It may sound a little cliche to talk about how important it is to be able to take criticism from others while working in the Game Industry, but I still believe this is something that people learn to do and not a skill they start with. I’ve worked with a lot of developers over the last 7 years and some were incredible at giving criticism and listening at the same time, while others were just terrible at it.
My own experiences are probably not that much different from other developers, but I feel like where I thrived is in adapting. My very first job as a game programmer was working on UI development for an Xbox 360 game. I was given my first major task with a full design of the GUI being given to me. I spent a few days making it just perfect, it matched the design perfectly and I was so proud of my work. I felt like my code was very clean and that I had built components that would help with further UI development on the project. So I left that Friday afternoon so happy and content with myself, and I knew that game development was for me. Monday morning came and we were just starting our daily SCRUM when the designer of the GUI I had just developed said that he didn’t like it and it needed to completely change. I could feel my self turning red with disappointment as I really felt attached to the work I had done. I felt like they weren’t giving it enough of a chance, and that it couldn’t possibly be better than it currently was.
In the end that menu was remade 3 or 4 times and each time I believed it was drastically better than the previous revision. After shipping our menu’s were brought up in several reviews where it was stated that our presentation was one of the stronger aspects of the game. I learned some very valuable lessons about not becoming attached to anything in game development, and maintaining an open mind when it comes to feedback.
Fast forward to today where I’m working on camera and ship controls for a 3D action space combat game. I love criticism, I almost feel lost without someone telling me something is wrong. I want all problems to be brought out now so I don’t find out how much people dislike certain things later. The people I work with also really make that a lot easier, as there are some people who give “good” criticism and others that give really “bad” criticism. When the gears are turning and feedback is flowing without concern of ego’s the project is going well, the second ego’s get in the middle development comes to a screeching hault.
I’ve worked with one developer in particular, I won’t name names, but he was completely awful at giving feedback. He would make every critique almost a personal attack against the person instead of working together to improve the work. In the end people hated working with him, and only a select few had the nerve to stand up to him, but really when your that scared to deal with someone then creativity stops. I’ve learned a lot by watching how people give and receive critiques and another lesson I learned was how different each person is. There are some people that like to be told exactly what to do, while others really like to brainstorm solutions with you. I’ve been in charge of a lot of people on game projects and this kind of understanding is very important.
The main point I want to make is always be open to feedback. When someone is talking to you about how to make something you did even better then you know that person truly cares about something you are creating. Don’t be harsh when giving criticism, one technique I like to do is ask the developer their feedback before I give them mine. When reviewing someone’s code for a feature or the mechanic itself I always ask them what they think first. A lot of times people are scared to say what they think until they are asked. Working in a team means leaving your ego at home, and preparing yourself to be critiqued.
Thanks for reading,