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!

How did you get to be here?

Lead Artist Dan Purcell Interview

Dan Purcell is a Lead Artist at Electric Square talks about his personal journey that has lead him to work in games.

GamesIndustry.biz Award

Best Medium Sized Studio

By Guy DeRosa – Head of Talent

Just one week before our 4th birthday, our Electric Square team got to attend our first ever Gamesindustry.biz Best Places to Work Awards. The ceremony took place at London’s Ham Yard Hotel in Central London, hosting some of the UK’s top studios and recognising the industry’s most remarkable people. The event was peppered with eye opening talks and glittered with inspirational people – we felt truly privileged to be a part of it.

Electric Square best place to work award
Electric Square best place to work award

We are pleased to announce that in our first year of trying, Electric Square was named in the ‘Best Medium Sized Studio’ category, alongside amazing company, including our Keywords family siblings at Studio Gobo and d3t. A huge congratulations to all the winners on the day!

2019 has been a terrific year for us at Electric Square, with the launch of our our latest releases Forza Street and Hot Wheels id. We would like to send a huge thanks to you, the Electric Square community, and to our team who make Electric Square a truly fantastic place to work.

A full list of the day’s winners can be found here.

International Women’s Day

Women In Games

By Alice Guy – Product Owner, Electric Square.

I joined the games industry in 2005 aged 28. I was a Producer for Climax Racing in Brighton working with Electric Square’s Studio Head, Jon Gibson, then Game Director. I had worked for several years as a project manager but never in such a technical field, so it was a step into the unknown. However because my husband worked at Climax I did have a head-start. I knew a bit about the company, its culture and the crew who worked there.

Without question it was (like most studios) male-dominated. I was one of about five women in a 100+ person studio, which when you step back and think about it is a pretty mad concept. I was generally comfortable with it, having always been somewhat loud-mouthed and strident! It was a great company/team to work for, and I loved the pace, the passion and the creativity that shone through the often (very) long days.

There was a lot of male banter, for sure, and had I been younger, or single, or less confident, perhaps I’d have found it more intimidating than I did… Now I wonder if I over-compensated, giving as good as I got in order to fit in.  Anyhow, as we moved from an independent studio to being owned by Disney there was a clear (and good) shift change.

Within a year Climax Racing was bought out and became Black Rock Studio, and despite being on maternity leave by then I was offered the role of Director of Production. Mixing motherhood with games development wasn’t that commonplace back then, so I have to big up Tony Beckwith for taking the leap of faith!

The industry, having originally been born out of ‘geeky bedrooms’, had grown up quickly. Teams were growing in size, games-centric graduate programmers were starting to make their mark, and the stakes were growing larger with every new platform release. With that, the balance of diversity started to shift, slowly but surely. When I joined the industry, women tended to be in supporting roles (production, finance, HR, office management), but as time has gone on more and more women are contributing throughout the dev team.

At Electric Square I see brilliant women working in every discipline, doing awesome work, and I love that. But there’s still a lot more to do – the industry can definitely do better!

Nurturing future talent is king, and schools still need to do a better job of promoting STEM subjects to their female pupils, and to better understand and encourage the exciting opportunities of games development as a career. As do parents – again, hopefully that’s shifting as early gamers raise the next generation. As games developers we’ve got the opportunity to enchant, to educate, to challenge, to entertain our audience – and that’s really f***ing powerful.

More games are being designed for gender-neutral audiences. Stereotypes are (mostly) reducing. Creativity, fun and wide-appeal the primary focus – and less about the ‘macho male’ experience vs the ‘social fluffy female’ one. But they’re definitely still present – and I’d love to see more big name publishers take a broader view of representation generally in their games, building on what independent studios have achieved, and being encouraged to take more risks.
Misogyny amongst gamers, and ‘old boys networks’ mentality among developers, can still be seen and needs to be challenged.

I’m hopeful that time will naturally improve this – being a relatively young industry, in a world where equality is improving, and as more and more women show they can boss their fields. However the male voice is hugely important in accelerating it – supporting their female counterparts when they see or hear anything that was best left back in the ‘good old days’.

On top of this, dev studios need to focus on creating environments that appeal to all, ensuring there are no gender pay gaps, and offering benefits such as flexible working opportunities for their female (and male) staff juggling childcare. It’s 2019, we shouldn’t even be having to say this! Thankfully, these are all values that matter a great deal to Electric Square.

But oh dear, this wasn’t meant to be a rant! From a personal perspective I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my games career, even when it’s been tough. I have brought up two children through it. I have worked as a studio director, founded my own company, and now work as a Product Owner. I’ve had great opportunities, and continue to do so. But I can’t deny, I would still love to see more women in the studios I work in, and more women in the publishing teams I work with.

Why should the men have all the fun heh?!