Q: How do I "break into" the video game industry?
A: First off, what is meant by "breaking in"? Most people who get into the career of their dreams have a moment where things went right. Whatever that moment was, it was followed by a series of events that eventually led them into their dream job. Who knows? Your turning moment might be today, when you became a member of the GameCareerGuide.com community.
Sometimes the moment is well planned, like the first time you attend an industry conference and network with game company representatives. Other times it happens in a stroke of luck. But very often for game developers, it happens through other individuals. The game industry is small -- and tightly knit! Who you know still goes a long way in this industry, so one thing we preach repeatedly at GameCareerGuide.com is "Go out and talk to people." Chat with people in our forums. Attend Game Career Seminars. Go to major industry conferences or at least volunteer at them. Find your local IGDA chapter.
If you're still asking, "But how do I break in?" I would encourage you to set aside some time to look around this site and read articles that sound interesting to you. Flip through this Getting Started section some more. Hit up the forums. We even have a series of articles about different people's "breaking in" stories (see the Related Articles below).
"For the Love of All Games: How Catherine Herdlick Broke Into the Industry"
"From Intern to Artist: How Diane Stevenson Broke Into the Game Industry"
"From Tech Jobs to Games: How Gareth Griffiths Broke Into the Industry"
"How I Became a Game Writer: An Interview with Sande Chen and Anne Toole"
"How to Break into Game Audio"
“How I Got My Start in the Games Industry”
Q: What can I do right now to better my chances of working in video game development?
A: Game developers are the kind of people who learn to help themselves. So some of the things you can do now to better your chances of getting into game development later is take on projects that show you are a self-starter. When you pu these experiences on your resume later, it will show that you've been someone has been ready to become a game developer for some time.
For one -- and although this may sound painfully obvious, it really doesn't occur to everybody -- if you think you want to make games for a living, you ought to make a game. If you wanted to be an artist, you wouldn't sit around waiting for someone to give you a job before you started sketching and painting; you'd be doing those things all along. If you wanted to be a writer, you would write. It's one of those things that's easier said than done, and truly, the task of creating a video game with no experience is a bit intimidating. But if you want to someone to one day pay you to make video games, you have to start making games now.
There are ways -- thank goodness -- of making this task way less intimidating than it seems.
First, you can make a game that isn't a video game. Create a game that uses cards or billiards or pen and paper. Then, write down all the rules and instructions for playing it. That's all it takes to start out.
You could also do this with a live game. For example, you could organize and host a live game in a public space, such as a neighborhood-wide or campus-wide round robin of hide-and-seek or lawn bowling or man-hunt for charity.
If you're a little more ambitious, and especially if you want to be a video game programmer, you can have your first video game be a mod. Search around the web for some info and teach yourself how to mod. Alternatively, program a small game, such as a Tetris clone or a Flash-player casino slot machine.