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"To all women considering joining the games industry or building their own company - I did it. You can too."

Game Jolt's Yaprak DeCarmine discusses breaking out of gaming's social strata, the importance of passion, perseverance, and kindness, and four key priorities when forming your own company
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Yaprak DeCarmine is CEO and founder of Game Jolt

My name is Yaprak DeCarmine. I'm the CEO and founder of a gaming startup called Game Jolt, a social media platform for the next generation of gamers that aims to revolutionise social media for Gen Z gamers and how they share content. We support the basic social sharing of images, videos, and livestreaming but add our flavour of on-platform events and mini games that are designed for the millions of unique gamers and creators generating content on Game Jolt.

But there is another side of me: the part that never thought I'd have the privilege of working in the games industry, let alone build my own venture-scale company shooting to be the next big thing in games.

Back to school

Students often share with me that, without luck or connections, the games industry is one of the toughest sectors to crack. And they're right; this $200 billion industry, bigger than music and film combined, is tightly knit and driven by select personalities. In many ways, the games industry feels inviting and supportive. But it also feels more like a high school than anything else.

“When considering who is hiring, you don't have a ton of choices to pick from the Game Industry High cafeteria”
Yaprak DeCarmine

When considering who is hiring, you don't have a ton of choices to pick from the Game Industry High cafeteria. There are the cool kids at major triple-A studios with limitless resources. You have the hipsters, the double-A indies rolling in the millions. Then there are the jocks who will hype anything and everything that can land them a quick buck.

But don't worry, my co-founder was homeschooled and I'm the foreign Middle Eastern kid. We managed to figure out how to create a space doing what we love in games so you can too.

While wrestling with imposter syndrome and leaving behind steady pay are serious things to consider, bringing your own ideas to life in an entrepreneurial medium is one of the most rewarding experiences. And despite all of the above, now really is the best time to start your own gaming company.

Step-by-step

My family and I moved to the United States from Turkey when I was nine years old. I learned English playing video games, which led me to my co-founder and partner, David.

With a delightful mix of naïvety and fluctuating confidence, I convinced him that we should quit our jobs and build Game Jolt into the premier community platform for gamers. We both walked away from stable careers that had given us so much structure to follow our passion in games.

“Before long, I found myself in a community of people who genuinely wanted me to succeed”
Yaprak DeCarmine

My journey into founding Game Jolt was challenging but I learned so much along the way, and I would love to share some key tips with you.

  • First up, nobody does anything on their own. Prioritise building a network.

I wasn’t born with the kind of access to social networks ideal for founders. When I quit my job and got started on Game Jolt, I didn’t have a family member or an alumni network to mentor me through the initial stages. My parents and their relationships didn’t provide me with a safety net of internships, connections, backup jobs, or early funding.

But I knew that community and social capital were essential to my company’s success. So I attended every meetup and asked other founders and people I admired for advice. Sometimes I'd go through a warm introduction, other times I'd cold email or message them on LinkedIn. The goal was to network and talk to everyone I possibly could.

Fortunately, there are a lot of people within the games industry that want to share their expertise, and more than a few also wanting to strike out on their own and learn from each other.

Before long, I found myself in a community of people who genuinely wanted me to succeed. They started opening doors for me and I made sure I didn't let them down.

  • Second, passion is more genuine than confidence.

Think of your favorite game and how you explain it to somebody who has never played it before. The excitement will flow through your entire body, you'll become extremely animated, and have no trouble highlighting the best part of the story or mechanics of the game in a perfect pitch.

Your passion will spread to every person listening. If you're passionate about what you're building, you won't need to worry about confidence.

  • Third, if you're not lucky, be persistent.

The opportunity to fail is the most valuable experience there is. It's a crash course on what not to do and what to try next. Don't fear failing and try to fail as much as you can at as many things as you can. Every mistake you learn from gives you a leg up on the industry. If you can help it, fail as quickly as you can so that you can move on to the next iteration even faster.

  • And lastly, be kind.

Be kind to yourself and others. We all have a responsibility in fostering diversity and helping the next generation find their place in an industry we all love.

A special message to all women considering joining the games industry or building their own company - I did it. You can too.