Generalist or Specialist game developer?

Whilst researching teams, I recently came across 2 similar concepts that describe the skills of people working in your beloved game development industry - “T-Shaped” people and “Generalising Specialist”.

I wanted to know more about them and how these types relate to my experience of people and if the idea gives me something for me to learn.

The shape of the letter is a nice way to visualise someones skill with the horizontal stroke ‘——– ‘ referring to the breadth of someones skills and the vertical ‘|’ referring to how skilled they are in that particular skill.

Therefore, “T-Shaped” people have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the ‘T’, they’re multi-player level designers, script writes, AI programmers or shader artist. However, they have a broad understanding of how things fit together and can branch out into other skills when required although this may not be their strongest area. They can also see  things from multiple perspectives and be inspired and diverse.

Generalising Specialist” is a term given to someone who has a broad set of skills that peak in one particular area *but* they can slide between similar roles when required. E.g., a level designer who can also script, a gameplay programmer who can also prepare UIs, an animator who can also sculpt.

I-Shaped’ people are highly skilled in a particular area, more so than is seen in people with broader skills, but they pay for this depth of knowledge with a much narrower skillset. This narrow, but deep, set of skills may not be required for a whole project and this may be where you consider outsourcing, freelancers or contract workers to hit the sweet spot without taking the hit of them having nothing to do outside of that one task.

When building a team it’s important to include various types of people in order to succeed. Generally smaller teams start out with all T-shapes and as the team grows and more specialists are needed then the ‘I-Shaped’ people start to appear to when the team and the game start to require more specialist knowledge.

What type of person are you? I think I’m ‘T’ shaped. :)

Further Reading

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