Yesterday, one of my dreams came true. As I write this, today is my second day as a full-time technical animator at a video game studio! Some of you participating in this game jam may share a similar dream, so I wanted to share a few tips.
It’s fitting that the theme of this jam is “Connect,” because there are two types of connections that have been significant for me.
The first is connections between people. After dropping out of community college twice, I finally went back and finished my associate’s degree in animation last year. Two of my teachers were also employees at the same local studio where I now work. One of them is the manager of the animation department, and he was the one who interviewed me for an internship 11 months ago. During the interview, my other teacher happened to walk by. He poked his head in to say hi and give me a quick endorsement before going on his way. Interviews don’t get much better than this.
By this point, my teachers knew what kind of work I was capable of. But more than that, they knew what kind of person I was. My manager said it was my willingness to listen to feedback and get along with others that showed him I would make a good employee. My animation reel wasn’t that great. It was my ability to meet deadlines, listen to feedback, and connect with others that really got me hired.
So if you get the chance to work with another jammer, don’t hesitate to take it! You never know where your connections might lead you.
The second type of connection is the connection between the various pieces of game development. Making games involves a lot of different skills, and all of them have to work together to create something great. Like many of you, I have been making small games and prototypes in my spare time for years. I’m used to doing whatever it takes to make things work--there was often no other choice.
On the other hand, a lot of the advice I got from longtime employees during my internship was to focus down on one particular skill. In a studio environment, they said, it’s more important to be able to do one thing really well than to do multiple things at an amateur level. And that’s probably true! In some ways, it’s a huge relief to know that things like programming and marketing aren’t my job, because we’ve already got someone who’s really good at them!
But even with all of these talented developers around me, there still seems to be something missing. That’s why I’ve been hired as a technical animator, not just an animator. There are gaps between the art, programming, and design teams that cause delays while we figure out how to make things work together. In that regard, my jack-of-all-trades approach to game development is actually one of my most valuable skills here. I’m not the best at any particular thing, but I can help connect the dots, and we need that.
So don’t be afraid to try your hand at something new. Game jams are a perfect opportunity to learn how games are made, and to see how one thing connects to another. That knowledge just might set you apart from the crowd.
Good luck with your work this weekend, jammers! Making games is a lot of work, but it’s also a ton of fun. Work hard and have a blast!
Jaron Frost @Fridgecrisis