Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Generalist to specialist

The games industry as we know it has flourished in the past couple of decades, so much in fact that it is hard to go a whole day without bumping into something game related. It could be an advert on the TV or just someone playing temple run on their phone at the bus stop. With the demand for games being so high it is really no wonder that it is now a multi-million dollar industry. With all the money being pumped into the industry and more people wanting to become part of it, development studios have become huge and have made it harder for the type of "bedroom coders" to get successful. With development studios becoming so big, hierarchies have been put in place so there is order in the development process. These "hierarchies" mean that the industry has become much more specialised than it used to be. This doesn't mean that smaller teams are completely gone. In fact thanks to Kickstarter, Steam Greenlight, PSN and Xbox Live Arcade, smaller "indie" teams are becoming quite common place. Games like Super Meat Boy, Limbo and Castle Crashers doing amazingly well, so well that they have outsold games with much larger development teams.

Smaller development teams generally means more generalists, Super Meat Boy had a team of 2 actually making the game with one extra person outsourced for music. One person doing animation and art and the other being the coder. Although a bit more general than you might find in a large team, the team was specialised in their respective areas.
Team meat makers of Super Meat Boy

No matter how specialised the industry gets, studios will always prefer to have someone that is both generalised and specialised, known as the T shaped employee. I first learnt of the T shaped employee from the "Valve handbook for new employees" that all new employees at Valve are given (bet you couldn't have guessed that). Their reasons are as such " An expert who is too narrow has difficulty collaborating. A generalist who doesn't go deep enough in a single area ends up on the margins, not really contributing as an individual." Obviously their logic is unflawed and shows why it is really so important to become that perfect T.

Valve T-Shape Employee

Im working towards becoming one of these T shaped employees. I have focused my specialist sights on character art but i understand how i need to become a generalist to a certain level. I believe i have a good ability to bring character into my work but my lack of experience and knowledge in 3D holds me back a bit. I think its extremely important during these first two years to build a good solid foundation of general knowledge, learning all about software and all relevant techniques, with the intent of showing it all off in the third year.

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