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designers / devs: important skills you can't learn from tutorials?


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hey everyone what up

 

I teach undergrads in game development, and we're trying to make university-level games education into something that's (A) arts-oriented but "not-shite" and (B) not-mainly-industry-oriented (Guildhall, Digipen, etc. already exist and serve that role, to me)

 

... we're trying to make generalists, modder types more than hyper-specialized types... self-learning self-directed people who can design AND produce entire games themselves? like, we're happy if our students go into AAA, but we also want the other 90% of students (let's be honest) to be able to transfer their education and skills into something else too

 

so I'm wondering if any of you have any thoughts on what skills or concepts that are crucial for any designer or dev to develop? skills that you can't just pick-up from a tutorial? skills that are useful for things outside of games too?

- WHAT HELPS YOU DESIGN THINGS / MAKE STUFF?

- what should I make students practice doing?

- or what, in your mind, are today's game schools neglecting to teach?

 

here's some stuff that's on my mind:

- practice sketching before working digitally

- practice naming files and folders, organizing projects

- practice preparing builds and showing your work to people

- practice presenting your work / talking about your work

- practice packaging / distributing your work

Edited by Campaignjunkie
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I don't know if this is really applicable and I don't know if it's even something that can be taught, but I think fostering a sense of self-discipline and self-motivation is something lacking in education. Having recently started going back to university to complete a degree it feels like a lot of fellow students I meet that want to break into games development think that they can get there without any sort of extracurricular practice or development and I don't find many sources that reiterate that it requires a lot of work and self-motivation to bring projects to completion, especially if one finds themselves working with a small development team or on a particularly ambitious project. I think this really applies to every aspect of life and education and not just game development, but it's really relevant here because of the scale and complexity of game development projects nowadays.

Regarding concrete teaching I agree with what you have mentioned above. However I don't think sketching is necessary for everyone because I think some folks have an easier time getting their ideas out in a software package than they do on paper, and this can help with understanding the end product, how all the pieces will fit together, and any potential complications early on. For some people I can imagine sketching works better, though. Whatever is fastest and helps get the ideas down quickly and early is the key, IMO. 

Regarding finding inspiration, and what helps with making things. Students should be encouraged to keep a journal/scrapbook (digital or otherwise) of ideas or things they find interesting, inspirational, whatever. If something seems really super awesome and really inspirational but the purpose isn't readily apparent, it's better to squirrel it away for reference and make a decision on its usefulness later, than to forget about it entirely. Encouraging ancillary creative activities is also useful because if you eat, sleep, and breathe making games, things can get a bit stale after a while, and doing a different creative activity for a while (I find, at least) often sparks new ideas and renewed motivation. Plus by doing other creative things you build up skills in something else while having fun. 

I'm sure a lot of this is really obvious. I feel really strongly about my first point though and I think schools would be producing graduates of not only a higher quality, but also better suited to the workforce they wish to enter, if they were to foster this sort of attitude early on. 

Edited by spence
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I'm just an aspiring student (self-taught) but whenever I ask for advice from professionals, it always boils down to:

1) create a solid portfolio

2) make good contacts (communication skills).

 

I think discipline's the big obstacle for students though. Whenever I talk to people who went to game art school, they tell me how the majority of students never make it because they aren't disciplined/passionate enough.

 

- WHAT HELPS YOU DESIGN THINGS / MAKE STUFF?

 

Technical or motivational?

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The skill almost no one is ever taught in most schools, regardless of industry, is the ability to sell yourself. There is only one school variety that teaches that, and that's business school (How could you sell shit without selling yourself to the customer?)

 

I have lost count of the number of people throughout my career that I've helped with:

 - Writing resume

 - Writing cover letter

 - Answering phone / interviews

 - basic form of media training

 - networking

 

More than ever, even for students, your NAME is your BRAND, and the reputation you can build around it is what will get you through the door. Sure, I can already hear the artist types yawning and protesting that that's not what they should do, that they don't like doing it, they don't know how, yadda yadda yadda. Truth is you absolutely MUST know how to do it, and be good about it too.

 

Look around your favorite social network or news site, see how many times you get to see the same names coming up again, and ask yourself the question how they got there. Work alone wasn't enough.

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1) self-reliance and problem solving as a first step - educate yourself to help yourself in the future. the internet has so many resources freely available that people should never need to ask a poorly worded question on a forum ever again.

2) that said, asking others for help shouldn't be seen as a failure, the input you get from your peers is invaluable, and fostering an atmosphere of collaboration and knowledge sharing is vital to any endeavor.

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Working with the fuckers you have to work with.

 

Seriously this good social communication with other developers is probably one of the most important aspects of this job. If you can't do that, you are useless.

 

+1

At Uni, we had to work as team to produce a game : no teacher, no bullshit, only people trying to figure out how to make a game and learning the hard way. During 3 month, we were 5 days a week and 8h per day working on our prototypes.

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Oh, hmm... one thing I try to stress really hard is pushing back vs. workaholic crunch culture. I mandate breaks every hour during class, and I tell them not to spend 8 hours a day on their games. To some extent, I suppose this makes them less "employable", but I think less-crunch is the way the game industry is moving (especially re: tech industry's concern over work/life balance), at least in the US where it's a big problem.

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So is this more about how to organize yourself? 

 

If we're talking about getting design ideas. I would say one of the most important things to do is have hobbies and be involved with things that are really out of your comfort zone. If you suck at painting take a painting class. Watching a movie from a genre that makes you uncomfortable..

 

If we're talking about more pragmatic tips then besides what's already posted here I have one suggestion. Keep a notebook for random stuff when you are working, if you get an idea for something cool but not related to the task at hand don't let it sit in your head and distract you, just write it down in the notebook. Generally once you do that it will leave your mind and you will be able to focus on work again. 

 

EDIT

 

 

Oh, hmm... one thing I try to stress really hard is pushing back vs. workaholic crunch culture. I mandate breaks every hour during class, and I tell them not to spend 8 hours a day on their games. To some extent, I suppose this makes them less "employable", but I think less-crunch is the way the game industry is moving (especially re: tech industry's concern over work/life balance), at least in the US where it's a big problem.

 

 

You could spend a little time having the students investigate the Pomodoro technique. Or you could go full out and recommend they read a book like this 

 

Getting_Things_Done.jpg

Edited by AlexM
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Oh, hmm... one thing I try to stress really hard is pushing back vs. workaholic crunch culture. I mandate breaks every hour during class, and I tell them not to spend 8 hours a day on their games. To some extent, I suppose this makes them less "employable", but I think less-crunch is the way the game industry is moving (especially re: tech industry's concern over work/life balance), at least in the US where it's a big problem.

 

This makes me really happy. I don't think it reduces anyone's employability whatsoever. The lesson students need to take away is to work smarter to eliminate crunch, rather than just throwing man-hours at something and expecting it to resolve the issue (it never does). It really upsets me that for some work environments there is an expectation of spending 10+ hours a day or whatever fixing mistakes or doing busywork that could have been avoided by simple planning, and that the norm/expectation is that people should be perfectly okay with this. Employers limiting working hours and encouraging a better work/life balance is good but it doesn't necessarily solve the issues involved in project management that create crunch so maybe planning and managing to avoid crunch is a good topic to discuss with students. 

Edited by spence
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cleaver enough to identify problems, smart enough to understand problems, self motivated enough to learn how to overcome those problems, always work agile, work in iterations and understand how iterative workflow impacts your own work and fellow workers, drink beer, be creative = game designer, game artist, game coder, game producer

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