Posting with Care: Social Media and Your Future Career

think_before_tweetOccasionally, I’ll see a student post something extremely negative about a company, product, game, or system. Recent examples of this have come from the latest round of anti-Microsoft excitement related to the Xbox One announcements. As an educator trying the help students toward a path of landing their dream job, reading such posts always makes me cringe.

And while I do understand that it’s easy to get caught up in the fervor, and I understand the desire to forward to your friends a humorous meme or other posts (even when you know they are in bad taste), but for your own sake I warn against public statements that offer sweeping criticism. A recent example of this included the following statement,

“As far as I am concerned, [company name] royally fucked up.”

My advice is to resist the urge to publicly criticize, especially when the critique takes the form of blanket statements like, “Macs Suck”, “Microsoft is Evil”, or even something as seemingly benign as “What was Nintendo Thinking?”.

The are a variety of reasons to think twice before you post, here are seven good ones:

1) Every product is created by a team of hard working engineers, not a faceless corporation. Individual developers have very little control over the rest of the product development and release (including things like marketing). But with blanket statements, you are insulting not just a corporation, but all the employees that have worked for months or even years trying to make the best product they could.

j04331802) Blanket statements about a product do not sound as if they come from someone that is educated about the industry. It’s what is said by those from the outside looking in, or in an attempt to make advertising revenue by being inflammatory. It’s fine to discuss specific concerns or design decisions, but be careful to not criticize a company, especially for an unreleased product.

3) Any comment can come back and bite you. Fast forward a few years to graduation, only to find out you don’t land your dream job because of past social media comments. Even in a private group, ignoring the fact that nothing is really private, not only will these comments still be sitting in this archive for years, not only is it possible for anyone in the group to screen capture what is written and share it on a different forum, not only is it likely that some of your classmates will work for the company you’re critical of in the future (and will thus be part of your network for good or bad), but you may be surprised to find that developers are part of that private group.

4) Game development is a business. Most of us still must put food on the table and pay the Internet bills. In which case, we release games on the platforms where the users are. If It turns out that no one buys a particular console, that’s a great reason to not deploy to that platform. But that’s something only time will tell. There have been significant naysayers about many of the products that were later wildly successful. So my advice is to sit back and wait to see what really happens, 6-12 months after release. My experience is that games sell consoles, and players will go where the games are. It’s a cyclic process.. as games lead to players, which in turn leads to where developers release games…and thus more players. You may find the landscape at your own graduation (3-4 years from now) is totally different then what we all might currently expect.

yelling-into-megaphone5) The game industry is surprisingly small. It might not seem like it now, but it is. I would be willing to bet that there are only a couple degrees of distance between the folks in any particular game development Facebook group and anyone in the game industry. The smallness of the industry is an awesome opportunity for networking. Oh, you want to work for company ABC? My buddy works there… my old boss is the creative director… one of my old students is the lead engineer… etc.

6) Large corporations are the ones with the deep pockets. You want a scholarship to send you to a conference? You want a sponsorship for a new computer lab? You want someone to fund your game development? Blanket complaints about corporations may come back to not only harm you, but your classmates and the college as well.

7) Be careful of band wagons and group think. Individuals are the ones that move the industry forward… those that think differently. They spend their time and energy creating the next thing, not focused on what “is”.

The truth is, I have had this conversation with hundreds of students and this is part of the speech I give on graduation. It’s part of the transition to becoming a real developer. It’s also really easy to complain about something that frustrates you. I am the first to get annoyed when a seemingly obvious feature is missing from a product, but I have to be careful about how and where I vent that frustration. It is a conscious process that gets easier with time.

My job is to make sure I have done everything I can to ensure that students are able to get that dream job. This is lesson one.


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