Three Video Game Ambassadors share their experiences of working in the games industry
At this year’s Rezzed, Ukie partnered with BAFTA to deliver the Careers Genius Bar in the GamesIndustry Fair. More than 40 members of the Video Games Ambassadors scheme (VGAs) volunteered across the three days of the show in the portfolio, getting involved in one-to-one careers advice sessions and taking a look at student CVs. We were delighted to have so many industry professionals on hand throughout the fair to chat about their experiences in the games industry and their own career path, so afterwards we caught up with Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris, James Schall and Charu Desodt after their sessions to hear about their experiences of being a VGA.
Ukie: What made you become a VGA?
James Schall: As I progressed along my career in the games industry, it became very clear to me that the advice I was given at school was way wide of the mark. I felt strongly that I could offer more advice than schools were able to provide, just by telling my story.
Mitu Khandaker-Kokoris: There are lots of reasons I decided to become a VGA! The most important is that I absolutely believe in games as a medium, and it’s so important to me to celebrate them with other people. A huge part of that for me is ensuring that all kinds of people are also inspired to make and play games – especially girls, and people from all kinds of backgrounds. As a woman and an ethnic minority myself, it’s hugely important to me to encourage this. And, finally, I became a VGA because I’ve had so much wonderful support from peers and mentors in the industry in my career to date, and it’s very important for me to give back.
Charu Desodt: The games industry is evolving rapidly, from devices being played on to the development of new technologies and the increasing number of players, but how games are made is still a puzzle to most people. I thoroughly love working in games and want to demystify how they are made.
(Above: James Schall during his talk 'How To Get Into Videogames If You Can't Program' at the BAFTA + Ukie Careers Bar at Rezzed 2015)
Ukie: How did you get into the games industry?
Mitu: If I’m honest, growing up, I had two dream jobs – either becoming a game developer, or an astronaut. I decided to do Computer Engineering at university, in some kind of an attempt to unrealistically hedge my bets! While I was there, I decided to do my final year project on videogame interfaces, and was offered the chance to do a PhD on the topic too. I decided, part-way through my PhD, to start my own company making independent games. So, having released one game so far, that’s what I’m doing now!
James: I walked into a Games shop and took a Saturday job. It was not my planned vocation!
Charu: I first started working as games programmer at Sony's London Studio, making sound analysis prototypes for a game that became SingStar.
Ukie: What area of the games industry do you currently work in?
Charu: Recently, I've been working on character led tablet and mobile games and looking into new technologies eg Microsoft's HoloLens. It's a pretty exciting time to join the industry!
Mitu: I’m a programmer and a designer running a small independent studio; it’s mostly myself, and some very talented contractors that I work with, depending on the project. So far, I’ve released on PC only, but for the next game, I’m targeting all kinds of platforms, from console, to hand-held, to mobile.
James: I work in Digital Distribution at SEGA.
(Above: CV sessions underway at the BAFTA + Ukie Careers Bar at Rezzed 2015)
Ukie: What do you wish someone in the games industry had told you when you were just starting out?
Mitu: Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask people for help! Most people in games are very friendly, so if there’s someone whose work you admire, and want to ask some advice from them, then let them know. Chances are, if they are not too busy, they’d be happy to help. I think the most important thing in games is to build a great support network of colleagues and mentors, and this goes doubly so if you are independent. You need people who are rooting for you, and whose work you can root for in return. Working in games feels like a fantastic, welcoming community, so do take advantage of that!
James: Don’t set limits for yourself.
Charu: You are going to get a lot of advice from a lot of people, none of whom have ever done this before. Trust your instincts. Actually, someone did say this to me - thanks BM!
(Above: One-to-one careers advice sessions underway at the BAFTA + Ukie Careers Bar at Rezzed 2015)
Ukie: What would you say to other folk in the games industry who don’t know about the VGA scheme?
Charu: Volunteer! It's simple and you get to share your wisdom with people who might just make your next favourite game.
James: Join up and share your story, each one will be inspiration to a poor lost soul who loves games and feels they don’t know what to do next or how they can contribute.
Mitu: Get involved! Talking to young people interested in games, and getting them even more passionate about the possibility of working in games, is incredibly rewarding, and I recommend it. It takes less of your time than you think, and we owe it to the future of our industry to put in the work towards making it the kind of place we want it to be.
We would like to say a huge thank you to Charu, Mitu and James for sharing their experiences of being a VGA, and to all of the VGAs and BAFTA Crew Members who volunteered at Rezzed at the ‘BAFTA + Ukie Careers Bar’!
If you’re interested in becoming a Video Games Ambassador and want to inspire the next generation of video games talent, please visit the VGA website and sign up for free today.
Have any questions about the VGA scheme? Please don't hesitate to email Jenny.