Angela Golden-McCord’s parents were no fans of video games.
They did not keep them around the house, so Golden-McCord’s exposure to gaming was limited until she began babysitting her cousin during the summer. Her uncle’s house was fully stocked with a Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis and PlayStation, and Golden-McCord took full advantage.
“Those four summers were when I binged video games for the first time,’’ she said.
Golden-McCord, a former quartermaster second class in the Navy, plays video games now more than ever. A senior recruiting manager for Riot Games, Golden-McCord, 37, was one of five panelists with military backgrounds who participated in a recent Careers in Gaming webinar put on by Hire Heroes USA – a nonprofit veterans organization. Golden-McCord shared her insights, along with animator Eddie Contreras, a Marine veteran, and game designer Dan Spence, an Army veteran, from Sony Interactive Entertainment. The event also featured Navy veteran John Doyle, vice president of production and operations at Riot Games, and former Air Force Capt. Andy Parthum, a senior manager at Activision Blizzard.
“The military teaches you to be aggressive and adaptable, which is helpful in an industry where innovation can shift trends very quickly,’’ Parthum, who completed his nearly five-year stint in the military in 2016, said in an email.
A total of 693 veterans and military spouses registered for the webinar, Hire Heroes USA spokeswoman Jamie Rimphanli said. Two other webinars, as yet unscheduled, are planned for next year, Rimphanli said.
The idea behind the webinar initially sprang from an inquiry. A veteran was in school and interested in pursuing a career in video games. As he tried to build his network of contacts, though, he was not encountering much success.
“He asked, ‘I know that you do support for veterans in entertainment. Do you think there’s an opportunity to do some video gaming?’’’ Rimphanli said. “And I said, ‘Sure. Let’s give it a shot.’’’
Rimphanli reached out to the Call of Duty Endowment and its executive director, Dan Goldenberg. He also is a vice president at Activision Blizzard and conceded challenges exist for veterans in trying to find the right fit in gaming.
“The barrier was really a knowledge barrier,’’ said Goldenberg, a former Navy captain. “Sometimes a job title doesn’t convey what this job really does. The goal [with the webinar] was to bridge the gaps.’’
Goldenberg, whose company has developed a veterans’ hiring guide under the careers tab at activision.com, said the Call of Duty Endowment funds 12 nonprofit organizations (including Hire Heroes USA) in the United States and United Kingdom to help place veterans in various career fields.
Goldenberg offered several suggestions for veterans trying to break into the video-game industry.
- Ask what function you want to perform, whether it be coding, game design, animation or a position on the marketing side, for example.
- Acquire skills specific to that area.
- Talk with people who are in roles that interest you or reach out on LinkedIn.
And, perhaps most of all, don’t waste time.
“If you think you want to break into the industry, don’t wait until you’re out [of the military],’’ Goldenberg said.
“Start developing those skills now, even as a hobbyist. If you want to do something on the technical side, start learning the codes you need to learn, learning how to design, whatever you might need. Get familiar with that. If you’re an artist, develop your portfolio. Start early.’’
Golden-McCord did not. She was a recruiter for a rental-car company before meeting several people working in video games and becoming impressed with the industry’s creative culture.
Parthum, 31, was attending graduate school on the GI Bill when a recruiter from Activision Blizzard was on campus. He interviewed, got the position and worked on several business-oriented teams at the Fortune 500 company during a two-year MBA program. Parthum now manages partnerships with game platforms such as PlayStation, Xbox and Switch.
“The military is all about working well in small groups, coordinating across a variety of different teams and getting deliverables across the line against hard deadlines,’’ Parthum said. “All of these skills translate to the business and corporate roles I’ve found myself in here.’’
In the first year after Golden-McCord was hired, she participated in a forum with about 20 other veterans employed by Riot Games. Each discussed what he or she did in the military and their role with the company at the time. As Golden-McCord listened, she was struck by the different perspectives.
“That was the thing that had the greatest impact on me,’’ Golden-McCord said. “It showed me that no matter what your background was before, there’s always an opportunity or a chance that some skill that you have could convert or transfer into the video-games industry.’’