Thursday, January 3, 2008

Practical Tips for Aspiring Game Developers +

Originally Posted by Jaedon Rivers:
I would maybe add "learn to present information effectively" to the list were I given the option. It's just a rephrasing of the "sketch something" from the GameCareerGuide list, but sketching doesn't necessarily imply clarity or brevity, both of which are very useful.
Originally Posted by Vyzic:
Definately agree here, "Learn effective communication skills" should be at least #2. It is an absolute must.
I concur as well.

There is a very good reason why pretty much every listing for any technology-related job -- whether in the game development industry or any other field -- includes the following requirement: "Candidate must possess excellent oral and written communication skills." And that reason is because no one works alone.

Productivity today depends on working with other people. That's how you insure that what you do has the highest possible value. It's how you know that what you're working on is what really needs to be done, and that other people can efficiently schedule their work alongside yours. That way every piece of the typically complex jigsaw puzzle gets done in the right order and fits together properly with all the other pieces.

But doing that requires good communication. If you're not aware of what your co-workers and your manager have or need, or if they don't hear clearly from you what you have or need, you pretty much guarantee the twin evils of duplication of effort and failure to accomplish necessary tasks on time. To avoid those, it's crucial for everyone on a team to communicate clearly with each other. (For some folks that includes talking with customers as well, which ratchets up even further the need for strong communication skills.)

And it's worth pointing out that this means both formal written communication and informal oral communication. Written communication helps maintain clarity; it explicitly defines what's needed and who's responsible for getting it done. But oral communication -- talking with your coworkers -- is important, too. Not every bit of communication needs to be documented; sometimes it's just helpful to rub shoulders with other people in the group. They're people, not mere cogs in a machine, and treating them like people helps the whole group by insuring that everyone knows they're respected, that their contributions matter.

This isn't just theory, BTW. When I became a project manager I inherited people who were technically strong but weak communicators, as well as people with moderate technical skills but who communicated well. Over the long run, I've learned that the latter are more valuable employees. That doesn't mean they always agree with me -- it means they see the bigger picture beyond mere technical perfection and can negotiate appropriately for what they think would serve the whole project. Unlike the technical wizards, the good communicators don't get frustrated at not being allowed to spend months trying to achieve an impossible perfection when what's needed is something this week that works and is maintainable.

Unfortunately, good communication is hard to teach. The people who need it the most are often those who are least willing to accept that fact. It's a lot easier to find a good communicator and teach them technical skills than it is to find someone who's strong technically and teach them how to communicate more effectively.

So I agree completely with you, Jaedon and Vyzic -- showing up for an interview with excellent communication skills, however one acquires them, is an irreplaceable asset.

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