I’m a veteran of my field, these are the 5 things I wish I knew when I was new

Here are 5 things I wish I knew when I was started out in the games industry 

By Francis-Xavier Martins – Principal Artist

My name is Francis-Xavier Martins, I’m a Principal Artist at Electric Square Games in Brighton. This year marks my 20th year in the industry and it has been a very interesting journey. Ups, downs, failures and triumphs. I wouldn’t change what I do for the world and I’m very fortunate to be in such a creative industry. With that said, here are five things I wish I knew when I was just starting out. I hope it helps anyone out there worrying about the journey ahead.

1.   It’s okay not to know what you want to focus on

When you get your first job in the industry, you’re keen to jump into everything. Modelling, texturing, animation, VFX, and the rest. It’s all very exciting. You want to try everything, so much so that it can be overwhelming, a bit daunting and a little confusing. The laser focus you need comes with time. With all the skills you acquire, you will eventually realise which ones you like doing more than others. Just enjoy the hors d’oeuvres of skill and software and eventually you can hone in and spend more time on what you feel you want to spend more time on in your working day.

2.   Devour Knowledge

If you like, say, making cool stuff in Houdini, it isn’t enough to show interest to your colleagues or Lead. You need to spend time, even when you’re not being paid, to getting good. You need to practice, read articles, watch tutorials, figure out new and creative ways to use the software to make assets that will make your peers sit up and take notice. This will elevate your work to a new level and your leads will notice too. It’s a good way to fast track your way to better gigs and being indispensable in your field.

3.   Lose the Ego

When I first started as an artist, I was sometimes reluctant to take on criticism from other people about my work. Today I look back at most of the work I did in my early years and I cringe! You’re never as good as you think you are. Be humble, listen to criticism if it’s constructive, say thanks and more often than not you’ll find you’ll improve as an artist and your work will get better. A by product of having an ego is people will never want to talk to you and you might go on living in a delusional cloud thinking you’re the one, when in reality your work will be severely lacking the quality required to up your game.

4.   Crunch is not essential

I’m fortunate to work in a company that doesn’t enforce crunch. We hit our milestones by proper planning and having the right people doing the jobs. I thought crunch culture had to be done when I was a young artist. I thought it was something to be proud of. “I worked 14 hours last night. Smashed it.” In actual fact It’s harmful and in some cases, exploitative. It’s detrimental to your health and you will burn out if you keep doing it. If you find yourself in a company that regularly enforces this, I would seriously consider looking elsewhere.

5.   Have fun and communicate!

You’re in the creative industry, making cool stuff for people to watch, play, and experience. Have fun, talk to your colleagues, get to know them, inside and out of work. I worked as a freelancer for 7 years and many of the gigs I got were from people I formed relationships with when I was working full-time. Communication is a vital part of working in our industry so don’t be afraid to say hello to the person beside you, have a chat and be nice. You’ll find your working experience richer for it.

That’s it for now. Go forth and make some cool stuff!