It is a maxim that every Game Master is a game designer to one degree or another.
It is also a maxim that every Game Master believes that he or she is a good enough designer to make a living making games and supplements.
The hard truth is that not every Game Master has what it takes to make a great gaming product, even when he or she is a wonderful Game Master. Additionally, there are some very talented designers out there in the gaming community who lack the confidence and experience to properly sell themselves to game companies who could use their talents. Sadly, there is a dearth of really great resources for advice for the aspiring game designer.
Okay, I hear you disagreeing already. There are a few tomes on Game Design Theory that reference bizarre sounding names like Huizinga and DeKoven. There are also hundreds of books covering Game Design for computer games. Then there are the "how to work for company x" panels at conventions and the recent Mongoose product "I am Mongoose and So Can You."
But even with all these resources, there is still a dearth really great resources for advice for the aspiring game designer...on how to acquire a career in the gaming industry. Truth be told, when you look at how many of today's giants in the gaming field became game designers there are a seemingly endless variety of paths to becoming a game designer -- and little guidance. Do I work in the warehouse shipping out games like Greg Costikyan did? Do I send my game setting in as a submission to a major company? Do I submit articles to their online/print magazine? Do I write some of the most rigorously researched campaign compilation material ever imagined for free consumption on the internet?
There are a hundred different stories to tell, each is different and none are really helpful to the mildly socially awkward individual that is your average gamer.
What is the best way to get that foot in the door and start building a professional relationship with a company you might want to work with? One answer, though certainly not THE answer, is to use the convention circuit as a "job interview" resource. It can be a daunting prospect and one that might make you nervous, but if you talk to most gaming professionals they will let you know that many business decisions are made at conventions or based on convention experiences.
This is where Jess Hartley's "GenCon for the Aspiring Professional" comes in handy. This sixteen page document provides a veritable crash course on "pitching" behavior at conventions, and its information can easily be applied to other situations. The document is a nice step by step guide of things to consider, things to bring, things to say, and things not to say. It must reading for anyone who wants to work in the gaming industry.
Jess knows what of she writes too. She is a veteran game designer who has worked on a number of wonderful products. She has worked on game related fiction -- including Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas (as a Savage Worlds fan any one who writes for the Pinebox setting gets bonus esteem points in my patented gaming professional esteem-o-meter 2500). Additionally, she has been a central author in White Wolf Games new generation line of World of Darkness products and their exciting Scion game line. She is also one of the contributors to Green Ronin's upcoming Family Games: The 100 Best.
If you're interested in working in the games industry, check out Jess's pamphlet. You might also want to check out her excellent website which features a fun advice column entitled "One Geek to Another."
My only complaint about the website is that the "heading banner" doesn't have an embedded link to the home page. The link is on the side banner, but I like clicking on the header.