Over the last 12 months, with different creative projects that I have been involved in during my university time, I feel I have gained some experience in how creativity can be harnessed well in a group setting. I wanted to document how I feel individual attitudes of team members can help to nurture a good group dynamic. I find it useful to reflect on things like this, and I hope that others find it useful too.
I would not say by any stretch that I have all the answers in regards to this topic. I know that working in a team is a skill I will be working on for the rest of my career, just as much as anyone else should be. These are just some of things that I have discovered so far…
1. People Will Have Better Ideas Than You…
…And that’s great! As a team member, you should be thankful that someone had it! YOUR PROJECT WILL BE BETTER FOR IT!
Wild Pacman’s (Pacmen?) doing business.
I’ve seen fellow team members be resistant to someone else’s idea; and sometimes, I have a sneaking feeling that this is because it either didn’t come from them, or the previous version of the idea was theirs and it’s in danger of being changed. As much as this can be painful for this person, it is important for them to be objective and recognise that the end goal of a well thought-out project should always far outweigh their pride. If anything, they should take pleasure in that perhaps their idea helped to springboard the new one!
I think the thing to remember is that if a superior choice was purposed, why stilt it? Are we not all in this to make projects as successful as they can be?
Although this may be the case, you should always…
2. …Be Honest With Your Opinions
If you don’t like something, say it! Being vocal is important as your team could save hours of wasted time mining something that was actually never going to work. You could be the instrument to stop that from happening!
Although you should always listen to what the other person has to say in return!
Pinocchio, masquerading as a man…
It is can be a very nuanced thing: flipping in between this kind of honesty and some of the other points I’m making. I think the easiest way to phrase it is to not swallow pride because you should, but to do it by calculating what makes a better project.
Another reason why voicing you opinion is good is because…
3. …An Idea Challenged, is Stronger Than An Idea Universally Accepted
Okay, great. You’ve accepted that this new fandangled idea is better than the one before. I guess it’s time to saying nothing…?
Challenge it; discuss where issues may lie with it. There is nothing wrong with doing this. If anything, some of the issues that will be encountered during development have the chance of being triaged and solved early!
On the receiving end of this, it can be easy to think that other collaborators are out to dismiss everything you say, but in reality, anytime someone asks a question about what you are proposing, they aren’t necessarily saying your idea is bad; they are trying to make it fit into their greater goal of making a competent video game. Although sometimes, I think it is the way that it is said that is the problem…
4. …Avoid Confrontational Language
This may seem obvious, but when discussing aspects of the a project with others, avoid using language that creates an escalation. An example of this would be:
Designer: “What do you think of Barry wielding a double barrelled shotgun?”
Writer: “I don’t think Barry would use a weapon like that. Did you even read the story?”
Designer: “What do you mean, did I read the story?! Barry screams shotgun! Just because you think every characters choice of weaponry should match thematically doesn’t mean that some characters can’t be straight up bad ass sometimes…”
Writer: “Its not that, I just don’t like it because it’s stupid.”
Designer and writer, circa 1974.
It doesn’t take a lot to see the catalyst of this confrontation, is it? If the writer tried to ask in a more diplomatic way what the designer was unaware of, it may of ended in a much more productive discussion. As soon as someone starts to feel threatened, adrenaline rushes through their bloodstream, telling everything inside of them to defend their point. This makes it difficult for the person to be reasonable in the discussion, and makes it much harder to not say something needlessly offensive.
Another point is that there is nothing saying that the writer is wrong about Barry. Although they may have created him, Barry could require the shotgun to make him more fun. Games are meant to be fun, right? This leads to my final point…
5. There Is Nothing Wrong With Being Wrong
Realistically, this should happen a lot; but too much of the time, people can’t admit it when they are. I think this is probably the hardest thing for a person to try and adhere to. I know for a fact that I struggle with it at times.
Making games is hard and no one should ever expect that one person has all the right answers from the beginning. Anyone who thinks they do, or expects other to, is setting themselves up in a unrealistically way. Obviously those answers will come, but they take time, and a lot of moments of being wrong.
I think it can be very freeing to admit it. You are no worse at your job for saying so.
Not sure if this makes sense but I feel that the overall message is there, I think…
So, those are my quick tips to better production dynamics. As I said before, I am not pretending to have all the answers. These are just a few strategies I have picked up on so far.
The battle of overcoming some of these points rests with fighting our human nature. We can’t always win, but by winning against it at least half of the time, it could make a positive difference in terms of cohesive team work.
I hope some of this is helpful!