Video Game Industry Jobs and Careers: Resourcefully Breaking into Esports or Game Development


by | Dec 3, 2018, 3:00PM PDT

A few of us have known since we were little what we want to be when we grow-up, while some of us could graduate and still not know. One thing seems sure, that the sooner you set a destination, the sooner you will arrive there (barring GPS glitches or user error). So how does one go from not knowing to knowing? Exploration and introspection are two great ways! And if the headline brought you here, you have at least narrowed it down to an industry. An ocean is smaller than a nebula, so this is quest progress!

Exploration can be preliminarily broken down into reading, conversing, observing and experiencing. What does this mean? You can read up on the different parts of the industry (and the disciplines within them); talk to informed, veteran insiders; you can ask to job shadow someone; lastly, you can make games. These paths will serve you at all levels of your journey, whether a neophyte who enjoys gaming but doesn’t know QA Testing from Product Management, or a well-informed applicant who knows their exact dream job and already has done some business networking.

But you do not have to sail this ocean on a rickety self-made raft without a compass, map, nor companion, ye brave Wind Waker. Have you stepped into the UCI Career Center at least once, or even surfed their website? If not, DO IT! DO IT NOW! (“GET IN DA CHOPPAH!”) If you do not know the best ways to do job and career research, they are there to help you. Discover your options here.

Quest tip #1: Reading job postings on company websites can be educational. Sometimes their jargon might leave you not entirely sure what you read, but you can get help clarifying. Find a good source of information to get educated on this rich and diverse industry.

On-campus, the Video Game Developers Club at UCI and The Association of Gamers (TAG at UCI) are great clubs for making friends and networking. LinkedIn, Reddit, and Facebook Groups are some of the top ways to find recruiters whose job is to help answer your questions. You can also use them to find organizations like the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) (with chapters in OC, LA, and more) or SoCal Game Devs. Also, (watch Extra Credits.)

Quest tip #2: Companies will sometimes hire a candidate they know (plus trust and like) with most of the required skills over a total stranger who looks like a perfect candidate on paper.

Networking can be an art form, and like all major points above, the sooner the better. Companies want to hire people who can do the work and add value. As one favorite author has put it, your goal should be to increase the pleasure and reduce the pain of your employer and colleagues. Networking lets you get to know others and to be known. So be mindful of your image and reputation.

After you have completed your first major quest milestone and figured out what you want to do and where you want to go, it becomes clear what skills or degree you would need to best reach your destination. Much better to figure that out freshman year than senior year! (But there are still options for those in the final phases of their degree program.)

While applying with degree in-hand is one option, the strongest move is to apply for internships before then -or- to make your own games (including mods, characters, levels, et al). Blizzard Entertainment has one of the most developed and robust internship programs in this young industry. Sadly, this year’s application window just closed, but start planning for next year’s or search for others. If Los Angeles is not too far away, check out opportunities with Riot Games.

Quest tip #3: Think outside the box and be proactive–do not wait for things to come to you (or for them to happen in a preconceived conventional order).

Making your own games does not mean making your own AAA video game for all major platforms–although more power to you if you do that (mad respect). Making a rudimentary card game, board game, even word game, they all count; drawing characters, writing a backstory; playing with a level editor. The merits of this may or may not be obvious, but JUST DO IT. (Remember: “Don’t let your dreams be dreams! Yesterday, you said tomorrow! So just do it! Make your dreams come true. Just do it!”)

Once you apply for jobs, you will hopefully start having job interviews. If you have had none or few, tap back into the UCI Career Center for job interview tips and preparation! After working so hard to get so close to the goal, do not go in cold and raw. But that is a whole other chapter for another time.

TL;DR: Learn the various parts of the industry and how they all fit together to decide where you want to be within it. Acquire the skills for the job you want and also find allies to guide or support your journey to your goal. The more you know and do before you apply for a job, the easier it will be to get a job.

Why Gamers Should Read Black Authors


by | Sep 24, 2020, 7:30AM PDT

Years from now when people ask “where were you in 2020?” I will respond, “online, and I hated every second of it.”

2020 was a year filled with strife and changes, as many of the country’s issues were placed under the microscope of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were made privy to the fragility of our healthcare system, made to grapple with the mistreatment of our workers, and we saw just how little our government was ready to deal with the unseen threat of a virus. As buildings and campuses became unsafe for congregations, schools and businesses quickly transitioned from physical interaction to remote operations, trading desks for couches, and cubicles for bedrooms. As an academic I soon saw myself writing grants, hosting calls, and meeting with colleagues all through the screen of my computer. Just like that my and many other lives became mediated through digital platforms.

But then came May and the US caught fire as major cities around America erupted in protest after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of George Perry Floyd Jr. for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, killing him on camera. The act was such a clear show of police misconduct and brutality that not only did protest emerge in Minneapolis but in cities like Los Angeles and New York. People across America took to the streets to protest what was a vile and malicious act of policing and unfortunately (and ironically) were subsequently met with the very force they went out there to speak against. Agitations flared, peaceful protest turned into physical confrontation, and long-ignored anger and sorrow became the fuel for the flames which burned signs, buildings, and coincidentally an NYPD van.

Yet, still, for many, the most heated moments of the protest were not experienced in person but rather were witnessed second hand through their television or through social media online. As the protest raged on, Twitter threads became battlegrounds, YouTube videos spun narratives, and the internet yet again became the hotbed for information and dialogue around the events many were experiencing. With #BlackLivesMatter trending yet again in response to the death of ANOTHER Black person at the hands of the police, the online blurred yet again with the physical. So much so, that social media became the key place where I, a Black man, kept up with the news, contacted friends and family who were near protest areas, and was made to relive the trauma of watching Floyd lose his life again and again as it was shared on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter both as both a form of awareness and as jokes from those craven enough to mock a man posthumously. And, while I donated to BLM initiatives, honked my horn in-vehicle protest, and showed up physically where I could, I—like so many—experienced the brunt of this protest online.

So, it should not come as a surprise when I say that it was not in person or even on Twitter where I got into my harshest debates, but instead, it was within video games like Overwatch and League of Legends where I found the most abuse. In fact, it was gaming spaces like these that became the hardest to occupy during the time of the protest. In an attempt to find some semblance of peace while the world burned, I decided to turn on Overwatch (a hero first-person shooter from the company Blizzard) to try to take the edge off. After some time, I was eventually placed with 11 other players and dropped into a starting zone to wait. However, instead of the typical banter of roles and positions, I was met with a “hello my fellow African Americans, let’s go burn and loot some stores because BLACK LIVES MATTER!” from one of my teammates. Reminded that video games seldom work as escapism for black people, I contemplated whether to let the comment go or to make a scene. I chose the latter.

I responded with “do you think that’s funny?” which prompted him to say “of course! Because they should not be out there at all, because ALL LIVES MATTER!” and quickly an argument ensued. Shouting in a way I am not all too proud of, I went back and forth with the player, I shouted the names of those killed—George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin—only to have him respond with conspiracies like the FBI started BLM and comments like “slavery didn’t matter.” It didn’t take long for our remaining teammates to mute us with one going as far as to exclaim, “I don’t play this for politics.” In hindsight I think I would have been better off ignoring the troll—I must admit I was perturbed, livid in fact. Livid that a player used the game as his platform for racism and livid at the apathy of the other players viewing the deaths of Black men and women as simple politics. While the game’s very company (Blizzard) was tweeting in support of Black Lives, its players continued to disparage them. With each engagement I grew colder and angrier, each bout of racism striking deeper than the last until eventually, I arrived at simply telling people to shut the… well you can finish the rest.

Unfortunately, what I experienced is nothing new, as scholars such as Kishonna Gray, Andre Brock, Anna Everett, Samantha Blackmon, TreaAndrea Russworm, and many others have written extensively on the experiences of Black players similar to my own. However, as more and more games become spaces for online interaction, I and many others are yet again forced to acknowledge that games and the many who play them are not always aware of the struggles non-white gamers may go through. But, in writing this piece and sharing my experience I do not want this to come off as an accusation of gamers and gaming practices (there are other avenues for such), but instead as an opportunity to engage with perspectives that have been ignored or overlooked.

As many of us face yet another crisis in our communities, where Black life is threatened for simply existing (under the blanket of COVID no less), it is important to remember that games, as peripheral as they may seem, work as powerful sites of cultural creation and expression. I could not escape my pain through games because the same rhetoric, behavior, and trauma that took place in the physical informed and shaped the virtual. That is why this piece is less of an accusation and simply a call to action.

In a time where Black players face constant racial abuse both inside and outside of games, I propose that gamers engage with the history of this country and the writings of Black scholars, activists, and people. In wanting to see a healthier gaming community, I have curated a list of books, short readings, and articles to read in hopes that gamers and the gaming community at large will pick up the call and accept this challenge. While by no means extensive, the list provided will offer introductory reading to familiarize oneself with Black history in the US and the Black experience in areas such as school, healthcare, and most apropos, online spaces. While seemingly unrelated, there is much to be gained by engaging with past and current writers, and only when we have an informed gaming population can we hope to see change.


Akil Fletcher grew up in New York where he received a B.A in Anthropology from the City College of New York. Currently, he is a Ph.D student in the anthropology department at the University of California Irvine, where he researches the navigation of Black video game players online. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Akil researches how Black players form and manage communities in spaces that are often hostile to Black participants.

If you would like to join in on discussing any of the readings from Akil Fletcher’s list, you are welcome to the UCI Esports Discord server‘s #book-club channel.