Austin gaming industry panel encourages students to seek careers in video games

Bobby Blanchard

Working in the gaming industry can range from creating machine guns to designing Hello Kitty logos in a day, which is why Sheri Graner Ray said flexibility is an important attitude for anyone going into the field.

On Tuesday the Sanger Learning and Career center hosted a panel of five employees in Austin’s gaming industry to talk to students about the importance of networking, the instability in their careers and the high points of their jobs.

“We’re hoping students can realize that game design and game development is actually a viable career path,” said Karen Weems, career counselor at the Sanger Learning and Career Center, who organized the event. “I think a lot of students look at it as more of a hobby, and so we’re hoping that by bringing in local game developers we will encourage students to think about that as an actual career path.”

Ray, a senior game designer of Schell Games and one of the panelists, said a career in video game designing is going to have a lot of instability.

“Instability can be really scary. The average thought is you change jobs about every three years,” Ray said. “Nine times out of 10 it’s not anything you did, it’s just the instability of the industry.”

Even though the industry is growing, all five panelists said the instability is not going to disappear. Jason Hughes, founder of Steel Penny Games, said recent developments like social media games on Facebook and mobile games are keeping the industry continuously changing.

“Your job changes everyday, and keeping on top of that is a major undertaking,” Hughes said.

Ray said the changing atmosphere keeps people on their toes.

“That is where we start to separate those who belong in the industry and those who are here because they think it’s the coolest thing and they just want to remake Halo,” she said.

Ray said a good way to combat the job insecurity within the industry is to network.

“Do it now, do it often, and do it everyday,” she said. “That is how the gaming industry works.”

Despite the instability, the panelists said working in the game industry was an enjoyable career.

“I just like to hang out with game people, they’re way more fun,” said Mary Rose Monkowski, another one of the panelists who is a UI Artist for Portalarium. “They love what they do, and there really is not a fine line between work and play.”

Hughes said Austin is a good city for careers in video games.

“People who don’t live in Austin have a nightmare of finding a job, because this is one of the social hubs, this is one of the places to be,” Hughes said. “Here, you can go down the street to any Starbucks and hear one game developer say ‘God I have this terrible bug.’”