1 - DON'T COUNT ON A STUDIO
This may seem obvious to a lot of people, but you would be surprised how many people expect this sort of thing to work out. If you are just starting out the chances of a studio seeing your game design concept and buying it are almost zero. The chances of a studio hiring you as director of your own game design concept are just as good. Don't worry about that sort of stuff and just get developing! Hard work and dedication to your craft will get you far more success than a few dusty game docs.
2 - GET INVOLVED IN A COMMUNITY
Get involved in game development communities, local IGDA chapters are a great way to get to know local devs. You can also join popular game developer forums like TIG Source. Creating a network of talent and friends in the industry is very handy to have if you ever come up with questions, or need something outsourced. There are many communities like the ones I mention, it just requires some hunting.
3 - USE A GAME ENGINE
Not all indie devs will agree with me on this, but I think it's a very important step to getting started. Having an engine allows you to simply start making a game rather than worry about a render engine, character controllers, and collision models (given your engine of choice actually provides these things). I would suggest using an engine like Unity 3D, Unreal Development Kit, or Source Engine. The three are available for free and having strong communities and wiki pages ready to help new developers learn the ropes.
4 - USE YOUR STRENGTHS
Don't try to make the next greatest RPG or FPS. Take what you know how to do and come up with a game idea that you can really get behind. If done properly, you won't have to worry about massive technical hurdles, and you can instead worry about polishing those skills and learning little new tricks here and there to really show your talents. Also by doing this, it increases your chances of following up on my next point:
5 - FINISH SOMETHING
Anything, just finish a project. It doesn't need to be salable, or even particularly original. Getting the experience of actually making a game from start to finish is very enlightening, and will teach you volumes about what it takes to finish a project. Also, if you're looking to get hired, having finished projects looks much better than having half-assed concepts or unfinished pieces of a project.
I've learned a lot over the past couple of years, and have a ton more to learn in the years to come. I've made some mistakes that have slowed me down, and I would hate to see someone who is interested in getting involved in the game development field become deflated by these common mistakes.
I'll end this post with a short animation test video from our YouTube page:
We're awfully close to our deadline for presenting Impulse to our local chapter of the IGDA, and soon after that, we'll be releasing a public playable test demo. Here's hoping everything goes smoothly! :)
Any questions can be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org