Sunday, July 20, 2014

Take control online, land the gig offline

Hi friends!

I hope you've been enjoying my summer blogging thus far. I decided to take a quick break from the videos but no need to worry! I'll be back with my goofball self very soon. For now, I'd like to write up my response to an interesting question posed by the community manager at Webucator:  

What skill do you think is essential for success in today's job market? 

Image via College Times
*Full disclosure: Webucator is an online learning company. They asked me to contribute to their "Most Marketable Skill" blogging campaign for current and future job seekers. While I've never used the company's services, I absolutely commend anyone looking to expand their skillset, particularly in the technology sector. Besides, I'll be diving full force into the job hunt very soon, so this couldn't have come at a better time. Please note that I did not receive any sort of compensation for this post. Not even cookies! ^_^ 

Of course, I have to answer this question in the context of the video game industry, since it's where I personally plan to make a living. However, I think my answer is applicable to just about any other field. To abruptly break the suspense, I would have to go with a strong online presence. Big surprise coming from me, right? I literally eat, sleep and breathe social media. So let's go ahead and explore why I think your online identity is so important, particularly in the realm of gaming. 

My first argument is sort of generic but fairly obvious when it comes to the job search. Whether you chose to believe it or not, employers will be looking for you online once you begin to show interest. It's painfully easy to do a quick Google search and find out if 1) the person on your resume and cover letter actually exists in the way that you have written them and 2) your past behavior or current activity falls in line with company values (i.e. time to dump the Facebook party photos or at least use the appropriate privacy settings). And these are just the bare minimum of what an employer might investigate using the internet. We can say it's not right but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen.

Do you really just want to be an egg?
So if someone is looking for you online, why not give them the absolute best impression possible? I think this is insanely important if you aim to work in any creative or media-related industry. Especially when many openings now call for "social media" on the list of required or preferred skills. As Schawbel with Forbes points out, your online profile might soon replace a resume altogether. I've already seen moves toward this trend. For example, many applicant systems allow users to pull information from various social media platforms. It's one reason that I use my LinkedIn profile as a pseudo-digital portfolio. I've heard others argue that simply having zero presence is sufficient, but I have to respectfully disagree. Actually, I have to adamantly disagree.

Image via Kotaku
It all comes down to opportunity, and this is where things really tie back to the industry in which a potential job candidate plans to work. Without a well-crafted online identity, you miss out on the chance to share your voice and become a subject-matter expert. As an individual who hopes to leave a big mark in games, I've really had to develop a thick skin. From a small argument (maybe the best installment in the Final Fantasy series) to serious issues that get your blood boiling (just read the comments on any article covering gender representation in games), people are going to disagree with you. Despite this, I've actually felt empowered by sharing my thoughts or joining the conversation via social media. I know that my voice is valid, and I can hold my own with people in this industry. In many cases, this online confidence actually makes offline interactions, such as a job interview or networking event, feel much more natural.

While I think people are increasingly starting to recognize that taking control of your online self is a worthwhile cause, they forget that it can also be an enjoyable experience. Recently, I attended a gaming panel on "breaking into the industry" where one of the speakers mentioned that hopefuls should be "making" something every single day (note: I believe it was Ed Fries at Momocon, but my memory is a little fuzzy since he was a guest at both this convention and the DICE Summit). If you're not a game developer or artist like me, social media is the ideal place to turn. You can write, you can share and you can show your passion in a vibrant space with like-minded individuals. I can guarantee that this enthusiasm will give you an edge in the hiring process.  

Big thanks again to Bob at Webucator for the bit of blogging inspiration! It's quite an interesting campaign they've got going, and I encourage you to check out the other contributions on Twitter

Until next time,

-Girl Informer

Saturday, July 5, 2014

GI: Japan Episode 4 - Vintage toys and lots of noise


I've got a few more quick videos for all of you. First, my inner dork had a minor freakout over all of the cool toys being housed at Niigata's Manga Animation Museum. While the actual museum was closed at the time we stopped by, I was still able to gawk at all of these goodies. Feel free to take pleasure from my nerdiness :) 

Second, I've got an unexpected video of some good old fashioned fireworks (let's call it a belated Fourth of July homage). A few weeks ago, I visited Bandaibashi - a famous bridge in Niigata. It's a fantastic local spot and luckily some sort of event also made things very festive.

Next weekend, I'm actually headed to Yokohama for a music festival. I'm ridiculously excited and can't wait to share the experience with everyone soon. 

-Girl Informer

GI: Japan Episode 3 - Good health, good fortune... good marriage?


Things have been plenty busy on my side of the world, but I've still got lots of video to share. We've even got a special guest this time around - my friend Rumi! The two of us ventured to a local shrine in Hakusan and took advantage of the beautiful scenery. It was actually really relaxing to be in such a calm and peaceful environment compared to the hustle and bustle of my daily commute.

I didn't get the chance to show off this area, but the lotus pond was amazing. So many flowers were just itching to bloom! 

It was a little difficult to find information on this purification ritual online, but you can check out this blog for more details. Here's hoping it will bring good health and fortune to my life (and those around me!) for the rest of the year :) 

Last but not least, I tried my absolute best to get this routine down correctly. Hopefully I paid my respects well enough. Hakusan Jinja (Shrine) is home to the god of marriage, after all :P

Make sure to keep an eye out for more videos!

-Girl Informer

Thursday, June 12, 2014

GI: Japan Episode 2 - The daily grind

Hello again friends! 

I'm excited to share two more video installments for my GI: Japan series. In the first video, I show you my morning walk to the neighborhood train station, while the latter follows my trek from the office to Niigata Station. Before you take a look, I wanted to give a quick disclaimer that I did not intend for any of my videos (past, present or future) to be fancy in any form.  My technical capabilities are very limited here, and my goal is simply to give a "slice of life" glance at Niigata. Other than that, enjoy the silliness!

I have some more videos in the works and should post them within the next two weeks. However, uploading has been much more of a pain than I expected, so please excuse any sort of delay.

 Stay tuned :) 
-Girl Informer

Friday, June 6, 2014

GI: Japan Episode 1 - Faith in humanity restored

Hello friends!

I've officially posted the first episode for my Girl Informer in Japan series. It was certainly not the subject matter that I was expecting to cover in my inaugural video, but that's how things usually seem to work out.

As mentioned in the video description, I was able to snap some pictures with/of my saviors. Pics or it didn't happen, right? Well you can check out the adorable duo below :)

I've already recorded some more short episodes and will try to upload them as soon as possible. For now, it's the weekend and I'm going to enjoy myself. Maybe even check out a local festival? Stay tuned!

Until next time,
-Girl Informer

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Girl Informer in Japan

Hiya folks!

I am currently writing to you from the beautiful city of Niigata, Japan! I will spend the entire summer here as a marketing intern for tsugi, a software development studio that provides smart tools for creative professionals, particularly within the video game industry. I'm incredibly excited for the opportunity and while jet lag has been hard to get over, I think it's going to be a fantastic summer. 
In lieu of my normal Girl Informer posts, I will be uploading video content relating to my various experiences in the country. Full disclosure - these posts are not going to carry the same sort of critical or analytical perspective that you've come to expect from me (or however you want to define my writing style). Instead, I'll be focusing on the lighter side of things to hopefully provide a genuine look at my time here.

Simply keep an eye out for my "GI: Japan" posts and let me know what you think! :)

Yours truly,
-Girl Informer (in Japan!)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I'd like to thank the Academy: DICE 2014

Hello friends!

It's been quite a long time. The past two months have been insanely busy, so I apologize for my absence. February in particular was a whirlwind, as I attended the 2014 DICE Summit thanks to the amazing people at the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. I mentioned my scholarship award in a previous post, but I'll quickly sum things up for context.
My fancy badge for the event

In September, I received the Mark Beaumont Scholarship, an award started in honor of former COO of Capcom North America and Europe who passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack in 2010. To honor this industry veteran, the Academy established a scholarship aimed at students pursuing careers in the business of interactive entertainment. In addition to financial assistance for school and endless bragging rights, the Academy graciously offered DICE passes to the scholarship recipients, including the Randy Pausch Scholarship winners. As a result, I flew out to Las Vegas on February 5 for an experience that would completely change my life.

Now, the Academy didn't simply plop us into the conference without any support. The organization set up an incredibly warm welcome to help us acclimate ourselves and network with industry professionals. DICE is a very exclusive event, with only about 500 video game insiders in attendance, which is a stark contrast to an event such as GDC (Game Developers Conference). In other words, this was a huge opportunity for any student striving to work in the field. Industry legends Don Daglow and Warren Spector served as at-large mentors for the scholarship recipients, also known as "Academy Scholars." In addition to providing general guidance, Don paired each scholar with a personal mentor in line with our professional interests and future place in the industry. I'll talk about these amazing individuals in just a moment. First, I want to give a general recap of the different sessions that I was lucky enough to attend.
DICE lounge and arcade - a great place to meet people between sessions
The main feature of DICE was centered around keynote speakers. The bill was quite impressive, with industry names such as Mark Cerny, Ed Fries, Keiji Inafune, Eugene Jarvis and Ted Price (just to name a few). The 2014 theme focused on "The New Golden Age of Gaming" and each speaker seemed to take this in their own unique direction. But to be honest, I noticed a much different theme that genuinely surprised me - the personal story. These brilliant creators framed their talks in a way that really helped you understand who they were as people. In quite a few instances, this level of intimacy was powerful beyond words. I never expected to come out the presentations feeling such an emotional connection with the person on stage. Whether it was Robin Hunicke on the value of games made by people who actually care about other people, Rami Ismail on the notion that everyone should be able to make games, or Ed Fries and his father teaching us how to fly, I felt personally affected. I highly recommend watching the presentations from this year on the Academy website. I can guarantee that they will motivate, excite and inspire you.

Now DICE isn't only about guest speakers. It is also a fantastic networking event, as the close-knit nature of the conference allows for greater access. To help on this front, Don matched me with two incredibly talented women in the industry - Perrin Kaplan and Connie Booth. Perrin, who now runs Zebra Partners with fellow powerhouse lady Beth Llewelyn, worked as VP of Marketing and Corporate Affairs at Nintendo of America for nearly 16 years. Perrin was able to give me a great behind-the-scenes look at DICE, since her agency ran most of the event. She also offered invaluable career advice based on her own expertise and knowledge of the field. It can be a little overwhelming to figure out your true place in the industry, but her reassurance reinvigorated me to take the world by storm. I will always remember one important thing from Perrin - you have to follow your heart.
Connie and myself at the DICE Awards

Next, there's Connie Booth. How do I begin to describe Connie Booth? Let's start with her day job. Connie currently serves as VP of Product Development at Sony Computer Entertainment America. Her involvement with the company spans 20 years and countless major releases, including a series that defined my childhood - Crash Bandicoot. Her accomplishments are a true inspiration to any young woman looking to leave a mark on the gaming world. In fact, I hugged Don multiple times for making such a perfect match! I ended up spending a great deal of time with Connie, meeting countless interesting professionals and soaking up as much wisdom as I could. Despite her wealth of knowledge, Connie was the most humble person I have ever met. While her colleagues throughout the industry shared their positive thoughts on her work, Connie refused to take a single second to brag about herself. She always found a way to turn it back around to her team. It did not take long to learn that Connie was not only a leader in the games profession but a phenomenal human being. She taught me that to thrive in the industry, you must be gracious, you must be humble and you must be true to yourself.

She also helped shift my perspective in a very positive way. While our professional backgrounds were a little different, she shared a universal law for working in video games - you must understand the game creators. In the business world, it is easy to become secluded from the people actually making your company's product. This separation is much more dangerous when blood, sweat and tears go into the final creation. Connie taught me to consider the game industry from all sides. Shamefully, I had never really thought of it that way. By building relationships with developers and learning more about what motivates them, I'm confident that I'll be able to effectively communicate on behalf of their works of art.
The big show - 2014 DICE Awards
The final hurrah of the week was bittersweet - the DICE Awards. The award ceremony celebrates the best in gaming from indie productions to major triple A releases. I don't know what it is about reflecting on the year's leading titles, but the environment was absolutely infectious. Naughty Dog's The Last of Us, a story-driven zombie apocalypse game that I absolutely loved, swept most of the categories. I happened to be seated behind the table of "Dogs," and it was a beautiful sight each time the studio jumped to their feet in celebration. From the perspective of a fan, I felt absolutely blessed that I was able to share in this joy just by being in the same room. I actually teared up a bit in front of Don, who essentially became a father figure for me at DICE, as we looked back on the night as a whole.
Academy Scholars with Don Daglow and Warren Spector
While I'm hopeful that I'll be able to attend similar events in my professional future, I don't know that I'll ever again experience them in this particular way. As a student, I definitely looked at the week from a special lens. It became all about self discovery. I went into DICE knowing that others believed in me, but this doesn't necessarily mean I fully believed in myself. I left DICE knowing that all of my hard work had paid off. I can be successful in this industry.

To finish, I would like to sincerely thank all of the amazing people who not only helped make my DICE experience possible (particularly the brains behind the entire operation - Don Daglow) but were willing to share their infinite wisdom or simply chat with me about games! It can be intimidating to be present among such greatness, but the DICE community made me feel at home. I can't wait to go back on my own accord in the very near future.

As always, until next time!
-Girl Informer