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Opinion: Pay It Forward

Opinion: Pay It Forward

December 13, 2011 | By Chad Moore

[In this reprinted #altdevblogaday opinion piece, Turbine Games' technical art director Chad Moore explains why and how experienced game developers should help out novices in their field.]

If you've been making games for a while you've probably come across someone who aspires to do what you do. You've met these folks at user groups, or through friends or they work in other departments at your job. These people look up to you, no matter your level or interest in helping them out.

As experienced developers, I think it's our duty to help these folks out. I think this should be part of our career paths and yearly review goals. Here's why.
  1. Most likely you can't pay back the people who helped you when you started. So, like Haley Joel says, you should pay it forward.
  2. Maybe you think "no one ever helped me" and "I did this on my own". I'm calling bullshit on that. Somewhere, someone gave you an opportunity. However big or small. To your credit, you capitalized on it, but you had a window provided by another. People who shut down others wind up being the jerk-face developers that can't work with anyone and wind up leaving the team one way or the other.
  3. New people bring fresh ideas and new ways of tackling problems. Fresh eyes are essential. This topic deserves a post all it's own. Maybe next time.

Are you on board with this? Are you asking how you can help? Here are some thoughts, I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Are You Seeking People To Help?

Go to just one user group meeting and meet some people. Everyone has busy schedules with work, family, and social lives. However, all it takes is one meeting. Meet and get to know people. Exchange your preferred contact method and follow up. This is networking 101.

Twitter and more recently Google+ have been a great resource for sharing information and active constructive criticism and feedback. For Twitter, find the hashtags relevant to the topics you're interested in. You don't even need to register or post if you don't want to. Start here.

As for Google+, find the people you know and share your circles. G+ has quickly become my favorite way to communicate online. Send a post to just one or several people, or fire it to a select group or publicly to everyone. I've used all of those methods to have very meaningful conversations that are relevant to my work.

Most recently I was able to explain a problem to a select group of people I've never even met but know by reputation and their kindness on these social media circles. They provided honest, clear and meaningful feedback that I was able to immediately use in my work. I am very grateful for their time and the opportunity for us to interact. Thanks again Rob, Seth, and Tim.

You can do these same things to mentor people. Start a conversation. It only take a couple minutes, every once and a while.

If You Already Know Some People Looking For Advice.

Meet them at events or send an email or even better comment on their own blog post. Again, this is quick and easy to do. It just takes a little time.

For the Junior people on staff, and/or the folks in other departments hoping to transfer, find the answers in the hallways.

Spend 30 seconds talking to these folks in the hallway. Put them in the forefront. Ask things like "what are you working on" and "Have you been able to get any feedback from other people lately"? Give them a pointer and tell them to keep at it. That's really all it takes. These conversations go a long way.

You'll see eyes light up and build a mutually respectful relationship. I literally did this today with Tim Prata. Check out his work and give him feedback, he's pumped up on getting feedback so he can be a better artist. He's engaged and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Host a lunch time portfolio or code review. Get these folks in the same room with developers willing to help give feedback. Yes, you sacrifice a lunch hour, but you can help give solid feedback and see people grow.

These are the people you'll probably want to hire or transfer to your team. You're building relationships before the person is even on the team. You can evaluate how they handled a task or problem in minutes.

It's our responsibility to help the newcomers, I don't take it lightly. What are you doing to help these people out?

[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.]

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