Just like ‘breaking into’ Community Management, I sort of moved sideways, and again it’s partially a tale of ‘who you know’.
Of course, it also depends on what you define as being ‘in the industry’. If you define being ‘in the industry’ as working for a publisher or developer, then I ‘broke in’ when I joined Sony working on PlayStation.com. However, personally, I don’t define that as the moment for me.
For me, I ‘broke in’ when I went to AOL in the summer of 1999 to work on their Games channel, because that’s when I went from playing games to reporting on them professionally.
I was moving sideways from magazine journalism. A year or so earlier I’d met people at AOL UK - widely regarded then as a ‘school of hard knocks’ for internet content producers - and I’d help them build an official channel on the service for the magazine I worked on (PC Pro). After I made those contacts, a year or so later, a friend there said “Hey, you should come work for us on the Games channel.” I interviewed and I got the gig.
At the time, the Games channel was very much in flux. I came in and revamped it, basically making it into an editorial destination, which was my forte then. I learned a lot about coding and internet content in a very short period of time. The channel grew, I got to review a lot of games, I went to E3, and I got loads of abuse for not saying The Sims was the greatest game ever made. (I think it’s good, but for particular reasons that people didn’t agree with.)
AOL merged (or bought, depending on who you believe) with Time Warner in 2000, and I decided to move on then. About a year or so later after some time freelancing, I ended up going to Sony and taking on PlayStation.com. If you take ‘working for a publisher’ as the official first time that you break into the industry, well that was it.
In both cases - AOL and PlayStation.com - I got the jobs because I had the skills to do them. You might be wondering where the skills came from. Well, I could write and edit when I left university, but four years on a magazine honed those skills immeasurably. When I came to AOL I learned about content management systems, coding and management, to a certain degree. All of that set me up nicely to work at PlayStation.
Beyond all of that, however, it’s important to realize that I basically wanted to be a magazine journalist from when I was about 14 - and then after I made that happen, the internet, being new and exciting, seemed like a next step. It’s always important to try and keep yourself moving forward, to learn and grow, and that will generally lead to good things.