How curiosity can fuel innovation and advance your career
At any stage in your career, you need to be willing to learn and unlearn, regardless of seniority. A growth mindset can really carry you a long way. Every time you start a new company or join a new project you will meet new people; they are going to have different experiences and different values. You can learn so much by really connecting with them. I think if we travel through life thinking ‘I know everything’ and are afraid to ask questions we are stifling our own experience and growth.
I have always asked people questions. Even if it was not related to my profession specifically. I would get such wonderful insights from people by just asking questions about their journey and skillset. It could be philosophical knowledge, life experiences or a life lesson I could learn from. So, I thought it would be relevant to share with you some insight into curiosity and how I’ve found it can help you advance your career. After all, any project starts with an idea.
When you’re on a team it’s worth taking the time to get to know people on a personal basis as it will strengthen your relationships. Go beyond that day-to-day of “I’m working, there are deadlines, these are only work colleges”- really connect with them! They don’t need to come home for tea or anything but take the time to strengthen your working relationships and you will reap the rewards, particularly if you are working remotely like I am.
Sometimes when people have been in the games industry for a long time they are not as curious about what is going on around them because they think they have seen everything. They might even be quick to dismiss new talent because they think they know everything. This attitude can cut anyone off from a new learning experience. I personally think we should always be asking questions because that is a large part of being human and it is what helped me elevate my career.
One of my favorite things about being curious is using it as a tool for idea generation. Curiosity did kill the cat! But what was the cat looking at? What killed the cat? Where was the cat at the time of death? It is a bit of a morbid reference, but it really gets the point across. Be more like the cat, but a little bit savvier.
As an example, if we were looking at building an alleyway from an Environment Artist point of view, we could ask questions like what happens here? Perhaps merchants sell goods, or it is a simple passing place everyone walks, or is it more of a background view? When you know how the space is used it’s easier to develop, by building relevant props or sculpting the terrain that accommodates people walking by. I always like to have little elements leading the eye away making the environment more visually interesting. Doors blocked by barrels, a window in the distance, an alleyway twisting up some stairs. Layering with extra story elements can really make the player feel like they are immersed in the game. Just remember to respect gameplay and block off areas the player cannot get to.
A lot of the environments will be led by gameplay, but it is also an opportunity to work with the design team and design accordingly. Sometimes limitations can generate unique ideas.
Communication is important; remember you are a team! Chat with your designer, voice your ideas and hear theirs. This creates the most interesting of outcomes.
If you can keep your mind open you will never be bored. Perhaps you have not landed that dream job just yet, and that is okay. Look at whatever situation you are in and learn from it or use it as the fuel to drive you to where you want to be. Really observe the environment around you as well as the people you interact with. If you are not experiencing that creative stimulation day to day, look for ways in your spare time. Photography is a wonderful tool to capture things in a new way, you will notice new things you never knew were there. Maybe focus on a theme or a colour, create some rules for yourself. You don’t even have to share the photos with anyone if it takes the pressure off you. Find your favorite artists, see what inspires them. Visit art galleries, watch films, read that magazine in a waiting room rather than scrolling on your phone. Notice what makes you curious.
Use a notebook, or even notes on your phone, whatever you prefer. When inspiration strikes it is random. That spark of lightening inspiration you receive is joy, write it down. You might use it next week or never, but the more you flex these muscles the more inspiration will find you.
Curiosity fuels innovation, so go and fill that creative mind of yours!