Inside Job: Lessons from the Street II

Inside Job: Lessons from the Street II

Earlier this month, I set out to consolidate folk wisdom from the games industry for the anecdotal benefit of students and developers new to the business. This week, the quest continues. I posed two questions to some of the great people I've been fortunate to meet here.

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Ye gods.. Commandments?

It reads like a collection of outdated proverbs drawn from the fragile memory of a senile schoolteacher, mildly modified to suit the subject matter.

I've never heard of any of these people, nor half the companies with which they're associated; the only mention of a decent studio was Bullfrog, and in the most derogatory terms; We're making games, old man! While neither you nor I may enjoy the company of laddish englishman with porn pinups by their workstations, we're making entertainment (In Bullfrog's case awesomely entertaining, light-hearted, wicked and slightly suggestive fun), you need to be able to relax and enjoy yourself.

Such a casual and tolerant work enviroment sounds like one of the keys to why Bullfrog made fun games crammed with personality, that made no obvious sacrifices to perceived decency, the paranoid media or the fragile youth of today.

Bring on the Mistresses! And that receptionist from theme hospital!

I mightily disapprove of this pessimistic, lifeless set of quotes from people who lacked the drive or the spirit to achieve notoriety. Or infamy.

I should first say that while I find this comment largely silly, I do appreciate the time you took and am replying on behalf of the folk I quoted, because I can't let this kind of tripe toward them slide. They are hardworking, accomplished people in a difficult business and do not deserve your poop.

You're talking in total about the quotes, but the only negative information there is indeed what you mention about Bullfrog, a company that put out its last game over seven years ago. The quotee in question mentions his regard for the studio and what they had produced *prior to his involvement*, and the advice there, to assist in your reading comprehension, is not "don't work for Bullfrog" (if you even could anymore) but "don't work at a place whose corporate culture is a bad fit for you just because you admire their games". I find this to be very solid advice from a guy who has consulted for (meaning that he doesn't have to work anymore, people just pay him for his opinion) more game companies and academic institutions than you could probably work for if you started right now and worked until retirement. That you do not know his name also tells me that you have never been to the Game Developers Conference, where he routinely fills very large lecture halls with game designers who work for the companies you would have preferred to see here, because they, too, value his insights. Ernest and I don't always agree (being thinking people), but he has earned his stripes in this business and it is to your detriment if you prefer to disdain him for having a bad experience with one studio and admitting what he would have done to change it.

The others and their companies you should probably know as well, or would recognize their work if you did a bit of cursory research. I included one quote from a non-game-developer because the advice was good ("don't pretend to know something you don't") and that was what I was selecting for, rather than showing off who I know and where.

If you genuinely think that the rest is bad advice or even cynical ("approach every challenge as an opportunity", "play to your strengths", "have a diversity of skills", "be persistent", "be honest", "trust your gut", "develop people skills"*, "pay attention in college", "finish a small number of projects rather than starting dozens") I heartily encourage (seriously, I'll beg) that you apply their every inverse, try to get a job making games, and then come back here and report on how it worked out for you.

Good luck with the fame and infamy thing. I have been there, done that, saved the newspaper clippings, and would rather be making games. That is what this advice is good for; actually doing the work, getting yourself out there and cultivating a lasting career. Hopefully it will have found some fertile ground elsewhere.

Kinda harsh, Jakkar. I found it interesting, but one of the things someone in your article said was that she wished she hadn't taken the well-meaning advice of a stranger to be gospel truth. I agree, and it seems that it would be best to analyze your own abilities and what's needed, instead of relying on the advice of others. The advice given is still useful, but they can't be taken commandments.

Nice article; these are great bits of advice, and not just for aspiring game developers. Really, these can apply to any field. If anything, I'd add onto the "be honest about what you know" with "don't be afraid to ask questions." It's usually the things that you don't know about that wind up gumming up a project.

@Jakkar - Might I ask you what you know about the games development field, or the workforce in general, that leads you to consider this advice from industry veterans as, essentially, worthless? Because notoreity and infamy in the workplace generally leads to unemployment.

Easykill, thanks for the reply. If you have a commandment not to follow any commandments, and you don't follow any commandments, are you following that first commandment? ;)

I get what you're saying, though, and agree. Flexibility and thinking for yourself are key and no advice should be taken to the exclusion of those things. That's where objectivists come from.

My point is that these are state-the-obvious, basic and common sense clichés of advice to succeed in -any- business, and furthermore are paranoid and pessimistic.

Advice from those who have not made any significant impact upon headlines or the popular conscious is unlikely to be well-received, even if it were pertinent to the specific industry or remotely original. These aren't.

Such advice can be garnered from any number of outdated self-help books, or simply by speaking to a passive friend.

I didn't expect positive feedback to my comment, if any, but it occurs to me that while I found the article uninteresting if not blatantly foolish, many others who've presumably picked it up off the front page broadcast their own disapproval by simply not leaving any comments.

In response to both Erin and Necrohydra's references to my own success in the field of game development - I've little to no interest in working in the commercial sector or trying to make a living in game development; I work on mods, indie games and small creative projects, no money involved. It's vastly preferable to an industry that churns out very little of worth, seemingly because classic business ethics and stressful and uncomfortable work enviroments like those described by several of the interviewees in the article above have invaded the games industry in recent years making it just that; an industry.

 

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