The thing I most wish I had known is that starting a career in AAA game development meant that I would not have an opportunity to work on my own game ideas for a very, very long time. I wish I knew I would be spending the majority of my time working on other peoples’ ideas and making them a reality. That’s something I wish all the young ‘uns hoping to get into game dev as a career knew.
When I started, I would get very specific tasks without much wiggle room. The general tasks were mostly already planned out for me by my leads. Any creativity was limited to within the confines of the task I was working on. I’d occasionally have to do some thinking on my own to resolve small ambiguities or figure things out, but it was mostly just leveling up and familiarizing myself with the problem-solving process. As I leveled up, the scope of my tasks and responsibilities broadened and I had more freedom to create my own ideas within the boundaries of my assignments. The more I learned, the easier it became to take broader requests or vague ideas and turn them into functioning systems and features. I was still limited by the confines of my task, but the space within those confines is greatly increased since my junior days. It was only at this skill level that I was actually capable and experienced enough to make my own ideas a reality in a feasible manner from start to finish.
Even the most talented hopeful that manages to obtain a coveted entry-level game designer position on their favorite AAA franchise won’t be given the keys to the kingdom. There are hundreds of devs on most AAA teams, each with their own batch of ideas. We all have ideas. We have no shortages of good ideas. We don’t often get the opportunity to work on our own ideas because we’re getting paid to work towards the leadership’s ideas.
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