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But don't think that the only way for total conversion modders to break into the industry is through a contest. Games like Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat and Team Fortress all started as mods but are now published by Valve. In fact, Valve Software has long been considered a benevolent studio and is routinely publicized for offering modders (as well as newly graduated students) an opportunity to work for them.
Maybe this stuff doesn't apply to you, because you would rather make machinima videos. You have a more directorial and cinematic mind but you still want to get into the videogame industry, whether by directing cutscenes or creating cinematic trailers. Wouldn't you know it, there's a place for you too!
Lit Fuse Films, for example, was a team of machinimists that garnered quite a bit of fame due to their ambitious films utilizing Valve's Source Engine. They (along with the now-defunct PHWOnline) were behind the feature-length film War of the Servers, a machinima film based on War of the Worlds but updated to appeal to a younger (and more videogame-oriented) audience. Machinima feature films like this were practically unheard of and people took note of their accomplishment.
In January of 2010, Lit Fuse announced that Zachariah Scott, Robert Stoneman and James McVinnie had been hired by BioWare to be cinematic designers. Stoneman, in particular, is quite successfully employed; his biography page showcases the vast quantity of content that he has worked on, ranging from Mass Effect 2 to Hollywood film work, and yet he had no experience working in videogames before co-founding Lit Fuse.
So, to recap, we've looked at: total conversion modders who have started their own development studios or have been hired by existing studios; partial conversion modders who have modified existing titles and gotten employed for their efforts; and machinimists who were noticed for their videos and consequently hired.
What was that about the industry being hard to break into?
Nick Jewell is an aspiring videogame journalist with a penchant for croissant sandwiches and the occasional shot of vodka. You can see his work at his personal blog, Loading Checkpoint, as well as on Digitally Downloaded.