Feature: 'Gaming the System: How to Really Get Ahead in the Game Industry'

In one excerpt from a new Gamasutra feature about how to get ahead in the game industry, a pseudonymous programmer shares his thoughts on the "just do it" approa
Game development is a field that employees an extraordinarily number of extremely talented, hard-working people -- but it is also, unfortunately in some cases, a business, and that can mean occasionally playing politics to get ahead. A new Gamasutra feature, originally published in Game Developer magazine, collects tips from professional developers of all disciplines suggesting methods and practices to improve careers without stepping on toes. One such lesson comes from an experienced programmer going by the pseudonym Larry Hacker, who advises taking the "just do it" approach at times: There are many things you can do to advance your career as a game programmer. You can excel at the tasks you are given, you can learn new skills, you can research current techniques, you can document your code, you can stay late nailing down a tricky bug, you can follow coding conventions, and you can help others solve problems. But all these things are simply doing what is expected of you. Let's step outside the box. How can you advance your career by doing things that are not expected of you, or even things that you've specifically been told not to do? As a programmer, it's not uncommon to see problems that you think should be fixed, or to see an opportunity to improve some piece of code, or speed up a process that takes a lot of time. It's also not uncommon for your suggestion to be ignored, or dismissed with an "it's not broke, so let's not fix it" response. Say your code uses a lot of hard-wired checksums as identifiers. Every time a new identifier is added, the programmers use a command line utility to calculate the checksum, and then copy and paste it into the code. Now, it would be vastly quicker if they could do this inside the editor with some hot key. You suggest this to the lead, and he says, "We don't have time for things like that." What should you do? You should just do it -- on your own time. Figure out the macro system in the editor, hook in the checksum generator, and link it to a hotkey. Then quietly show everyone what you've done. The other programmers will be grateful that you've saved them work and will be impressed with your coding. And the lead will hopefully admire your initiative. I say "hopefully" because the "just do it" approach is a potential minefield. While it's a great opportunity, you do need to be careful that you know what you're doing. Before taking the initiative (or rather, before telling people that you did), make sure it's really something worth doing. If possible, try it covertly first so that if it's not actually worth doing, nobody will need to know you wasted your time -- and make sure that "your time" is actually that. People have different opinions of what your own time is and might think any time you spend coding should have been company time. "Oh, that? It only took 10 minutes!" That line usually absolves you of the time-wasting label, and makes you look even more impressive. The full feature has additional tips for the fields of art, design, production, audio, and QA, with the invitation to send in your own approach as well.

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