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Origin Story: Jessica Daniels, Designer | ZeniMax Online

What was your first job in the games industry?

The first thing I ever did in the gaming industry was support – tech support and then in-game customer service. I’d had a lot of IT experience and a huge love of gaming, so I thought my life couldn’t get any better than that at the time.


Did you find it difficult to get your first job given that you had no prior experience?

Sometimes, I feel like my entrance into the games industry was a fairy tale story. I was working in another state and going to school full-time near home to get certifications for my IT career. I wasn’t really passionate about IT, but I enjoyed helping people and really liked the pay. It was the typical grind my days away to support playing games at night. Luckily, at the time I lived just around the corner from a gaming studio. They’d made the first MMO I’d officially beta tested. It was also the game that was eating up all my free time. So, when they posted that they were hiring for technical support, I sucked up the pay cut and went after my passion. I found that doing support for a game company where I could talk about comics and games and dorky movies on my breaks was completely worth it! And better yet, it got me closer to the job I’d just realized that I’d been dreaming about – making video games.


What sort of training or education did you complete in advance of applying for your first position?

I learn best by getting my hands dirty – trial and error – so I’m mostly self-taught. I had years of failed attempts at making my own board games, a couple of poorly built modules, and a huge passion for the gaming industry. It didn’t hurt that I got my foot in the door through customer support. That was, after all, the industry that I’d worked in for years.


What is your job today?

Today, I’m a Content Designer. I fill my days making fun stuff for folks to do. It’s a lot of hard work to make things appeal to a wide audience. Sometimes, I just have to scrap an idea and start over. Often, the idea I’m in love with at the time is too quirky. Quirky doesn’t always play well. I think the quests that I’m most proud of are the quirky ones that really turn out well.


For someone interested in starting a career making games today what is the main piece of advice you would offer them?

A lot of game design in general is trial and error. You come up with a prototype system or module and then test it until your eyeballs want to fall out of your head and your fingers are about to fall off. Then, you revise and start again. Be persistent and patient. Play everything. Read everything. Try everything. Inspiration is everywhere.

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