One of the questions I get most often is "How do I get into the videogames industry?" I get it from students at universities, games or not, and from professionals who are currently in other fields of work but feel that making games is their passion.
The funny thing is, it hasn't been that long since I finished my Master's in Game Design at the IT University of Copenhagen myself, so I most definitely do not have a lot of experience taking videogames into the market.
What I do have however is experience working WITH the industry. In Denmark I am frequently organizing or helping set up all sort of events for the local games community, doing different types of work for indie game companies and games educations.
I am also responsible for all PR communications and the website for IGDA Denmark as one of its board members and as part of that I am one of the core organizers of the Nordic Game Jam.
So when people ask me how to get inside the games industry I always start with the same answer: Go to a game jam.
Team Robocat at Nordic Game Jam 2013
Sure, I'm organizing the Nordic Game Jam and it's obviously in my best interest to get passionate people to participate in it. But after being around over 15 localized game jams in Denmark and Sweden I can assure you this is one of the greatest tools for getting inside the games industry.
Unluckily, the reply I get oh-so-frequently is "but I'm not ready to go to a game jam yet!" And why would you? The whole point of the game jam is that you are given a theme right before you start and then you've got 48 hours to finish a game based on it. There's definitely nothing to prepare for.
"But I don't have the skills for it yet!" is the next common response. And I get this from all sorts of people: artists, programmers, designers, music composers, the so called "idea guys"... It's funny that I get this even from those who are taking a games-specific education.
Ok, so let's take for a moment that you truly believe you don't have the skills to go to a game jam yet. What you could do is go home and use your free time for polishing your skills up a bit. Which is very easy to say, but as we all know, just saying that you want to learn something doesn't mean you'll ever get to it, and if you do, who knows if you're going to be constant enough to keep it up. Because, you see, unless we have a very clear goal that we want to achieve it's very difficult to keep our motivation and thus continue developing our skills.
This is exactly the purpose of a game jam. It's that great motivator that will push you to achieving what you need. Sure, you're not going to learn how to polish your graphics to utmost perfection and you're most definitely not going to write the most efficient code you could have ever made. 48 hours has its limits to what you can do. But by challenging yourself to make a game within the time limit, you will come up with new ways to do things fast and figure out solutions for your code that will help you out in future projects.