Comfort zones kill. Why not try getting out of yours?
It’s easy to be comfortable with what we know. Being proficient in our day-to-day, routinely handling the same tasks — it’s easy to feel settled. Starting on a new task that you’re unfamiliar with can feel very daunting after a while. You may feel like you lack the required knowledge to do the task effectively, or you have not done it in a while, or maybe it’s just something you’re entirely disinterested in.
But comfort zones are killer. In the long run, they hinder growth. It’s okay to stay where you are if that’s what you really want to do, but if you want to have a career and not just a job, it’s important to keep asking yourself: why not try something new?
Taking that first step
From the start of my career at Mighty Bear, even though my role was a 3D artist, rooted in the 3D team, I had the opportunity to help out with many different aspects of production. Besides creating and implementing 3D models and textures, I helped in 2D character and environment concept art, material and surfacing research and look development, character rigging, rendering, UI concepts, profiling, tech art tools testing and production planning. Basically a TON of other stuff!
Here’s an example of what I got to experience. While working on Butter Royale, I had the task of coming up with a variety of different 2D concepts for alternate skins. I got to work with Gary, our extremely accomplished concept art lead who has done covers for Marvel comics, and it was a great experience. It also gave me the opportunity to learn and receive guidance from Gary and the rest of the art team. I received feedback from the art team on ways to improve my concepts and sketches and learned how to work within the scope of the brief I was given.
Another instance was when I got to help out the tech art team by researching and testing various tools, and to do the profiling for a game. I knew close to nothing about tech art and this was my first real experience with such a task. Once I got to talk the task over with the team, I realised it was not as scary as I thought. It was just an extension of what I had been doing with the 3D team, just with more technical level thinking and planning. From there, it was just taking things one step at a time: testing a bunch of different tools and profiling the game’s performance, then documenting the results and discussing it with the tech art team. This experience gave me the confidence to continue taking on tech art tasks, which helped me learn more about that field!
It might sound like I’m jumping around aimlessly, but my experiences have given me a more well-rounded view of production from the perspectives of different art teams.
By having a wider view of the whole project and how all the different tasks and disciplines are interlinked, I have able to develop a better perspective on which tasks to prioritise, and know what are the limitations or dependencies of any feature or task.
I was not 100% confident going into some of the tasks initially. At times, they felt very daunting as I had never worked on something like that before, or I did not feel as though I had enough knowledge to effectively work on it. This is where guidance and learning comes in. When I take on a task, I ask my manager or the task owner what the desired outcome would be for the task to be considered complete. From there, I list down what is required and discuss which areas I’m unfamiliar with or is there anything I’m unsure about. Following that, I would do my own learnings and research or reach out to my colleagues who know more to guide me.
It really is a step-by-step approach instead of just diving off the deep end and learning how to survive. By setting clear goals and expectations, we can have a sense of how much can get done and how best I can work on it.
It is through this exchanging of ideas and information where I learn the most. The team at Mighty Bear is always willing to share and help one another. For me, it was really fun working on different tasks and learning from each other.
It’s not about individual roles and only caring about your current scope. Ultimately, we’re all working towards creating a great product. By helping out in other areas, we get a better sense of what dependencies we have and what areas can be better improved. Also we have a greater sense of contribution into the project and to me that is really exciting, and is what makes the work we do meaningful to me.
If you are someone who oversees a team, consider letting the team try out different tasks. You will get to promote a culture of growth and cooperation. By letting people try new tasks and learn, members will start wanting to keep improving, and are willing to happily share knowledge and help one another. Being encouraging and giving people chances helps to build a welcoming, non-hostile environment where everyone can feel comfortable learning new skills.
Don’t be afraid to step out of that comfort zone and try something new. It will be a breath of fresh air and we will learn and grow a lot from it. Having an inquisitive mind and always being keen on improving ourselves or trying new things is one of the the best ways we can grow! So…. why not try?
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Comfort zones kill. Why not try getting out of yours? was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.