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Square Enix's Lucy Shears on how to get a job as a market research analyst | Pocket Gamer.biz

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 Square Enix market research analyst Lucy Shears.

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Lucy Shears: I’m a market research analyst for the mobile team at Square Enix London, so I use market and games data to look at trends and innovation in the industry. Day to day this means playing a lot of games and looking at a lot of spreadsheets to help answer questions my team may have.

I think my psychology degree has definitely helped me with this, I wouldn’t say a degree is necessary for the role
Lucy Shears

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

This is actually my first job in games, although previously I worked for a market research agency with a focus on tech and media, so I've had experience working on research for the industry. It was purely by chance that I saw the role advertised and after I'd met the team, I knew it would be a great fit.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

Not really. I've loved games since I was a kid and my parents brought home our first SNES but as I can't code and have no artistic skills, I couldn't see what a career in games would look like for me. It wasn't until I began working on projects around the industry in my previous role that I found out jobs like this existed, so when I saw the role come up at Square Enix I had to apply.

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

Any research into games is about understanding the 'why' behind what people do, so although I think my psychology degree has definitely helped me with this, I wouldn’t say a degree is necessary for the role. Finding the story in data comes with practice so experience working with and understanding data is key, whether that's from a previous role or academics.

Shears grew up playing Square's Secret of Mana on the SNES

What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?

I like the challenges the role gives me. If the team has a question or a hypothesis, figuring out the best way to work out the answer is like a puzzle, and then solving that, being able to work out the answer, and then using that to help our team or developers we're working with is really great.

What is your history with Square Enix as a games company?

I played a lot of Square Enix games growing up starting with Secret of Mana on the SNES and I really love both the Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy series. My passion has always been handheld gaming though.

I love the freedom and flexibility of being able to play whenever and wherever, which is obviously a strength of mobile too.
Lucy Shears

I love the freedom and flexibility of being able to play whenever and wherever, which is obviously a strength of mobile too. So, whilst I love my Switch and being able to play Final Fantasy wherever I am, I’m also super excited to be part of Square Enix creating games for mobile.

How do you feel working for a company as long-established as Square Enix? Do you find there’s added pressure?

It's awesome to be able to say I work for Square Enix as it's a company I have so much history with as a gamer. I do think there are expectations around the type of games Square Enix create but the mobile market is so dynamic that it gives great opportunity to not always do things the same way they have been done before.

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

Trying to explain what I do to people outside of the industry can be tricky. If I say I do market research, people tend to think of standing in the street getting people to answer surveys, and if I say I work in games then they think I just play games all day.

With all industries, market research can often be seen as a 'nice to have' rather than a necessity, but it's all about how and when you use it. Yes, you can use research to validate what you've already done (and you should), but using a data-led approach to work out the kinds of games to develop to start with means that we can create games that gamers want, rather than what we think they want.

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

I'd played loads of mobile games before joining the team so was familiar with a lot of the different mechanics involved. However, it was a pretty steep learning curve understanding the many acronyms of mobile metrics, as well as the ins and outs of the mobile market and the process of developing a game.

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

Understand what your strengths and skills are and even if they don’t fit with what you think of as 'typical' jobs in games take a look as there are so many kinds of roles available. If you're at university, look out for insight days with companies that you are interested in working for (Square Enix do these!) to give you an idea of what it's like to work there and what different roles look like day to day.

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