Meeting new people and putting yourself out there can be intimidating. What if someone ignores you? Or even worse, what if you’re boring?
Networking doesn’t have to be such a scary thought. In this series, I’m going to cover why networking is a great idea, give you the tools you need, show you how to do it (no extraordinary people skills necessary), then give you some ideas for where you can put your newfound networking skills to the test.
First of all, what is networking?
Different people have different definitions of networking.
For some, networking means having as many contacts as possible. For others, networking means having a few, deeper connections with people. I find it’s good to have a mix of both. Regardless, networking is all about meeting and getting to know new people.
For the purpose of this series, networking is going to mean any interaction that starts or builds upon your relationship with another person.
But I’m a game developer. What good is networking for me?
Let’s face it, as a game developer you probably spend most of your work time designing games and coding. As long as the game is fun, does it even matter who you know?
Sure, you can sit holed up in your development studio without ever connecting with others. You just:
1. Make your game
2. Negotiate with sponsors
3. Correct the bugs your fans found.
You’ll probably make great games too. But you won’t make any friends doing that. And when it comes time to promote your new project, collaborate with others, or learn new things, no one is going to be there to help you.
Luckily, you have a choice. And it’s one I’m glad to say most game developers have already taken: the choice to embrace the game development community.
If you haven’t made that choice yet, here are some reasons you might want to reconsider.
Who needs books when you can have an arsenal of personal experts? That’s what happens when you join a community and get to know the people within it.
When I the nifty looking logo for my site designed, I was given a number of choices to choose from. Not having a designer’s eye, I would have been clueless as to which colors or design to go with. I could have researched some design articles and books, but that would have been time consuming. Luckily, one of the friends I have gotten to know through blogging had a designer buddy, who quickly helped me choose the best variation.
Advice is a two way street though. While I enjoy it when someone else helps me solve my coding or design problem, I love it when I help someone else out.
So go ahead, network; ask for help. Just don’t be a leech.
Building a reputation is important if you want to develop games for the long haul. When you have a recognized brand (whether it be your name or a development studio), sponsors will be more interested in your games and fans will rate your games higher on portals.
What does networking have to do with branding?
It comes down to retail politics; a term typically used to describe a presidential candidate who focuses on the local level of voters.
As a savvy, networking game developer, you can apply retail politics to your career by focusing on building individual relationships with fellow game developers, sponsors, and players. Through each email you send, or comment you reply to, you are creating something more than a contact list. You are creating a group of true fans. These are the people who will go out of their way to compliment and promote your games; which brings in even more fans and brand awareness.
The more people you know, the more opportunities that are going to come your way. These opportunities could come in many forms:
When one of your contacts hears about a new contest, website, or big idea, they let you know about it.
Suppose you’re looking to collaborate with an artist on your next big project, but don’t know who to work with. If you haven’t been networking, it could take some time weeding out candidates and finding someone trustworthy. But if you’ve been networking, you can just ask your contacts who they’ve had a good experience with. You’ll still be weeding out candidates, but they’ll be higher quality candidates with a proven track record.
On the flip side, when you have a network, your contacts might ask you to join up on their big project.
Either way, collaboration is a great way to get involved in the community and hone your teamwork skills.
If the other fun and exciting opportunities don’t appeal to you, perhaps I can appeal to your business side.
While establishing a reputation and making great games is important, networking can be the push you need to start getting professional gigs (like game contracts, speaking opportunities and book deals) coming your way. These opportunities are a great chance to build your credibility and network even more.
4. It’s Fun!
Besides all those great, career advancing reasons I’ve mentioned, don’t forget the most important one: fun!
Getting to know your fans and peers can be an enjoyable experience if you let it be.
If you still think networking is too intimidating, insincere, or just plain icky, remember that you’re not just building a contact list. You’re creating friendships. And last time I checked, friendships are fun.
Want to get a head start on your networking?
Leave a comment, shoot me an email, or share this post with your friends, and start getting involved in the community.
Photo Credits Christian Senger Guldfisken Steve Jurvetson Kenny Louie Todd Petit