Making the most of long-term design communities

In our last post we talked about a couple of short-term design opportunities in Columbus, Ohio. For today's installment of the Stop Pining and Get Game Designing series, we’re going to get into the topic of cultivating a long-term relationship with local design communities.

Once again we will draw our examples from Columbus, but the principles are relevant wherever you are.

Long-term design communities help you learn through observation

Henry Bawden, Assistant Professor of Interactive Media at Columbus State Community College

You can see other peoples’ processes. That’s why COGG is so great. You get to watch and see other people talk through what they did. It also gives you reasonable expectations. You get to see—“Oh, this is what one person is doing. This is how many hours it’s taking them to do this.” You get to see what skill set the person has, which gives you a better idea of skill and scope.
It’s the same as learning how to do anything. If you’re fixing a car engine, it’s the same basic conversation. Any time you have a creative endeavor or you’re trying to build something, it really is just figuring out what the hours on task will be. Whether you want to be a concert pianist or a track star, it’s about how many hours you need to accomplish this, what skill set you need to build, what steps you need to take to succeed at the next level. The game industry is no different. It’s just different types of skillsets, different goals.


Katie ("Elentori"), Lead Concept Artist for No Mercy

Really the best way to gauge where your skills need to be is to see what you want to do and to see what other people do. A lot of game design is building up enough of a knowledge base that you can troubleshoot issues. The longer you do it, the more tips and tricks you learn and the faster you become.


Feel like there’s too much to learn? A design community can help with that too!


Cody Starcher, Producer for No Mercy

Two of the questions we get a lot are “I don’t know a lot about game development. Are the COGG meetups for me?” and “I’m not a game developer. Is GDEX for me?” Yes. If you want to go into game development, these are great ways to meet other people and hear their experiences. With COGG we typically get 50-60 members who all have different levels of experience with game development and can help relay the struggles. They can tell you about the things they’ve been able to overcome and how they did it. That way, you don’t have to fall into the same pitfalls.


Laura Lee Cooper, Lead 3D Artist for No Mercy

So many people in the community are going to have their own resources that they use. They can tell you the things that they tried when they were starting out—the things that didn’t get them anywhere. You’ll get a lot of shortcuts that way. You won’t have to bang your head on a keyboard a hundred times over just to get an answer that somebody else can answer in twenty seconds.

Henry Bawden, Assistant Professor of Interactive Media

Every time I have a student come up and their approach isn’t “Here’s what you can do for me,” but rather “Here’s where I am. Here’s what I’m trying to accomplish. Do you have advice?” I’m more than happy to jump in and help them out. If you show that you’re active, that you’re making effort and you just need a little redirection, people will be happy to be supportive.

As you can tell, there are so many benefits to joining a long-term local design community. Sustaining regular contact with fellow game designers will help you avoid many of the pitfalls that you would encounter if you went about this alone. Additionally, if you come to these conversations with a genuine desire to learn and improve, members of the design community will likely be thrilled to mentor you in some way or another. 

Do you feel fired up yet? I know I do! If you're reading this and you live in Columbus, Ohio, you're warmly invited to come to any of the Central Ohio Gamedev Group's monthly events and extra-warmly invited to come to GDEX 2017.

One of the exciting things about GDEX is that it can act as a sort of crash course in game design. Not only do you get to meet game designers from all over the Midwest, but you also get to learn from industry veterans!

The next two posts in the series will address the topic of your skillset. What skills do you need to make games? How can you work with the skills you've got? How do you identify and address gaps in your skillset? 

Together, we'll figure it out.

- Lindsay