Wondercon '11: Breaking into the Industry(s)
This year Wondercon presented a slew of excellent panels about the comic book and video game industries. Some of them served as direct Q&A sessions about breaking in, while others dropped insider news about where things are going for everyone. I'm going to talk about each panel in the order that I saw them, so check out the title of each section before you dig in!
The MMORPG Industry
This one was short and sweet. Developers from various companies gathered together and talked about where MMORPGs are going. The answer? In strange, crazy new places. Ultimately, as most of you probably know, MMOs are hard to sink money into in the first place, even harder if you're trying to be innovative. Games like Minecraft may not seem like much, but user-created content has repeatedly reared its head as a powerful force within MMOs. Of course, at the end of the panel someone asked how anybody could topple World of Warcraft, and the response was a laugh. Apparently, people used to ask the exact same question about Everquest. Ultimately MMO's probably won't be on their death bed for a long time if ever, but progress and innovation is coming mostly from the smaller studios with less to lose.
Marvel: Breaking into Comics the Marvel Way
Yeah, we're a Japanese content industry news site, but comics are comics, right? Even though Japan makes comics in a totally different way, with one mangaka being solely responsible for most of the artwork and all of the story, some of the advice still translates. It comes down to two simple things: be talented, and be lucky. That may sound dismal, but the Marvel guys said that breaking into comics is like breaking out of jail: once someone finds a way out, that path gets covered up and you have to find a new way out. Do not despair, however! The internet, as stated by the Marvel guys, has become such a major way to find new talent that they are constantly hiring artists. If you can produce pencils, colors, or scripts and show them off online, then whoever is looking over your portfolio can go online and find your best work in a nice, neat package. Also, if you can make it down to a convention, do so! Comic book companies are always holding art reviews, so you'll get one on one time with a professional who can critique your stuff. Yes, they will actually work WITH you to set you on the right path. If you can take their advice and fix something up by next convention, well that just shows commitment and perseverance.
Evolution of Comics in the Transmedia Space
What the hell does that mean??? It was a panel about how comics are evolving in a world full of iPads, internet, and movie adaptations. The good news is that comics are evolving, and some artists and companies are taking serious steps to branch out like using motion comics and working with musicians to reach a new audience. The bad news, and there is a lot of bad news, is that the major companies, Marvel and DC, are spending more time trying to out do one another and less time focusing on their personal strengths. Furthermore, no one is getting younger people to read. There are no cross promotions between superhero movies and their comics counterparts, nor is anyone making any serious effort to reach out to new readers. It's getting pretty dismal too: comics are selling in the thousands these days whereas about a decade or so ago, an entire series might get canned if numbers dipped below one million. Scar stuff!
How to Get into the Video Game Industry
This was the fun one! There were developers from Capcom, Electronic Arts, and Off-Base productions, a company which produces manuals for games. Ultimately video games seem far more hopeful in terms of breaking in than comics. There are a lot more job that require less specialized skills, and the industry serves as a nice mix between casual and corporate. The work you do will carry over one or two companies over, such is the inclusive nature of the industry. As far as breaking in, really its about training yourself in a particular field and the willingness to work hard, work a boring job, and stick with it. A lot of people get in through marketing and QA testing, but keeping up with everything can eventually lead to Producer or other high-rank role. As for the more creative end of things, it again comes down to being talented. If programming or designing is what you really want to do, work hard and be the best!