If you have no REAL experience in a game studio, but have spent a lot of time trying to understand the game’s design and wish you could contribute, is there any way to PenPal it up with a Rioter to see how useful you might be to the team? How does one get the experience to join in the rework squad?

Thomas Jones
The pen pal approach doesn't work so well just because the developers end up in a situation where they can be inundated by well-meaning and passionate people who want to get into the game industry. My strategy is to try and communicate in such a way that it frequently reaches many players at once. That is much more efficient than a thousand one-on-one conversations.
My very general advice for someone trying to break into the industry, is something like this, in rough level of value:
1) Design and ship a game on your own or with a small team.
2) Design a game on your own, even if it never reaches other players.
3) Become a thought leader in the community, though streaming, blogging, smart commentary or so on.
4) Be really good at analysis in a way that is going to distinguish your cover letter from the dozens of others we receive every day.

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