For anyone who loves games, forging a career in the games industry offers a tantalizing opportunity to combine your passion and livelihood. But how can you turn your enthusiasm and talent into an actual career? To dig deeper on this topic, we asked three Monsters to share their personal journeys into gaming—and their insights. The following Monster Roundtable discussion brings together a legend, a midcareer contributor, and a talented newcomer to give three very diverse viewpoints on joining our industry:
C Paul Johnson, Audio Director and Composer at Cauldron, has 15 years of comprehensive game audio experience across six AAA titles including Halo 2 and Destiny and has received numerous industry awards including audioGANG, the D.I.C.E. Awards, the Game Awards, ASCAP, and the TEC Awards.
Cam Moeller, Executive Program Manager for Human Resources, has over 10 years in project management. Having had the opportunity to work in a variety of industries, Cam looks to help in crafting industry-defining processes that balance efficiency, effectiveness, and joy. He loves gaming and entertainment, and program management gives him a vehicle to elevate the creative process for others.
Daikee Jackson, Associate Producer at Firewalk Studios, has a videogame career spanning seven months—following an Air Force career, he attended Full Sail University through the GI Bill to study programming and engineering and found a home with ProbablyMonsters in production, the area where he truly thrives.
Now that we’ve introduced our Monsters, let’s hear their stories!
“It all started with the demo I made, which got me in and demonstrated my passion” – C Paul Johnson
ProbablyMonsters Blog: Every Monster has a unique journey into games – what stood out in yours?
C Paul: I had no intention of getting into games. I’m a musician and when I was finishing up at Berklee music school, they sent my internship resume to Bungie, where they needed someone to cut dialog for a couple weeks. I played Nintendo as a kid, but at this stage I hadn’t heard of Xbox—so I bought one before I interviewed. When I was asked for a demo, I said I had one, but I didn’t. I collected projects and put together a demo overnight, and it got me an internship at Bungie, which turned into 13 years there.
Cam: My ADHD really made it hard for me to succeed when it came to school. I overcame it as best I could by taking a bit of a longer road, working a myriad of jobs from tattoo artist to retail sales. Each experience helped guide me toward pursuing something that spoke more to my passions. This gave me experience about what I love, what I needed to learn, and eventually, what it took to lead people and organizations. The critical moment for me came when I was continually feeling mistreated in the jobs I was doing. I asked myself, “Why do all of these processes have to be so miserable? I love contributing. Why can’t that be more joyful?” This pushed me to realize I was passionate about being an advocate for positive change in an industry I love. Gaming was always a passion of mine. So, having the opportunity to combine these was what I would say was “my calling” (even though many people could say I had no right to make it into such a competitive field).
Daikee: I’ve always been nerdy; games spoke to me. When I was leaving the Air Force, I wanted to be in the games space but didn’t know how to do it. I started googling ‘steps to get into the games industry’. I saw Full Sail offered a gaming curriculum for game programming and engineering. Before graduation, I made a top-10 list of places I wanted to join, trying to find a few people at each studio to get to know. I started the networking journey early so when I went job hunting, I wasn’t bugging people for a job. I was legitimately interested in their work, building that connection, and learning what they had to teach me. Ultimately, that led me to ProbablyMonsters.
ProbablyMonsters Blog: Are there any key learnings from your early career you want to share?
C Paul: My learning was to take opportunities when they present themselves and never get discouraged. If it’s what you want to do, you’re going to do it. My transition from audio to becoming a composer happened when the video promo department wanted to create a piece of Halo music that was reminiscent of a famous jazz tune. I volunteered to do something no one else wanted to do, and they liked it. When the design team wanted temp music for a level, I was the only person with bandwidth to do it, so I put in temp music, including my own music. One of the designers fell in love with my music, and I was on my way.
Daikee: What’s helped me be successful is my openness and willingness to jump on problems. When there’s a problem, I’m a problem-solver by nature. Opportunities arise when you have your hands ready to grab them. It accelerates the learning process.
ProbablyMonsters Blog: What advice do you have for those wanting to get started in games now?
C Paul: My advice on the creative side is always to have a demo and to get stuff out there. That’s how I hire; I want to see what a person can produce. If you’re a sound designer, do you have sounds to show me? There are lots of tools available; go in and replace sounds in a demo game. Doing that says a lot about your initiative and drive to be in the industry. It’s not just having the dream but knowing how to make it happen.
Cam: To be a professional and excel in something that excites your passion, like being an artist, designer, or producer, you must have a stake in it. It’s not about, “how do I get into gaming?” but, “how do I become a professional in something I care about?” There’s no one perfect path into game development. It’s eccentric, it’s eclectic, and that’s the beauty. We can have diverse experiences and different roads into making games. Trust in your path and it will bring you into the thing you want to pursue.
Daikee: Probably to focus on a specific field. If you’re trying to enter AAA where there’s a focus on certain disciplines, find your area and stick to it. When I started, I was designing and programming games, but I found my space when I started leaning toward production, where I felt the most comfortable and effective.
ProbablyMonsters Blog: What do you look for when considering people for your team?
C Paul: I just look for someone that has the skills to do the job and has a passion to do it. And I look for people who can be successful in a team environment. Investing in yourself as a collaborator is a good thing. If you work on your communications skills and ability to express yourself, those skills will help you every day.
Cam: First, if you can, start building a game. No matter your role, build a game, even it’s just made with index cards, and find a team to collaborate with. The more you understand about the different roles, the better, and this can become the portfolio you bring to interviews. Get the experience any way you can; I want to see tenacity. I want to know that person will have many solutions on day one. Don’t let things hold you back.
ProbablyMonsters Blog: Any last thoughts?
C Paul: I have two things to say. First, learn your craft, have examples of your work, and keep trying. Second, if the job post says five years of experience and you have two, apply anyway! I want to hire a talented sound designer who can create sounds that bring a game to life, not X years of experience.
Cam: Hold onto your passions when you experience negative elements like competitiveness or envy. People sometimes want to rob you of this because they just don’t have it themselves. Pursuing your aspirations ultimately falls on your shoulders. Which means, your passion is your hope. Hold onto that belief, even when things get scary. All these moments of growth will add up in a positive way. It will empower you to combat adversity by making you more resilient and intuitive. You’ve got this.
Daikee: Perseverance is the key to anything, especially in a very competitive space. When I was starting, people told me not to enter AAA through production because it’s a space that’s difficult to enter if no one knows who you are. I said, “this is where I’ll be the most effective,” and it paid off for me.
Please join me in thanking our Monster Roundtable for sharing tips to those looking to join the games industry. Each journey is an individual one, and I hope their journeys help inspire your own unique path! Whether you’re a recent graduate, shifting careers, or looking to turn your hobby into a vocation, remember that C Paul, Cam, and Daikee were once in your shoes. If gaming is what you love, you can do it!
All of us at ProbablyMonsters want to encourage your own positive gaming journey. While this roundtable focused on entering the industry, our next chapter will look at leveling up your career, in keeping with our focus on building long and rewarding careers while making great games. Stay tuned!
Ken Balough, Director of Strategy and Product Development at ProbablyMonsters, has a proven record of success with AAA entertainment franchises and first party consoles. Previously at Microsoft Xbox, he has also held roles at Wargaming America, PlayStation, and SEGA of America. A critical thinker and creative marketer, he brings deep experience working with product development teams as well as a lifelong passion for gaming to his role managing internal and external relationships for ProbablyMonsters and its family of studios.