My Road Becoming a Community Manager aka How I Broke into the Gaming Industry

Growing up as a kid, we all have had our dream jobs and careers. I used to want to be a Paleontologist and discover some new dinosaur. At one point I wanted to be involved in the comic book industry, but my art was terrible, so I thought maybe I could ink (and in the words of Kevin Smith’s “Chasing Amy” film, it’s just tracing!).

I’ve spoke about how I started playing video games at a young age with the Nintendo Entertainment System, and while I never quite had a moment in life where I knew I wanted to work in the gaming industry like Cliff Bleszinski, I just didn’t think there was an actually opportunity to walk down that path.

in 2008, I had been part of a group of gamers from my church who played Halo 3 and Gears of War almost nightly. One of them had recently bought an ASTRO A40 Audio System and raved about it. A gaming headset was definitely something that I was interested in, living in a small condo with my wife, and always needing to turn down the game volume at night while I played, so I wouldn’t disturb my wife’s sleep with the gunfire.

About a year later in July 2009, ASTRO Gaming started up their forums. I had been a forum hound for years, as I always found it interesting conversing with people of like-interests from around the world. (Side note: Through some forums is how I found the acoustic guitar I still use today!). As for any company, these forums started out pretty small. A lot of them people came on to ask questions about the intricacies of their gear, what benefits it provided, etc.

Through the last year desiring to pick up one of these gaming headsets, I had a lot of the knowledge to help people out, so I started out as part of the community. I helped answer peoples questions, saw and read the info that the ASTRO staff was saying in other outlets, and repeated that to customers. One of the big changes was moving the forums to less of a Tech Support “HELP! MY HEADSET ISN’T WORKING” to more of a community feel. So just as ASTRO Stanimal was directing those customers to fill out support tickets, I did as well.

Where it gets funny is that I wasn’t even an owner of their gear. I had been helping out as a member of this community for about 3 months, and my dear wife finally gave in and allowed me to purchase my gear post-Christmas in 2009.

Not even a month later, I was approached by ASTRO Stanimal who contacted me and thanked me for the help I had been on the forums, and that they would like to invite me in to the ASTRO office to talk over helping out on the forums in an official capacity. At this point in my life, I was working in the administrative side of a company, so I was already in front of a computer most of the day and able to do that job and continue to visit these forums throughout the day.

I met with Stan, the Community Marketing Manager, and became a contractor with ASTRO Gaming with a role as the Forum Moderator. It was a nice part-time gig that received a small stipend each month. It was a fun thing to be in-the-know on what ASTRO was releasing (as that year had the debut of both the A30 Mobile friendly headset, and the wireless MixAmp 5.8). Being that there would be a lot of questions about new gear just as it’s released, I was able to preview these things ahead of time to familiarize myself with the product.

ASTRO was going to have their booth at the 2009 PAX Prime (Penny-Acade’s yearly Expo held in Seattle), and I was pretty determined to see if I could help out an attend. I feel like I asked and pestered them to death, but it worked, and I was able to secure a 3-day exhibitor badge. I paid my own airfare and travel, and found some people that were part of the DestructoidSF community to stay with. PAX was a tiring and long 3-day weekend working as booth staff, but such an enjoyable time as well meeting gamers, explaining our ASTRO gear, and seeing the latest games.

As 2011 rolled around, I inquired about attending PAX East, their Expo in Boston in the Spring. Though ASTRO was without a booth, there was still a lot of companies that was using our gear that needed setup and assistance throughout the weekend. I paid my own airfare, but was able to stay on the rollout bed in Stan and Walter’s (ASTRO Events Manager) room.

Throughout these conventions and through the community of DestructoidSF, I had been meeting people involved in the industry on all levels. Seeing some of the same industry people from convention to convention, I made connections which I kept up through following them on my Twitter.

E3 comes around, the mother of all video gaming conventions. This has been the exclusive to the industry go-to convention where the latest games and consoles are shown (just the year before Microsoft released their new Xbox 360S). As a contractor receiving a 1099-MISC, I was able to sign-up myself for E3 to attend. Walter asked me back to help out with companies activations of gear, as well as helping with whatever photography coverage I could provide. I had been making enough impact with the company that they paid for my hotel stay (I still paid my air travel, much to my wife’s chagrin).

Towards the Fall, I was offered a position as Community Manager with ASTRO Gaming. I took over all of our Social Media channels and joined the marketing team to further work as a voice between the community and ASTRO. Much of the same information that our customers talk about (whether problems, changes, or praise) get voiced back to our team. Much like the Game Studio side, our team has a team of Engineers and Industrial Designers who work towards creating our products who receive this feedback.

All in all, it’s been a fun journey so far. There were times where I was an outsider looking in, and debated about trying to find positions within the industry. Making the decision to take that plunge was a big decision for me. I’m also lucky that my wife was okay with me making this move from my stable job working in PR/Communications at a company providing for children’s mental health needs. My job now is much more challenging and in tune with my passions for gaming and I feel I’m making a better impact within the gaming community by being able to listen to their needs.