Sep 10

20 at 20



This summer sees my 20th year in professional game development and I’ve been asked by more than 1 person to spill tips, tricks and advice on what I’ve learned. Well, for one I dish that out fairly regularly here and on twitter but forget that for a mo. Here’s 20 tips for surviving/thriving/enjoying/etc professional game development. In no particular order :)


  1. It’s a small world. You will run into people you’ve worked with again.
  2. Treat your body like a temple. ish. Crunch food and always-there donuts add up.
  3. Coffee is not the same as a good night’s sleep.
  4. The job isn’t everything. Have and do interests outside of games.
  5. Never drink more than 2 at a company event.
  6. Be Patient, Humble and supportive. Even when you’re right – Especially when you’re right.
  7. Vary your skill set. You’re always learning. Don’t fight it, accelerate it. In today’s labour market specializing is likely to do you few favours.
  8. It is personal and it is business. If it’s not working for you at studio X, get out.
  9. Respect those who love you and your life outside of work.
  10. A game’s development is never smooth or totally predicable. Roll with it.
  11. See the foundation of what you’re doing and how it fits into the end vision. You may not get to choose the great game your working on but you can make the game great in you capacity
  12. Version control is your friend. That said, don’t check anything in unless you’re 100% it’s not going to break the game for anyone else.
  13. You weren’t hired explicitly to interview candidates, but you may well end up doing so. Recognize this and act accordingly.   (Asses each candidate by their history, capacity for adaption, potential for improving project and general fit – if unsure of the HR rules check out what you can’t ask).
  14. From day 1 it’s been clear that good communication is the oil of the machine and the best machines make better games.
  15. Understand your audience. What are you trading on? Humor, escapism, sophism, simulation?
  16. Companies grow and contract to meet demands. Be prepared to move, keep resume up to date and watch the way the wind is blowing.
  17. Your product is your mind food. What are you learning from making it
  18. Play what’s out there. Pay attention to any and all comment on games, they may be anecdotal and differ from your experience, but that in itself is a valuable observation.
  19. Don’t take reviews personally. If you believed in your work, did your best and strived to push everyone to make a better game then sleep easy.
  20. Workspace: Be mindful of liquids on desks. Don’t sit on desks. Invest in a decent mouse & keyboard if not provided. Mind your posture.


Yeah I squeezed an extra 3 in there and there’s another half dozen I thought of while sorting out the formatting, but ’29 at 20′ isn’t as catchy :)


image by buiscuitsmlp