What I Learned During MIGW 2016

I've now written about the Melbourne International Games Week twice, once before hand, and once in last week's This Week, but now it's finally time to reflect on what I learned there. And there's a lot...

I think the best way to break it down is in three parts: the theme of GCAP16, the most interesting talk I went to, and my key take-aways from the whole week.

I want to preface this by saying that, going into MIGW, I was terrified. I have quite a few confidence, anxiety, and impostor syndrome issues that I battle with. It may not seem like I do, because I'm good at talking to people I know, but these things lock me down when I am faced with talking to those I don't know.

Correction, they did lock me down. MIGW shattered that. Thanks, MIGW!

The Theme: The Shoulders of Giants

This year's theme was "The Shoulders of Giants". We opened GCAP with a keynote from Corey May, who talked about standing on the shoulders of industry Giants, staring into an unimaginable fog of uncertainty, filled with goblins of despair. He talked about how game development was like going on a quest - and like any good quest, you need to gather your party, follow your map, and to watch out for quicksand, alchemists and the strange advice of oracles.

The theme resonated throughout the two days of GCAP, and really hammered home two things: by standing on the shoulders of our Giants, we can see further than we could already, and that we already are Giants. Everything we do, which furthers our fellows, is Giant of us. We freakin' got this!

This theme really helped me, in a very profound way. I've always been prone to hero worship (just ask my heroes!) but I've always shied away from fan-culture. I don't want to bother my heroes, but I desperate want to learn from them. This theme told me, frankly and unabashedly, that everyone has heroes, and that they are at once both Giant and my peers. We are all in this...in everything...together.

My Favourite Talk: Finding Peace in Chaos

Morgan Jaffit has a conversational way of speaking. It's weird. It's like he's having a casual chat with you on his veranda, whilst you're both drinking something nice, cold, and not-too-alcoholic. But he's speaking to a crowd. A big crowd, in fact. Seems I'm not the only one who wanted to hear him speak!

He's spoken before - quite a bit, actually. And as he said, this was his last for the foreseeable future. His reasoning? He's good at it. He knows how to do it. He's comfortable doing it.

And that was his lesson.

Morgan spoke about waxing and waning, ebb and flow. In everything. In his life, and in his design. He talked about adding heaps of things, and then pruning it back. Making it awesome, and then making it work. Once it works again, make it awesome once more. Keep going until you're satisfied...because you're never really done.

He also spoke about, as I touched on, not being comfortable. Basically, he said that whenever you feel comfortable, make yourself uncomfortable. Comfort leads to lack of creativity. It also means you're not learning as much as you could.

I got the chance to speak to him afterwards, and I let him know what his words meant to me. I hope I get the chance to speak to him again, soon, because damn it if it wasn't the best thing about GCAP.

Whilst not in the same talk, this theme was carried elsewhere, and most notably by Kamina Vincent, who said something I've heard a lot recently: you need to know what you don't know. Find out what you're unsure of, what makes you uncomfortable, and face it. You'll be better for it.

My 7 Key Take-Aways

There were a lot of them, but I've managed to refine it down into 7 dot-ish points. I'm writing them as tips, but take what you will from them... Here we go!
  1. Be honest. Honestly talk to people, about yourself, and your work. People appreciate this, and who knows, they may have good insights... More importantly, they may open up honestly about themselves, too. That's awesome, and that way friendship lies!
  2. Be enthusiastic. Listen to learn, not to reply. You never know (seriously, never) what someone has inside their mind, so if you get the chance to hear about any of it, you should be keen. Be enthusiastic to find out who they are!
  3. Be willing to not know/understand. We don't know everything. We need to know what we don't know. If you're confronted by something you don't know: shut up and listen to those who do. If you're confronted by something you don't understand: ask questions until you do. If you're honest and enthusiastic above (and, rule 0, not being an asshole), then they should be willing and even enthusiastic themselves to enlighten you. If they're not, that's ok... No one owes you an explanation. Remember that.
  4. Be willing to screw up. We're not perfect, and we will screw up. Accept that it will happen, own it when it does, and be welcoming to feedback. Someone telling you that you screwed up isn't them hating on you - it's them letting you know how not to screw up again. Let people know that they can call you out on things when you invariably do screw up, and you invite trust. Again, that way lies friendship!
  5. Be attentive to yourself. You'll need a break. Take one, when the time comes.
  6. Be attentive to those around you. Hopefully wherever you go in life, there will be people around you dissimilar to yourself. Understand that they need different things. Don't assume - ask them. Enact their advice. You will always be wrong about them, unless you ask. However, see #4 again, because this will happen. You will screw up, but that's ok. Ask, ask, ask.
  7. Be willing to trust people. Just as you're being honest, be willing to trust that others are being honest too. People need to know that others have faith in them. Trust them. Return people's trust. Don't break it.

Final Thoughts

MIGW has been the best thing I've ever done. Seriously. I loved when it was on, and I'm eagerly awaiting next year's expanding Games "Week" (c'mon, folks, it's 10-bloody-amazing-wonderful days!)

I'm so thankful to everyone who I met, everyone who I spoke to, and everyone who had something to say and to show to other people. Our industry has flaws, but MIGW gave me hope where it's often lacking. I finally feel a part of this community.

I wanted to say, once again (because I know I said it on the night of AGDA, but hell, it needs to be said again!) a huge THANK YOU to Antony Reed, Liam Esler, and everyone else involved for setting everything up. You all rock - so freakin' hard - and I love you for that.