Game development is teamwork. This series of blog posts investigates elements of teamwork through the eyes of the students. Topics are project management, teamwork, communications, change management, teamwork skills and teamwork development. The CRGP Producers from Laurea University of Applied Sciences are presented in previous blogpost.
Riku Kivimäki: Developing competence or: How I learned to stop worrying and love writing
I have never been the best writer. Not in blog format or in general. It might be even ironic to some readers, that a person, who openly admits in the very beginning, that he is at best a mediocre writer, is giving you insights in the subject of competence development. But, personally – since I’ve written this blog, I’ve had to face my weakness regarding the art of writing, and because of this, I had to develop my understating of said subject and evolve as a writer. I had to get better. I had to develop my competence in the said subject.
We can start by going through what exactly is competence. Kristian Mäkelä (1) describes competence in his thesis with terms “expertise” and freely translated “set of skills”. In practical terms, when we talk about competence, we don’t just mean knowing one thing well. We are talking about knowing many sets of skills to make up competence. Mäkelä used fantastic example on his thesis about cycling. In order for you to cycle, you need to know how to pedal, to keep your balance, you need to have sense of orientation, you need to know how to turn etc. Even if you knew how to pedal so well that you could do it in your sleep, you’re not going to conquer Le Tour de France with just that.
Same kind of principals work for other topics also, including game industry. Artist needs to have grasp of how to use depth, shading, to bring perspective to their work. Musician must use scales, chords, melodies, to understand velocity to bring that piece of music to life. Programmer understands programming languages, needs to know many other programs throughout and needs to be creative to maximize their productivity. Game producer needs to know how to crunch numbers, needs to be able to keep things in schedule, know budgeting, handle business, must be assertive to get point across at any point of project and to know gave development phases.
Competence is made of parts
Every skill is only a part of competence and every skill is its own entity. Every part is important in supporting other skills. Let’s break down competence to three separate main groups.
- Personal qualities
With knowledge we mean every information that you’ve gathered while reading and what you’ve learned through school and experience. Acquirements, your skills, mature along when you use knowledge you’ve collected and apply them to real life situations. Personal qualities might be trickier to develop further, as they are bind to your personality. That doesn’t mean in any way that you cannot enhance this, might just be slightly more challenging.
I would like to use myself and I as an example. Beginning to write this blog seemed like a mountain I should climb over without any climbing gear. I have never been comfortable in my own skin writing longer texts. I’m modest man to a core. Arguably even too much. Objectively even too much. I’ve never had that moment when I’ve wanted to bring my own thoughts on a paper and share my thoughts to the world. As I’ve not developed this competence forward through years, I’ve only now had to make sure this piece, this blog text, is as good as I possibly can do. Many of my other fellow producer students are masters of this art. They have long sentences along with shorter ones to create symphony of words. They use synonyms to liven up the text. That is competence.
Improve your competence level by getting to know you
Now that we’ve been through what competence is, and what makes it, how can we get better and advance with our skills. How can I, as a poor man’s Perez Hilton, get my text to feel more alive and to get writing to feel more natural?
In general, that is the only way to get better at something. Okay, you’ve read everything about subject ‘A’ and you are convinced, that you are the master of topic. We can even say, that you are formally competent at the subject. In example when you graduate from school you are formally competent. But what happens when you bring your formal competence to workplace? At this point your true competence starts to show its form, and this competence matures and ripens when you work in the projects and at real environment. Your work needs to meet requirements and qualification that has been set. There are things that you cannot get by only reading.
Developing yourself starts by getting to know yourself and finding yourself. Find your weaknesses, find you strengths. This is the best way in my opinion to make use of your best qualities, as well as getting to strengthen your “not-so-good” attributes. SWOT-analysis (2), acronym for ‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats’, is fantastic way for starting this and can be powerful tool. Once you’ve written down everything from good to bad, it’s easy to come back to see what’s changed in course of time. In order to get most out of SWOT-analysis, you need to be absolutely honest with yourself. Don’t let Dunning-Kruger effect, illusory superiority that makes you evaluate your skills higher than they are, have effect in your analysis. Nor should you underestimate your skills by any means. Honesty is where it all starts to get to know yourself.
Knowing yourself is the alpha and omega. Behind every weakness lies new opportunity and strength. Have courage to do things and improve yourself. Don’t get stuck on your “bad” qualities, that is the absolute best way to get your motivation down, so don’t let this enemy take hold of you. You want to learn how to do 3D-graphics, but you’ve only ever knew how to make 2D-art? Get yourself a 3D-program and start practicing, read how to get better at it and expand your skills. This will probably make you also better at 2D-art, as you’ve now increased your perspective. You want to be better musician, but writer’s block is strong, and you can’t write anything. Get new instrument, practice new scales, get yourself into a new genre! You have everything it takes to get better. You can develop your competence. I made it to write this text, you can also climb your own mountain.
Even though is was fairly certain, that I’m not going to write this text from the perspective of a game producer, I’ve changed my mind at the end. Everything I’ve written can be applied to game industry. It doesn’t matter if it’s cycling or is it music, you can develop further at everything. My hobby has been gaming since I can remember. Some could say I’ve played too much. Nah, I disagree, gaming is great and if I could roll back time I would play even more. That being said, I think I have a gist of what I want in games and what I want from gaming in general. While I’m doing my studies as Bachelor of Business Administration, I have gotten to use all these skills in our game project. My love for gaming has become a part of my competence and I think that is absolutely fantastic. Knowledge I’ve gained from school, my formal competence, has been processed to true competence as I’ve worked with our fantastic team. I made SWOT-analysis for my self and this has helped me tremendously. This is how I would personally suggest start developing yourself and your competence. I’m sure that You, the reader, might have other ideas how to start this process. Good! I would love to hear about them, so feel free to express them!
Team members support you
Finally, about teams, teamwork and how important these things are. From week to week I’ve been amazed how our team of nine people has been so successful at surpassing ourselves. Everyone is doing their best to be better than they were last week.
Even though developing yourself is important and it is an ongoing process that never ends, you can never underestimate importance of people around you, your team. Have courage and dare to take support from other members and at the same time be support for them also. This ensures that everyone can to their best and so the quality of work is also better. With these wholesome words I want to end this blog and I wish you all great times getting to know yourselves slightly better!
1) virtualstrategist, 2016, How to Perform a SWOT Analysis (opens in Youtube)
2) Mäkelä Kristian, 2012, PROJEKTIOSAAMINEN – Työelämälähtöisten projektiopintojenkehittäminen TuAMK:ssa (in Finnish, opens in Theseus)