Getting into the gaming industry is hard work. QA, starting from the ground up, furthering your education and building a portfolio full of work you probably saw little to no money for doing are just some of the qualifications. But what about once you’re actually in the industry, pretty settled in?
Well, the challenges don’t stop. And the need to improve upon yourself is always going to be welcomed. It’s never-ending, but . . . that’s not a terrible thing.
Complacency is something you’ll never see in game development—or at least, you shouldn’t. Self-improvement, and creativity, are what makes the industry thrive. The more developers know, the better the games get.
But why is that?
A Diverse Set of Games
Improving upon your skill set implies branching out. If someone is a scriptwriter, and nothing else, perhaps one day they decide they’ll provide a helping hand on QA, or even level design, if they can. Perhaps they’ll offer assistance in exchange for basic instructions, so they can learn something new.
By branching out from what they know, developers can pick up more skills along the way. And it’s through these newfound tools that a diverse set of games can be created. Suddenly, there’s an entire team with a ton of strengths that can do more with a lot less. Maybe there’s the inspiration to tackle concepts that weren’t an option before. For instance, a studio known for just doing puzzle games could suddenly have the skills needed to take on an FPS.
A good example of diversity is Rockstar Games. They have Red Dead Redemption, a Western, but they also have L.A. Noire, a murder mystery, the violent, yet strangely addicting GTA series, and let’s not forget Midnight Club, for their contribution to the racing genre.
Experimenting Within The Medium
The minute a studio, or any individual developer, begins creating a diverse set of games, they’re experimenting within the medium. They can consider other genre options, collaborations with other studios and publishers, the use of different engines, etc. All these new options open doors to be able to expand a fan base, and tap into a whole new world of possibilities.
Developers also have the chance to experiment with their positions once they focus on branching out. Rather than just be on the designing team, a developer could join forces with the writers, testers, etc. This is career building at its finest—increasing chances of success by branching out of the comfort zone.
Another prime example of experimentation that comes with branching out is taking the epic “leap of faith” that so many developers are known to do. Consider the classic “successful developer at stable firm leaves to work on his/her own games,” model. It’s a story most other developers and players have all heard.
These are the restless artists that want to fulfill their dreams of creating the content that they’ve always dreamt about. By working on their skillsets at a studio, they come out with the knowledge they need to take that leap. And by doing so, they put themselves in positions where they’re forced to sink or swim.
The Shining Aspect of Indie Development
Obviously, triple A games have some seriously talented developers. Jacks of all trades, as well as specialized developers who do one thing jaw-droppingly well. However, the best training ground of all time is indie development. There’s just nothing quite like the pressure that comes from being a part of a tiny team with really huge dreams.
When it comes to indie development, team members are thrown into the project doing what they do from day one, but that’s only the beginning. Because indie teams are so small, everyone has to carry their own weight. Often times, developers find themselves doing what they were hired to do, plus more. This means they’re being taught that branching out is crucial, and they’re being shown new skills every week.
This is a shining aspect, as it forms the perfect breeding ground for self-improvement and creativity. Triple A games get their crews from somewhere, and that’s usually by plucking the best out of the indie sector.
The Hard Work Has Just Begun
The gaming industry is a difficult one to be in. Getting into it is a journey in and of itself, but staying relevant within it is the defining era of your career. Complacency is unwelcome here, in the land of “what if’s.” Branching out is what makes developers better. It helps make them seek new challenges, skills, and even work leads. Established developers, in stable positions, find themselves branching out, just like the up and coming indie stars.
To be in a competitive field, you have to be a competitive person. There’s no room for those who want to be “one-trick ponies.” But that’s the beauty of it all: game development isn’t just about making games and money. It’s about making people constantly better than they were yesterday.