an Associate Publishing Producer for Sydney-based videogame developer and publisher Blowfish Studios, has had a varied career to date, ranging from advertising, gambling, to where he is now in videogames. As part of Freeplay, McCausland delivered the talk ‘Rise From Your Grave – Another Shot at Games’ aimed at sharing his experience to anyone looking to work in videogames from other industries or after time away.

Covering several different topics, McCausland began by discussing different education pathways, including accredited courses from universities and specialist colleges, in addition to his experience learning development tool Unity via the self-directed Udemy platform.

His advice boiled down to identifying what specific role you want to target within the videogame industry, whether it be in programming, art, or the wide range of disciplines, and then source feedback from those in the industry as to what qualifications are most beneficial–including which courses are the best quality in their content and delivery.

However, McCausland cautioned against expecting to find a job in videogames immediately after graduating, pointing to his own experience working as a digital producer in advertising, working with brands including major automotive companies.

Office soft skills, such as workplace communication, contributing to meetings, and working in a team, are valuable regardless of the industry, so you can still build up your resume in an unrelated field. After working in advertising for a few years, a short stint in a slot machine company, along with the moral issues it presented, motivated McCausland to revisit his original ambition of working in games.

Read: The movement to build a better games industry in Australia

Even in his videogame career to date, McCausland went in a different direction to what he was expecting, recalling he fell into production by chance, as it was what was required by his employer at the time. An active volunteer member of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Sydney chapter, and Game Workers Unite (GWU) Australia, McCausland also reiterated how anyone can be involved in the videogame industry without needing to be employed by a related company. Various community events, game developer meet-ups, and industry conferences were cited as great ways to be involved, as well as the networking and recruitment possibilities they open up.

One aspect of looking for work in games McCausland made a point to not neglect was his physical and mental health. After one particularly brutal layoff just before one Christmas, he made sure to exercise and see a psychologist to ensure he had the capacity to begin job-searching. Even then, trying to land a job was tough. McCausland likened job-seeking to the roguelike videogame Hades, where after unsuccessful interviews with companies, he would work hard to address feedback, so that future applications were stronger with each attempt.

Now with Blowfish Studios, McCausland reinforced the message of working sustainably, and that there is no rush to get into your ideal profession, or have everything sorted in your 20s. All strong advice regardless of industry affiliation.

Chris Button
About the Author
Chris Button is an award-nominated writer for Screenhub based in Adelaide, who specialises in videogames and technology. His words have appeared on Junkee, GameSpot, Byteside and plenty more. He loves all things screen-related, sport, and small fluffy animals.   Chris also uses Twitter more than he probably should.