Womenize! – Inspiring Stories is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Kimberly Shatzer, Managing Director at Onward Play. Read more about Kimberly in this interview:
Hi Kimberly! In your opinion, which skill sets are highly in demand on the games recruiting market these days?

Looking back at the start of the pandemic in 2020, the game industry grew by 20% and the game talent shortage began. We saw a massive surge in game studio, immersive tech, esports and VR job openings as consumers gravitated towards gaming as their main form of at-home entertainment; this surge has no signs of stopping. Every type of tech company, Fortune 1000 corporation, entertainment, film companies pivoted towards gamifying their platform, product, media, service and offerings. Tech companies continue to poach heavily out of the gaming sector which worsens the game maker candidate pool. Game studios (or at least the smart ones) are fending off poachers with improved perks, shorter interview cycles, increased benefits and bonuses to improve retention and employee happiness. With the current landscape, it is increasingly apparent that any professionals that possess Unity, Unreal or proprietary game engine experience (junior-up-to-director level) are in hot demand. The next desired skill sets are Blueprint, Maya, Houdini, pipeline tools, systems, analytics, C++, C# and 2D/3D.

Most wanted tech game makers: Gameplay Engineers, Rendering Engineers, Unreal Engineers, Unity Engineers, Tech Directors and AI Engineers.

Most wanted design/art game makers: Technical Artist, Technical Animator, Level Designer, Gameplay Designer, Mission Designer, Game Designer, UX Designer, UI Artist, Systems Designer.

Most wanted production/marketing: Community Manager, Influencer Marketing, Brand Partnership Manager, Product Manager, Producer, Project Manager, Brand Manager.

Onward Play’s Managing Director Kim Shatzer, Director of Game Recruitment Seth Bomgardner, and Business Development Manager Shaka Berry speak about what education is required and the different ways you can take to break into the gaming industry.

What is special about being the Managing Director of Onward Play, if you compare it to your previous roles?

My role prior to Managing Director at Onward Play was with our parent company, Onward Search. I learned how to be successful in the staffing business by digging into pillars like recruitment, candidate relations, training, employee success and marketing. There was an escalating demand for tech, production and design talent with our game studio clientele which led to our game specialty recruitment brand, Onward Play.

Onward Play is a female-led recruitment and staffing agency with a specialized niche for gaming, esports and XR industries. We work with studios and immersive tech companies that range from AAA, mobile, indie, PC/console, cloud, tabletop, toys, casino, esports, VR/AR and game hardware. Our approach is to lean into making a big impact on studio growth, ethos and culture “adds”. Our strategy is fuelled by our passion to support issues plaguing the game industry like lack of DE&I, women in leadership, work/life balance, anti-crunch, and mental health awareness for workers in the industry.

I love my job. As a female senior leader, in a male, Caucasian dominated game industry, it gives me extra juice to grow our staffing services year over year. I’m not only here to help studios build top-notch game maker teams that create incredible IPs; I’m also here to add my voice to the movement of women, representation and inclusion in gaming. I partner with key decision makers in talent acquisition, HR, executive and leadership teams.  Onward Play is happy to consult with our clients on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I), candidate sourcing, salary banding, competitor analysis, employee success strategies and industry hiring trends & insights.

Could you share some insights into your voluntary work?

The Esports Trade Association is a wonderful resource for the industry. I contribute to their marketing committee. ESTA acts as a non-bias community and education platform for one of the fastest growing industries. The marketing committee within ESTA consults with cities about esports tourism, connects esports leagues to industry vendors, uplifts esports start-ups and acts as a resource and networking center for all-things-esports.

I also proudly serve as a Board Member of Feeding The Orphans charity. I travelled to Ghana and Tanzania in college to see the beauty of Africa. Each trip sparked joy for helping orphanages and children’s homes in need of housing, food, education and medical support. 

Thank you for your time, Kimberly!

Kimberly’s links: Onward Play on LinkedInOnward Play on InstagramOnward Play on Twitter

Womenize! – Inspiring Stories Feature by Sophie Brügmann