Interview

Aspyr Media's Mallie Rust on the "happy accident" that lead to games

Marketing is a broad umbrella

Aspyr Media's Mallie Rust on the "happy accident" that lead to games

The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.

The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field.

To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the screen, and help others who may be keen to dive in, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry with our Jobs in Games series.

This week we spoke with Aspyr Media marketing specialist Mallie Rust.

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role?

Mallie Rust: If you get an email from Aspyr or a push notification in a game we’ve published, I probably planned and wrote it.

My role’s pretty varied: some days I’m writing copy and running experiments, others I’m focused on pulling data and creating audience surveys.

I spend a lot of my time in spreadsheets, turning data into insights and translating those into presentations and reports.

Managing the tech that powers our marketing is another important part of my role, especially for our mobile games. I work directly with our product and production teams to define marketing data needs and assist with marketing SDK implementation.

How did you first get into games and how did you progress into this role?

My entry into the games industry was a happy accident. Once upon a time, my degree required an internship in order to graduate.

Getting the chance to combine my passion for marketing with games was something I never expected...
Mallie Rust

I’d lined up a virtual higher ed content marketing internship, only to find out that remote internships weren’t eligible and I needed to find a new, local internship within a week, or I wouldn’t be able to graduate on time.

Cue intense panic and a lot of LinkedIn messages to my network.

A friend reached out to someone who knew someone at Daybreak Games (now Dimensional Ink) who needed a marketing intern. After a few interviews, they thought I’d be a good fit which was great news for me since it meant I could graduate on time.

My main intern project was developing a social media plan for DC Universe Online.

Though they didn’t have an entry-level position available on their team, they were impressed enough that they passed on my info to another MMO studio, KingsIsle Entertainment, who hired me for my first full-time job as a marketing coordinator.

I also got to do some voice acting work on the side there, which was such a cool opportunity.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

I grew up loving games like The Sims 2 and Borderlands 2 but I never imagined that I would actually get to work on them.

Whenever I heard about a career in games, it was always focused on the development side and that was definitely not a good fit for me.

The Aspyr team at PAX South in San Antonio, Texas in 2020.

It wasn’t until I had a marketing internship with a game studio that I realised I could have a career on the business side. Getting the chance to combine my passion for marketing with games was something I never expected, but I’m so glad it happened.

What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

I graduated from UT Austin with a BS in Advertising. While I use a lot of what I learned in my studies in my current job, the program was really focused on helping you get a job at agencies.

I took 'Psychology of Video Game Advertising' as an elective and that really helped me see how I could apply what I was learning to a non-agency context. The real-world projects I worked on in class and in internships were invaluable for helping me get my first full-time job.

What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?

I’m a huge data nerd, so the serotonin hit of discovering a key insight hidden within spreadsheet rows is unparalleled. I also love that I get to flex my creative and analytical muscles in equal measure.

A fun example of this is my most recent A/B test where I tested the effectiveness of including puns in an email subject line.

I promise, most marketing teams don’t just want to annoy you into buying our games!
Mallie Rust

In case you were wondering, they did significantly improve our email open rate.

Tell us what your typical day looks like in a nutshell?

Things vary from day to day, but there are two constants: meetings about marketing strategy and data analysis.

I also spend a lot of time optimising existing campaigns and creating content for new ones. Email’s a huge channel for us, so those campaigns usually take up a significant portion of my day. I’ll use whatever free time I have left during the day to research the games industry and marketing trends.

What do you think are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of your role?

The thing I love most about my role is just how varied it is. We work on so many different kinds of games on so many different platforms, which means that each project is a unique challenge.

I’ve also got a lot of autonomy when it comes to projects and campaign planning. If I have an idea and we have the resources to make it happen, the team at Aspyr is very open to trying it out.

One of the biggest disadvantages is that a lot of my projects depend on other teams to fully bring them to life. I always have to be mindful of the time and resources it will take to get a campaign or new marketing idea up and running. That’s especially true if they require coding or development, and the coolest ideas usually do.

Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?

I promise, most marketing teams don’t just want to annoy you into buying our games! The sad fact is that terrible user experiences have ruined the perception of marketing as a whole. We don’t just do spammy banner ads or misleading mobile ads that show fake gameplay.

Great marketing is about creating a consistent and exciting customer experience, from the first time they hear about the game to the time that they launch the game - and even beyond.

People also tend to assume that anyone in marketing can do any marketing-related activity and that’s not necessarily true. Marketing is a broad umbrella with a lot of specialisations underneath it.

What advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

Apply for jobs even if you don’t meet 100 per cent of the requirements. Most of the time, those are wishlists for the perfect candidate.

Meeting 75 per cent of the requirements is usually a good sign you could be a good fit for the job. If you don’t apply, the answer will always be no and you may miss out on a great opportunity.

How has remote working impacted the role (if at all)?

We work with partners across the globe so most of our meetings were already digital before we shifted to remote. It was pretty easy to shift from working in the office to working in my home office, but I definitely miss working in person with my coworkers.

The biggest challenge of remote working is missing out on casual conversations that can spark bigger discussions and really cool ideas.

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

I wish I’d known more about how differences in game studios like genre focus, platform, and company size impact the scope and type of work you’ll be doing.

Marketing in a mobile games studio looks very different from marketing at a publisher or an indie game studio or an MMO studio.

Finally, what other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

Don’t let yourself be limited by what you imagine your dream job is. Back in college, I thought my dream job was working at an ad agency.

As it turns out, I’m much better suited to the work I’m doing now on the client-side. It’s important to have career goals, but be open to alternate paths and opportunities when they arise. You may even surprise yourself by finding a new dream job!

Deputy Editor

Matthew Forde is the deputy editor at PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @MattForde64 talking about stats, data and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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