“Sole” Does Not Equal “Lead”
A friend of mine recently received a resume from a person who listed their role as “Lead Designer” on several products. When pressed for more information about their role as lead, it turns out the person was the sole designer, and in their world, sole game designer = lead game designer.
That’s not actually the case. Sole game designer does not equal lead game designer. You can’t lead in a race of one. Exactly who are you leading, again?
The distinction is particularly important when trying to source a lead for a particular role. When I am looking for a lead, I search for people who can lead a design team. A lead has:
- Experience managing other people of the same discipline on a single project – one or many.
- Experience getting randomized by those people 30-40% of the time, but still getting your work done.
- Experience creating the larger vision of the project, and knowing how to parse out pieces of it to others while maintaining cohesion in the overall design.
- Experience establishing and maintaining communication flow through the design team. This is critical for changes.
- Experience teaching junior designers while under deadline pressure.
- Experience mentoring junior designers, complimenting and correcting them and delivering bad news.
- Experience managing team morale.
- Experience firewalling, bullet-shielding and grenade repelling.
- Experience not having all the ropes in your hands all the time.
In effect, you lead a group, while the solo designer has it all on his or her plate. In saying this, I am not at all discounting the role of the solo designer. I’ve designed games all by myself, and yeah, it’s a challenge unlike any other. However, when looking for a lead candidate, I am looking for someone who can lead others while designing, too. I might hire someone who solo designed 5 games, or I might hire someone who led 5 teams of designers. Both feats are super impressive. Whichever way I go, when I see someone claim the lead role on a title, I am assuming that this is what they’ve done.