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Valve co-founder Gabe Newell speaks with an aspiring gamer at the MOHAI Innovation Breakfast Tuesday morning in Seattle.

Valve co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell has advice for young-ins wanting to break into the game industry: Start creating now and don’t wait for a position with a big publisher.

Newell was on a panel at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry this morning speaking about video games with people like 343 Industries’ Kiki Wolfkill and Big Fish’s John Holland.

The industry vets were asked about advice they would give aspiring game developers and designers. Newell started off by saying it’s a “totally awesome industry to work in,” and then talked about taking initiative.

“Connect with your own audience as quickly as possible,” Newell said. “Don’t think that the pathway to be successful in gaming lies through a publisher or developer or platform. You’ll learn more by putting out your own single-person created website game than working with a large publisher for a decade. You are [already] in the game industry right now — start connecting with your audience.”

From left to right: Big Fish’s John Holland; 343 Industries’ Kiki Wolfkill; WildTangent’s Matt Shea; DoubleDown’s Charles Harper; Valve’s Gabe Newell.

That makes sense coming from Newell, who keynoted the LinuxCon on Monday in New Orleans — yes, he’s a busy guy — and shared his thoughts on how game development will move away from traditional big game businesses and more into the hands of the users themselves. He also mentioned how closed platforms will be trumped by open platforms that allow for innovation.

“The conclusion we reached [at Valve] was that games are going to be nodes in a connected economy where a vast majority of digital goods and services will be user created, rather than created by companies,” he said on Monday.

Wolfkill, the executive producer at 343 Industries, echoed Newell’s thoughts about just starting as soon as possible. She also added that it’s a good idea to not just create something yourself, but to work on a self-initiated project with others.

“Part of the magic of the game development process is collaboration and creative problem solving,” said Wolfkill, previously a Director of Art at Microsoft Studios. “So grab your friends and conceive of a game together, even if it’s on paper. Being able to do that with a few other people and really work through what it means to develop or create a character or to add audio — to do that together is really the magic of putting a game together.”

Newell added that self-publishing teaches you a variety of skills, which is now crucial for success the game industry.

“Don’t be surprised that the things you have to learn are pretty varied,” Newell said. “Our artists get better when they learn more about physics, and our engineers get better when they sit on our support lines. In order to create great experiences for people, don’t let some pre-conceived notions about how you do that get the way of actually doing it.”

We’ll have more from this morning’s panel in GeekWire today, so stay tuned.

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