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  • Networking Into The Games Industry As A New Grad

    [11.17.20]
    - Patricia Dimaandal

  • Onboarding

    Before I logged into their Slack, I had to fill out some paperwork since this was a paid internship. This is routine for those who get jobs, but this took me by some surprise - it's common for businesses to take in unpaid interns. Jason explained to me that UX is Fine! believes in paying for all work created. To be honest, this made me feel more inspired and motivated to help as much as I can. It also helped me set good standards for myself: 2) I deserve to be respected and well-compensated even as a junior. It's important for seniors to help juniors set this standard for themselves so that junior game developers know what is good and bad for them. In the long run, this gives the next generation of game developers better preparation and will help them focus on how to improve the game industry.

    There was also an additional piece of paperwork that I was unfamiliar with: nondisclosure agreements. I often saw memes discussing NDAs and saw that it didn't give game developers credit - it's frustrating when many jobs want to see a shipped title. Nonetheless,these agreements are set in place to protect both the client and the contractor involved. For one, investors on the client-side do not like to see work being contracted out. If you're blamed for potential theft of intellectual property, it's a big deal. Overall, 3NDAs don't just protect the clients - they protect you too.

    Here's an article that details non-disclosure agreements more: How NDAs Work and Why They're Important.

    The First Week

    For the first week, I was a bit unsure on what to do - for one, after syncing the calendar, there was a specific meeting called a "Stand-Up Meeting".This was actually the first time I heard of Stand-Up Meetings; the staff shares their progress with each other and reconvene regarding meetings with clients. They are typically quick 30 minute meetings. Apparently, this concept is a part of Agile Project Development and allows team members to sync up on what everyone is doing. I like this activity since it made everything transparent between team members. This definitely gave me insight on how game dev teams actually work together.

    If you're more curious about Stand-Up Meetings, feel free to read this: Atlassian Team Playbook. It also gives many tidbits of Agile Project Development, so I recommend using this as a resource!

    In the meantime, I did playthroughs of "the project" (I can't talk about it yet, see the NDA point above) and wrote my observations. At first, I didn't really understand the intention of this - I wanted to analyze the game right away. Nonetheless, the UX Director I shadowed, Neil Edwards, informed me that it's important to 4) play the game as a player first and as a UX Designer second. He wanted me to develop my senses as a player first so that I can better investigate issues with a game. It seemed basic, but the basics served as the foundations. There's no point in being a UX Designer if I can't identify the right problems to solve.

    Nonetheless, identifying issues that I caught helped the UX Designer I shadowed, Frank Lepkowski, since I provided a perspective that he and others may not have observed. It also gave me practice and reassurance that my observations are helpful - as a junior, I can lack confidence in my observations. I can have thoughts like "are they actually valid observations to take into consideration"? By getting feedback at appropriate times, they showed me that I'm on the right track and to believe in myself as a UX Designer.

    The Next Two Weeks: My Main Project

    For the next two weeks, I was trusted to outline and provide feedback on the overall User Journey. I focused on a specific section of the NDA project by recording gameplay, outlining the screens, and having three stages of commentary. The first stage of commentary are my initial reactions - what happened here? What was my reaction? My second stage was to rewrite these initial reactions into more objective statements from a UX Design perspective - why did I react this way? Why is this a problem? The third stage was to summarize the main issues based on the specific objective statements I made. These main issues are what needs to be addressed in the UX Design.

    This exercise is really important for me to go over since I mostly taught myself UX Design through online courses - I needed feedback from someone more senior than me. Through this exercise, I learned that I still struggle to make objective feedback from the user's perspective. I need to practice making them more.  It's important since these types of statements hold UX Designers accountable to provide actionable feedback to clients. 5) Without objective feedback, the feedback can easily turn into an opinionated debate; it's more productive to focus on the user.

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