Lowtotem.com >> Risk vs. Reward and the Game Industry

August 30, 2008

(This is a pretty serious post from me, and since LowTotem.com isn’t being indexed yet, I’m cross-posting it here as well.)

I’ve got a couple of posts planned for the future, but I’ve all of a sudden gotten real busy at work.  For the first time, I really feel like I’m doing what I want to be doing, and that’s a good feeling.

Some pretty big changes have gone down the last few days at work.  Its unavoidable, I guess, especially in the world of startup companies.  That’s the real trade-off.  Risk vs. reward and all that.  I spent 2 and a half years working for 3 of the biggest names in the game industry.  Things were stable (in theory, when you are a temp, you never have job security).  But I knew my chances at moving up were limited.

I took a real risk when I left my last company to move into production for an unknown, untested, casual game startup.  As someone who’s taken a non-traditional career path, I knew the only way I was going to advance is by taking a huge risk.  I jumped right into it.

It seems crass to say this when people you’ve known and worked with have just been let go, but frankly, I’m not worried.  I don’t want to lose my job.  But if I do, I’m in a lot better place to deal with the situation than I was 2 and a half years ago.  Everything I do, I’m learning.  Every new day, I’m learning.  Success or failure, I’m learning.

Our CEO said something today that affected me deeply.  He said, “Be your own CEO.”  Think like a CEO.  Solve problems like a CEO.  And that’s exactly what I intend to do.  I’m not worried about failure, or making a bad decision.  Its all about risk vs. reward.  As a young person, you have to be willing to take risks, even at the expense of losing everything.

And that’s the advice I give to my friends still toiling away in the QA dungeons of the Game Industry.  You have to be willing to give it up at a moments notice.  Take risks.  Think like a CEO.

I know too many bright, intelligent people who are wasting away in QA.  They grow bitter, wondering why they can’t advance in an industry they love.  They grow complacent, willing to accept mediocrity because they aren’t willing to take a chance.  At some point, you have to be willing to risk it all.

So, I’m sitting here, still trying to process today’s events.  I wish everyone good luck and hope they quickly land on their feet.  But its time for me to start taking advantage of the opportunities each new day brings.

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Forest for the Trees

July 13, 2008

Sometimes, we can’t see the forest for the trees. In recent weeks, this old saying has been stuck in my head. I find myself repeating it daily, scribbling it down in my notebook when I’m trying to concentrate.

It’s important to be able to see the big picture. Often, we get so caught up in the small details, we lose focus on our overall goal. I’ve done this. For example, I was recently tasked with coordinating the delivery of assets for our project at work. Doing this task required input from artists. I thought I did a good job. I made sure to get the input I needed from the art team, setup a delivery schedule, and established a review process. At certain points, I had to hold people’s hands and make sure they got me the things I needed. I completed my task well ahead of schedule.

But then I realized, looking at the big picture, my task wasn’t a priority. It needed to get done, but not at the expense of other aspects of the project. Getting input from artists on my task took time away from these other tasks—tasks that were of much higher priority. In the end, the artists were pro and were able to get everything done. But because I had failed to see the big picture, I risked putting the entire project in jeopardy.

Many times in the game industry we fail to see the big picture. This is especially true when it comes to issues regarding quality of life. I don’t pretend to be an expert on management (not currently at least), but even as a low level employee, me and my peers could recognize when management failed to be effective.

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