| Leadership Letters
| Game designers write to their past selves
Hi - I’m you, from the future. I don’t have much time before I have to go back, so I’ll get to the point.
You used to get by working your ass off and slinging verts in 3DS Max as a level designer. Now that you’re in a design leadership position, the job has changed.
There’s one thing you need to know:
Your value as a Design Lead is not a function of how many or what percent of ideas you generate, or even whether they’re any good. Your job is to tend the soil and nurture the design seeds planted throughout the garden of your teammates’ minds.
You have to stop thinking of yourself as a doer and start understanding a layer of dynamics that you haven’t paid attention to before.
I went through this, and the thing that held you back was thinking like a level designer, being afraid that you’d lose your job if you didn’t contribute good ideas.
You love your job, and you don’t want to lose it. So I get it - you’re focused on self preservation.
But the thing you’ll flinch to, the default behaviors you’ll go to, won’t serve you. You’ll feel defensive, protective, resentful of others’ ideas.
That’s exactly, 100% the opposite of what you need to do.
From now on, you’re not just an idea generator. Certainly you will still have ideas - but from now on, your job is to lift up the design ideas of every other team member. I don’t care if it’s the boss’ assistant, a tester, an engineer - from now on,
* anyone who has an opinion about the game and shares it with you is your best friend. *
Work with them. Listen to them. Find a way to work it in.
Then, if the feature / change gets in, give them credit. Publically. Like, in the team meeting, you say “This was Sandy’s idea, and Jeff was the one who set up that platform puzzle.”
Give away what you want, and you’ll get it. People like working with people who lift them up. So be that person, and you’ll be the force multiplier the job requires.
Good luck - this isn’t going to be easy for you.
“Lift Up Others”
Senior Software Engineer (Google)
December 8, 2019
Year Started: 1995