Game Dev Communication 101
Since GDC is right around the corner, I figured it would be smart to try and talk about how to communicate to one another. I know this area may be more difficult than others, but this area is as critical to master as your hard skills. Since this topic is a little bit out of my area of expertise, I spoke with Evan Cox, an artist and marketer I have worked with in the past. He knows a bit (a lot) more about networking than I do, so if you are looking to network with other people, here is some tips from him for you.
The Base 5 Tips of Dealing with Others (Networking):
Be excited, but not insane. (Smile)
Attitude is everything. Be excited to meet these people, but don’t go crazy. We all know the person who is genuinely excited, but really turns people off with their insane antics. It displays a level of immaturity that you can’t control your excitement, or they’ll think you’re just insane.
First impressions are all attitude based and first impressions are crucial when networking or general conversation. This goes beyond the realm of just conversation as many people base a first impression on how they see others interacting with you. Don’t be a giant jerk to someone and then try and suck up to a big game executive while in the same room. People are attentive, they’ll notice.
Approach the individual as a human being.
People are human beings. We all feel emotions, have bad days, make mistakes and take painful shits. However, the majority of people forget this when they meet people who they respect. They are not perfect and do not know or have done something that you can’t.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t respect people for their accomplishments, but don’t feel nervous approaching people because of those accomplishments. He or she is a person, and so are you.
Always be looking for opportunities.
People are full of opportunities, always be looking for them and acting on them if you get the chance. Display your enthusiasm and speak up for yourself. No one is going to sell you like you can.
But wait, I’m supposed to approach people as human beings AND opportunities? It’s not like you’re approaching them as big money bags with dollars on their fore-head. You are trying to get to know this person and to be friends so that if they have opportunities that they think you’d be interested in, they’ll tell you about it and speak on your behalf!
If you want someone to really like you, open your mouth as little as possible.
People love talking about themselves and hate talking about others. Always be asking questions, always be delving into what makes them cool. Put a little bit of yourself in each question.
“I’m working on an action RPG right now on the side”
“Really? That’s awesome. I worked on one a while back. I always found that ____ was the hardest part of designing one. What do you think?”
End the conversation before it gets stale.
Don’t be a part of those two or three people in a conversation that ends with people just standing around and looking for an out or extension of a conversation. It’s not the end of the world if a conversation ends naturally, it might start again in 10 minutes, 20 minutes or next week! End the conversation with them wanting you to be there and wanting more.
With that being said, don’t seem uninterested. No one likes feeling like they didn’t entertain have fun having a conversation, and nothing does that like having their partner seem uninterested in them. End the conversation, but not out of boredom.
EXTRA: Nothing bad can happen from talking to someone.
The worst thing that could happen? They don’t like you. “Some will, some won’t, so what, next”.
Now, since this is my post, I’ll give you my tips as well on what I think is important on how your present yourself.
Going to GDC is a time about game development learning and meeting some cool people along the way. In general, don’t see people as networking potential (too business-y for my personal taste), or else you may get tongue tied or stomach butterflies if you end up meeting Edmund McMillen or Sid Meier (hell, I would if I was asking them for a job). Change your perspective into being friends with them, and it will be easier to deal with meeting people. Invite them to go drinking with you, talk about your favorite game (because you know, game developers tend to play games when they aren’t stressed about making one), and make them laugh. Game developers tend to be fun people, so if you show that you are fun to be around, they will remember you instead of some stiff who is passing out their business cards in desperation. Leave all your job hunt stuff out until you get to know the person well, or else you seem like you are using the person. No one likes that.
Looking for a job?
If I had a dollar for every time someone has said how small the game industry really is, I wouldn’t have to worry about money every again. So you need to break into a very competitive industry. Unfortunately, all I hear about the career part of GDC is how everyone who comes back has struck out (but do not get discouraged). Now, this doesn’t mean you let this opportunity go to waste. Go to places where you don’t care if you get a job offer or not, and practice on them. It’s also a great place to get your resume and portfolio critiqued. You can do this trick outside of GDC too. Then, when your stuff is cleaned up and ready to roll, go after the companies you want. BUT even if you get rejected by everyone at the career part of GDC, there is still hope. The friends that you make will be an invaluable asset to you, and that is how people get in. No matter how good you are at what you do, if you or your games don’t get found, you are left behind. That is your harsh truth of the day. So how do you keep up? Well, your friends might have an opportunity for you, and if they like you, they might give you that opportunity.
Last thing: MEMES ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND! Let me explain. While the game industry is still considered “young”, there still exists a generation gap, so when you are trying to be funny and find it appropriate to say a meme, it could make things awkward if they do not understand the context. Not only that, not every game developer is into meme culture. If you are trying to say something and they DO UNDERSTAND BUT DISLIKE MEMES, you have now just displayed a certain level of immaturity, and that can drive people away. Hell, you can drive people who follow meme culture if used too much. So understand who you are talking to and use them sparingly, if at all.
I hope this was at least somewhat helpful. We all want to meet some really cool people and get jobs making games, but your presentation is important.