As an aspiring game developer, developing connections within the industry is crucial for career growth and opportunities. But networking can feel challenging when you’re just starting out. For this reason it is important to know How to Build Your Network as an Indie Game Developer (game dev) in the video game development industry.
In this comprehensive guide, I’ll share my top strategies and tips for organically growing your network, making genuine connections, and providing value as a game developer.
Why Networking Matters in the Game Industry
Before we dive into the tactics, it’s important to understand why building your network matters as a game developer.
Many jobs, freelance gigs, and other opportunities arise through connections and word-of-mouth.
A strong network means you’ll hear about open positions and projects much sooner than if you were applying cold.
Your connections can make direct introductions or provide referrals that get your foot in the door.
Game development is highly collaborative. Having connections with talented developers, artists, composers, producers, and others enables you to build dream teams for game jams, startup projects, or contract work.
Feedback and Playtesting
Getting regular feedback from fellow developers is crucial for improving your skills and projects. Your network provides playtesters, code reviewers, editors, and other sets of eyes.
Learning and Growth
Connections share valuable insights, resources, and advice to help you stay sharp. Conversations with experienced developers provide perspective and mentorship.
Inspiration and Energy
The game dev community provides no shortage of passion and creativity. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people sparks inspiration and recharges your motivation.
Visibility and Promotion
Well-connected developers amplify each other’s work. Your network will help spread the word about your game launches, job hunts, articles, and other updates.
Building your network provides both tangible and intangible benefits that support your game dev journey. Now let’s look at strategies to start growing your connections.
Getting Active in Game Developer Communities
One of the most effective ways to network is by actively participating in game developer communities online and locally. Making genuine connections takes regular, consistent engagement over time.
Attend Local Meetups and Events
Look on Meetup.com for game developer meetups in your city. These are often casual monthly gatherings at someone’s office or a cafe. It’s a perfect low-pressure way to meet fellow devs.
- Local events are accessible and recurring
- Meet people in your geographic area
- Smaller groups allow more personal connections
- Limited to the developers in your region
- Events may only occur monthly or quarterly
Come prepared with an elevator pitch – a short summary of who you are, your experience, and what you’re working on. Have business cards, resumes, or other collateral to share.
Exchange contact info with new connections and follow up within a week to strengthen the relationship. Share an article, resource, or other value based on your conversation.
Attend Major Conferences and Expos
Events like the Game Developers Conference (GDC), Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), and E3 Expo attract game developers from around the world. They provide excellent networking opportunities through talks, exhibitor booths, mixers, and parties.
- Connect with developers globally
- Discover new tools, technologies, and trends
- Often have dedicated networking events
- Exhibit your own games
- Can be expensive to attend
- Very crowded and overstimulating
- Harder to form deeper connections
Similar to local meetups, have an elevator pitch, collateral to share, and set networking goals. Follow up promptly with your new connections.
Participate in Game Jams
Game jams bring together teams for short development sprints, often over a weekend. They are intense but rewarding experiences that build camaraderie.
- Push your skills by working quickly
- Team up with passionate strangers
- Finish with a game to add to your portfolio
- Low stakes creative environment
- Can be exhausting
- Projects rarely get polished or released
- Teams disband at the end
Use jams asnetworking opportunities by exchanging info with your team, playtesting other games, and making new friends. Continue collaborating or socializing with people you click with.
Join Online Forums and Communities
Forums like Reddit’s r/gamedev, Discord servers, and Stack Exchange allow discussions with developers around the world.
- Get answers to specific game dev questions
- Give back by answering newcomers’ questions
- Asynchronous conversations
- Discussions lack depth
- Harder to make true connections
- Often male-dominated
Look for Discord communities and Slack groups related to specific tools, genres, or aspects of game development. Engage consistently and look for chances to collaborate.
Follow Industry Leaders on Social Media
Follow prominent game developers, studios, publishers, journalists, and educators on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.
- Get insights from veterans
- Discover career opportunities
- Free to access
- Passive consumption of content
- Noise and self-promotion
Beyond just consuming content, engage regularly by commenting thoughtfully, asking questions, and sharing their content. Establish yourself as a member of their community.
Contribute to Open Source Game Projects
Browse game engines and tools on GitHub to find projects that interest you. Make thoughtful code contributions or help with documentation and tutorials.
- Improve coding skills
- Collaborate with experienced devs
- Build portfolio of contributions
- Often unpaid work
- Can be confusing for beginners
Introduce yourself to project leads and community. Be patient, humble, and hungry to learn from seasoned open source contributors.
|Local Meetups||1-5 hours/month||Easy||Medium|
|Game Jams||1 weekend||Hard||Medium|
|Online Forums||1-10 hours/week||Medium||Low|
|Social Media||1-10 hours/week||Easy||Medium|
|Open Source||5-20 hours/month||Hard||High|
This table summarizes the key community networking tactics along with estimated time commitment, difficulty level, and potential impact. Adjust your activities based on your available time, current skills, and goals.
Attending Industry Events and Conferences
Industry events like the Game Developers Conference (GDC), Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), and E3 provide unparalleled networking and learning opportunities by bringing together thousands of developers annually.
While the upfront costs of attending major conferences can be prohibitive, especially when starting out, here are some tips to maximize your value if you do get the chance to go:
Have a Polished Elevator Pitch
Your elevator pitch is a 30 second spiel that summarizes:
- Your experience and skills
- The games you’ve worked on
- Specific projects you’re developing now
- What you’re looking for and hoping to achieve
Refine your pitch and practice it until it sounds natural. Have a version tailored for different audiences like publishers, hiring managers, or fellow devs.
Being able to quickly and confidently introduce yourself is key when time is limited.
Prepare Eye-Catching Collateral
Bring plenty of business cards, brochures, resumes, stickers, or other collateral to share with new connections.
Include links to your website, portfolio, and social profiles so people can learn more about you.
Well-designed collateral conveys professionalism and gives you an excuse to follow up with new contacts after the event.
Set Networking Goals
Conferences can be overwhelming. Set daily goals like “Connect with 5 new developers” or “Tell 10 people about my game” to stay focused.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone. If networking doesn’t come naturally, make it a game.
Review your goals each evening and identify people you want to follow up with after the conference.
Follow Up Promptly
Collect business cards and contact info from people you click with. Add them on LinkedIn.
Within a week of the conference, send follow ups to solidify new connections. Share resources based on conversations, offer feedback on their games, or just say thanks for chatting.
Follow ups are crucial to transition from a brief conference connection into an ongoing relationship.
Attend Networking Side Events
Major conferences usually host networking mixers, speed networking, or parties – often with free drinks! These more casual settings are fantastic for conversation.
Chat people up while waiting in lines. Some of my best conference connections started organically in Uber pools.
Leverage side activities to strengthen relationships outside cramped expo halls.
Finding Mentors Within Your Network
Making personal connections with experienced game developers can provide invaluable mentorship as you build your career.
Here are strategies for cultivating mentor relationships within your network:
Identify Potential Mentors
Keep an eye out for developers who:
- Have 5+ years of relevant experience
- Display generosity through advice giving
- Seem open and interested in mentoring newcomers
- Work in roles or companies you aspire towards
Seek out mentors who align with your specialties like programming, game design, visual arts, production, or business development.
Request Informal Mentorship
Casually ask mentors if they’d be open to occasional informal chats over coffee, email, phone, or video calls:
“I’ve learned so much from following your work over the years. I’d love to take you out to coffee sometime and pick your brain if you’re open to mentoring newcomers like me.”
Many experienced developers find mentoring rewarding. Don’t be afraid to ask. Worst case they decline.
Come Prepared with Questions
Before each mentor chat, prepare 2-3 specific questions to guide the conversation, like:
- How did you get your start in the game industry?
- What skills are most important for producers to develop?
- I’m struggling with scoping my first game solo. How do you recommend figuring out the scale?
Share context about your experience and goals. Show you value their time by having an agenda.
Offer to Help Your Mentors
Think of ways you can provide value in return for your mentors’ generous advice:
- Playtest their game and give feedback
- Introduce them to helpful contacts
- Review their code or writing
- Promote their work and accomplishments
Always ask how you can repay the favor. Look for win-win ways to help.
Keep Them Updated
Let mentors know when you make progress, face challenges, or achieve milestones in your career.
Showing your growth provides satisfaction that their mentorship made an impact.
Finding great mentors early on can be invaluable for navigating the game industry. Approach potential mentors respectfully and come prepared.
Building Genuine Connections
Networking has a negative connotation when people only reach out when they need something. Foster genuine connections instead with this relationship-building advice:
Follow Up Consistently
After meeting developers at events, exchanges contact info, and follow up within a week.
Share articles, resources, congratulations, introductions, or other value to start an ongoing relationship.
Check in periodically and reply promptly to keep communication flowing.
Help First, Pitch Later
Avoid constantly pitching people or asking for favors. Establish the relationship first by being helpful.
Offer relevant advice, provide feedback, and send opportunities their way without expecting immediate reciprocity.
They’ll be more likely to return the favor down the road.
Stay Engaged Over Time
Don’t let connections fade away after one initial conversation. Continue to engage via social media, emails, meetups, and events.
Consistency and regular interaction build familiarity and trust required for strong relationships.
Introduce People in Your Network
A great way to strengthen bonds is by making introductions between your connections for mutual benefit.
If you know two developers who share common interests, make the email intro to connect them.
Help expand each other’s networks by bridging new links.
Provide Value, Not Just Small Talk
In conversations, shift focus away from empty platitudes towards substantive discussions.
Share lessons learned, give thoughtful feedback, and provide guidance. Receive the same in return.
Converse about challenges you face in a vulnerable way. Bond over real talk.
Building a genuine personal network requires care, commitment and emotional intelligence. Focus on giving value, not extracting it.
Promoting Your Connections
Promoting the launches, news, jobs, and other updates from your network makes you a connector others can count on. Here are tips:
Amplify Launches and Releases
When developers you know release a new game, share the announcement across your social channels.
Write a blog review of the game for extra promotion. Support their success.
Spread the Word on Job Openings
If a connection is hiring for their studio, share job openings with your audience.
Your platform may help talented candidates discover roles.
Congratulate Awards and Accomplishments
Notice when your connections are recognized with awards, grants, press coverage or other accomplishments.
Share congratulatory posts across your channels showing genuine excitement for them.
Their wins are your wins too.
Attend and Promote Events
When relevant conferences, showcases or events are happening, share them with your audience.
Attend to support your connections who are speaking, exhibiting, or nominated.
Promote interesting sessions, panels, and booths from those you know.
Keep an eye out for conferences seeking speakers, publications looking for writers, grant programs, incubators, awards, and other opportunities relevant to your network.
Proactively share these chances to elevate their work.
The more you promote others, the more they’ll reciprocate.
Avoiding Common Networking Pitfalls
While building connections comes naturally to some, many find networking uncomfortable or disingenuous.
Here are common networking pitfalls to avoid:
Not Following Up
Collecting business cards and then never reaching out again is a wasted opportunity.
Set calendar reminders to follow up within a week after events while the conversation is fresh.
Craft a short, personalized email touching on something unique from the interaction.
Following up consistently is crucial.
Being Too Self-Promotional
Avoid making the conversation all about you, your projects, and achievements.
People will tune you out if it’s nonstop bragging and pitching.
Shift the focus to learning about the other person, their work, and connections.
Not Asking Thoughtful Questions
Ask smart, open-ended questions that create engaging dialogue:
- “What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you right now?”
- “How did you get your start in voice acting?”
- “What’s your favorite thing about working at that studio?”
Move beyond small talk by being curious and letting them share.
Poor Listening Skills
Networking is a two-way street. You need to listen attentively too.
Don’t just wait for your turn to talk. Respond to what people say by asking follow-ups or digging deeper.
Paying full attention shows you value the conversation.
Not Following Up (Again!)
It’s worth repeating: following up consistently is so important!
Your relationship will fizzle out if communication drops off.
Schedule reminders to continue conversations across days, weeks and months.
Make genuine networking connections by avoiding self-promotion, asking good questions, listening well, and persisting through follow ups.
Providing Value as a Connector
The best networkers provide significant value to those around them by:
Proactively connect people in your network who share common interests, roles, or goals.
Make warm introductions over email with relevant context about each person.
Facilitate serendipity by bridging new links.
Giving Honest Feedback
Your network will appreciate candid, constructive feedback on their game demos, business plans, portfolios, or other projects.
Provide detailed, actionable suggestions they can build on. Don’t just say “it’s great!”
Criticism should come from a place of care, not bitterness. Make it about them, not you.
Keep your eyes open for conferences looking for speakers, publications seeking writers, incubators, grants, awards, and other opportunities suited for your network.
Proactively share relevant chances for others to level up.
Based on your connections, you may be able to directly introduce people to influencers, executives and other VIPs who are hard to reach cold.
Leverage your relationships carefully to open doors that can change people’s trajectories.
Promoting Launches and Content
Amplify your connections’ launches, content and other announcements through your social media platforms and newsletters.
Write blog reviews of their games or podcast interviews with them.
Support their efforts publicly and expand their reach.
As your network grows, keep providing significant value without expecting anything immediate in return. Your contributions will compound over time.
What are the benefits of attending conventions as an indie game developer?
Attending major gaming conventions like PAX, E3, and GDC as an indie game developer has many potential benefits:
Showcase Your Game
One of the biggest perks of exhibiting at conventions is the chance to put your game directly into players’ hands. Their live reactions and feedback are invaluable, especially for indie titles with small marketing budgets.
You can set up eye-catching booths and demos to capture attendees’ interest on the crowded exhibit hall floors. This exposure helps spread the word during the critical pre-launch phase.
Get Press and Streamer Coverage
Major gaming journalists and influencers flock to conventions to find hidden gems and fresh stories.
Pitch your unusual concept or interesting development journey to press outlets. Offer exclusives and hands-on demos to attract coverage. The buzz could be a huge boost.
Content creators like Twitch streamers are also prowling for great indie games to feature. Getting your game played on big channels expands reach.
Network with Industry
Rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in gaming at mixers, panels, and the infamous queue lines.
Attending as an indie developer lets you connect face-to-face with publishing reps, investors, platform holders, distributors, and other important connections that are hard to reach otherwise.
You never know what opportunities a chance encounter at an after-hours event could lead to.
Stay on Top of Trends
Check out the hottest new tech like VR headsets and game streaming services firsthand. Study what competitors are demoing. Identify trends in game genres, art direction, and monetization strategies.
Absorb everything you can to apply lessons to your own game and roadmap. References for days!
Conventions let indie developers put their game on center stage, make key connections, gather crucial feedback, and stay tapped into the industry’s pulse. Make the most of opportunities to exhibit and attend.
Networking is a long term game for indie developers
When starting out as an indie game developer, it’s tempting to focus solely on your current project. But consistently investing time into building your network is crucial for long-term success.
Plant seeds now that bear fruit later
Making genuine connections takes effort and persistence. Don’t just collect business cards – follow up with new contacts, continue conversations over months, and look for ways to add value.
These relationships may not impact your current game. But they build familiarity and trust that leads to future collaborations, opportunities, and support down the road.
Networking can’t be a one-off activity. Regular engagement through social media, events, and community participation is key.
The more consistently you show up with generosity and help first, the stronger your connections become.
Your network is your safety net
In the inevitable ups and downs of game development, your network helps break the fall.
When you hit roadblocks, need feedback, or have a project stall, they provide advice, morale boosts, introductions, and other assistance.
Surround yourself with fellow developers who want to see you succeed.
Look beyond immediate needs
It’s easy to network purely when you urgently need something – beta testers, a hot press contact, or a publishing intro.
But if those are your only interactions, you become a drain on your network.
Focus on giving first without expecting immediate reciprocity. Your contributions will be valued in time.
Networking as an indie dev requires a generous, community-minded mindset. Be patient. The relationships you build will support your indie journey for years to come.
Insights from the community
- “Go to events even if you’re introverted. As an introvert, I was hesitant about going to big networking events at first. But I pushed myself to attend game jams, conferences, and meetups regularly. Over time, I formed deeper connections that led to collaborations on projects that elevated my career.” – Jane, programmer
- “Make genuine human connections. Don’t treat networking like a transaction. Get to know fellow devs as people with families, hobbies, passions, and vulnerabilities. Those personal bonds lead to fulfilling relationships beyond just career advancement.” – Akash, game designer
- “Find a community and contribute. I consistently engage in forums and Discord servers around specific tools and genres I’m passionate about. Helping new users, debugging issues, and sharing tutorials lets me improve my skills while giving back.” – Lee, technical artist
- “Don’t be afraid to reach out to your heroes. Even well-known game devs started somewhere. If you respect someone’s work, send a thoughtful message asking to meet up. You may be surprised by how many respond. Several of my mentors started as cold contacts who took a chance on me.” – Sam, indie developer
- “Make time for networking, don’t just wait for events. Set aside 30-60 minutes each week to create new connections through social media outreach, messaging developers, or browsing for collaborators. Treat it like exercise for your career.” – Alex, producer
- “Follow up consistently. After meeting developers, immediately add them on LinkedIn or other platforms. Continue engaging via likes, comments, resources, and check-ins. Nurturing relationships takes effort over time, but consistency matters.” – Sarah, student developer
Key Takeaways for Networking as a Game Developer
Here are the key lessons to accelerate your networking and relationship building as a game developer:
- Get consistently involved in game developer communities through meetups, jams, conferences, forums and social media. Regular engagement over time is crucial.
- Come prepared to events with an elevator pitch, collateral to share, and goals to stay focused while networking. Follow up within a week.
- Find excellent mentors who can provide career and skill-building guidance based on experience. Offer to contribute value back to them in return.
- Build genuine connections by following up consistently, helping first before pitching, and providing value through substantive conversations. Avoid self-promotion.
- Become a connector by making introductions, sharing opportunities, giving feedback, and promoting your network’s launches and accomplishments.
- Avoid common pitfalls like failing to follow up, excessive self-promotion, poor listening, and only engaging shallowly.
- Participate actively in communities by contributing to discussions, collaborating on projects, and engaging with fellow developers. Provide value.
- Practice self-care by setting boundaries and taking breaks from networking. Don’t burn yourself out trying to connect nonstop. Quality over quantity.
- Reflect on goals and work strategically to build relationships aligned with your game development objectives and needs.
- Leverage social media by following industry leaders, engaging consistently, and promoting your connections. But also network offline.
- Keep learning by studying effective networkers and relationship-builders. Improving your emotional intelligence and soft skills will help.
The most effective networking requires genuine connections, consistent engagement, self-awareness, and a focus on community over self-interest.
Conclusion and Next Steps
Networking may not come naturally to all game developers, but it’s a crucial activity for career success, collaborations, and growth.
By getting involved in game dev communities, finding excellent mentors, consistently providing value, and avoiding common pitfalls, you can build an invaluable personal network over time.
To recap, here are some next steps to focus on for boosting your game development network:
- Attend a local meetup this month to introduce yourself to fellow devs.
- Set reminders to follow up with all new connections within a week.
- Identify 1-2 potential mentors and ask if they’re open to occasional informal chats.
- Share 3 upcoming opportunities suited for your connections like conferences, incubators or awards.
- Promote a launch from someone in your network this month with posts and other amplification.
Even if networking doesn’t come naturally, use this guide to work strategically on strengthening your connections with the game development community.
I welcome your thoughts and stories in the comments about networking strategies that have worked well in building your game dev career. Let’s keep the conversation going!
Frequently Asked Questions ( FAQ) How to Build Your Network as a Game Developer
Q: What is the video game development industry?
A: The video game development industry refers to the sector that focuses on the creation and production of video games. It involves various roles and disciplines such as game design, programming, art, and sound.
Q: What does it mean to be an indie game developer?
A: Being an indie game developer means that you are an independent game creator who operates outside of the traditional game studio system. Indie developers often work on smaller budgets and have more creative freedom.
Q: How can I develop my network as an indie game developer?
A: Building your network as an indie game developer is essential. You can start by attending conventions and industry events to meet other indie developers, professionals, and potential collaborators. Online communities and social media platforms can also help you connect with like-minded individuals.
Q: What are some tips for networking as an indie game developer?
A: Here are some networking tips for indie game developers: 1. Attend conventions and industry events 2. Join online communities and forums 3. Utilize social media platforms 4. Collaborate with other indie developers 5. Attend game jams and meetups
Q: How can networking help me as an indie game developer?
A: Networking can provide you with valuable insights, opportunities, and connections within the video game development industry. It can help you get the attention of potential collaborators, investors, and even recruiters.
Q: Are conventions only for professional game developers?
A: No, conventions are not exclusively for professional game developers. They are open to anyone with an interest in the video game industry, including indie developers, gamers, and players.
Q: How can I get the attention of potential collaborators?
A: To get the attention of potential collaborators, you can showcase your skills and previous work, provide a clear concept of your ideas and projects, and reach out to people who may have similar interests or complementary skills. Building a professional network and demonstrating your passion and commitment can also help.
Q: What should I bring to the table when networking as an indie game developer?
A: When networking as an indie game developer, it is essential to bring your skills, creativity, and unique ideas to the table. Showcasing your previous work, demonstrating your passion for game development, and highlighting your promise as a developer are also important.
Q: Is it necessary to attend conventions and events to build my network as an indie game developer?
A: While attending conventions and industry events is one of the best ways to build your network as an indie game developer, it is not the only option. Social media platforms, online communities, and networking with other developers through game jams and meetups can also help you connect with professionals in the industry.