Pro Career Advice Please

Hi all, I work for a major AAA game company and they’re great and all but lately I haven’t been feeling too comfortable there. I’m a bit a new to the industry and I overheard one of the senior guys sorta talking smack about my work ethic and he’s a nice guy and all and I guess he was just giving his candid feedback to the lead fx artist, but I still don’t feel comfortable working around a guy who thinks I suck.

The studio itself is ok but if I leave for another I might be blacklisting myself, I feel, from at least seven other major studios one of which I’ve always wanted to work for since ever.

Any advice? this is my first major gig and I was just wondering if this is just the norm? Should I just suck it up and stick it out for a year or two, pretend all’s well ask for a transfer to another sister studio afterwards? Or should I just be trying to find a way out asap?


well i feel ya and want to help out but dealing with critical feedback is part of the job – this is an issue for your manager in a 1:1 i’d also look at this job as an opportunity, and that’s their opinion – for reference I ask my manager where I fail as a team member and they are ‘brutal’ but honest, that’s business.

the shifting question I have is understanding their point of view, if you put in 40 hours a week and are expected to do 50+ that’s something you have to weigh in your work/life balance

and a touchy subject but being blacklisted afaik isn’t a thing (in any witch-hunt sort of way) But if someone doesn’t vouch for you better to know that then accidentally use them as a reference.

trying to stay positive.

Does it hold any water? As in, how is your work ethic? Acting on feedback is a part of the job description, if the feedback isn’t valid, ignore it. If it is, perhaps it’s a good thing it was caught early! Use it to grow as an artist. If you feel like you are being treated unfairly, talk to your lead or manager. Take it from me, clamming up helps nobody :confused:

Either way, I don’t see it as grounds to change studio. Were you already looking to move and use this as the straw that broke the camels back?

Its never fun, at my first internship I was flamed by the lead so much it resulted in me not wanting to work there anymore.
I should have spoken up sooner, and… well… my work ethics where very questionable. (Hey, I was young and msn was like crack to me)

I think it would be in your best interest to request a meeting with this senior guy and at least one additional person (lead, hr, whoever you feel more comfortable with) and talk it out. Say you overheard him, tell him you agree or disagree, but always willing to improve (if you mean it of course), and talk it out.

additionally, if anything imho he or his superior should already have reached out to you to talk about the matter.
Nothing good will come out of “clamming up” as Partikel said it. Talk about it, reach out, learn, grow.
who knows, maybe in a few year he and you will be at a bar with a drink laughing about it.

its difficult to answer without knowing exactly what was said but it’s definitely harder to hear criticism about yourself than your work. The knee jerk reaction is usually “screw this guy” but often there’s no smoke without fire and we can always improve ourselves. Maybe the guy was just having a bad day and venting and you got caught in the crossfire, it sounds like you weren’t supposed to hear it anyway.

If you were just looking for an excuse to leave then I wouldn’t worry about blacklisting. Just leaving isn’t enough to burn any bridges, I know lots of people who’ve returned to their previous studios after a break elsewhere.

Bottom line is it was pretty unprofessional for him to be running his mouth like that but think about what he said and see if there’s some grain of truth to it. And speak to your lead about it, maybe the other guy is always moaning about the new guys, we all know someone who’s always complaining (usually me :wink:

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Well it’s sorta a thing, in that ppl who work in the studio will ask someone else if they’ve ever worked with you or someone from the company you’re applying at will call the previous company’s HR to find out what they can about you: I’ve seen it happen and seen ppl get passed over b/c of it.

Was just wondering how bad if really was since I’ve only seen it at this studio

I was sorta looking to maybe move, but I wanted to give this place at least a year.

I do get that I should take it as constructive and I get that it’s a business, but I actually already asked him what I should work on and how to go about it and what he suggests vs what he says off-handedly are starkly different.

I feel like any minute they’re gonna fire me :confused:

But yeah definitely won’t clam up! I’ll keep trying to fake it at least for now.

Also, it doesn’t hold too much water. They hired me as a temp junior, the. Put me on full time and I guess they just expected me to boost skill/knowledge in a month’s time?

I’m not as fast as they are, but it’s not like I’m watching cat videos at work…

The only bad thing they can say is that I’m slow and sometimes don’t do things efficiently. But if I try to ask, they always passive aggressively bring it up down the road :confused:

Then they wonder why I don’t ask for more help?

Hey I completely understand what you are going through. I am a JR as well I just started working at a AAA studio this year right out of college. I would say you should confront/talk him about the criticism (In a way like “hey I just wanted to educate myself some more and would like to learn from my mistakes to improve myself. may you give me your thoughts of my work?”) . In the end it is a TEAM effort :slight_smile: , also you have nothing to lose when doing so. You just gain information to learn from, see your mistakes and make ur FX and workflow better :slight_smile:

I know you feel down, but hey the more you are in communication with your teammates, the more you know your progression, and the pathway to better your skillsets! :smiley: I hope you the best, and hope everything work out for you. keep on working UPWARD! NEVER GIVE UP :smiley:

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Could never do that. The guys is pretty passive aggressive so I’d never comfortably be able to ask him for help if I confronted him with hr; he’s not the type to just forget that type of stuff.

Also, my lead already confronted me about it. Well…I actually confronted him cause I heard those comments and made up an excuse to ask for an evaluation.

I’m sorta in this unspoken probation :frowning:

I already reached out to other studios and some are interested, but I honestly don’t know if maybe it’s just me who’s creating tho problem for himself :sigh:

Haha, yeah I got in a pretty bad mood when I overheard that. I mean mostly cause I OVERHEARD it…i wouldn’t have minded it so much had someone just communicated it to me.

Also, there is some truth to it, but I’m sorta new to the industry. The complaint essentially was that i spend way too much time on fx that in the end don’t end up in the game and that’s it takes me a whil to grasp new concepts.

True I guess, and I’m working on it, but other than practice, experience, and asking questions, km not sure what else to do.

I think I might, if I end up switching studios, just go to HR, and tell them I maybe need more experience at a less “high-profile” gaming studio.

It also doesn’t help that they’re crunching right now…

Already did that and the response was pretty much: “ask us for more help”. But when I do it’s like…”why are we paying you again??”

It’s a delicate balance I’m currently failing at D:

AAA can be a weird place to be. There’s a quote from a lead at a major AAA studio I’ve heard.

“The only difference between a junior and a senior should be the amount of work they produce.”

I strongly disagree with that statement. It’s something the “best of the best” AAA studios get away with as the talent pool they have applying to them is so vast they can usually have their pick. But I feel like if that’s really true it means people aren’t learning and growing and that’s an important aspect of working in the games industry as it evolves so quickly.

I worked at a few larger studios early on, and it was hard for me to take criticism at some of those places. But the games industry is one where criticism is in no short supply. At some companies the culture of criticism is back stabby and political, in others it’s direct and confrontational. If you’re lucky it’ll be a culture of honest critics where no malice or personal attacks are intended, people just want to make better games. It’s also an industry full of passionate people. At the last company I worked at we had a culture where it was okay to walk into the president of the company’s office and say “you’re being an idiot” as long as you could back up that claim with a valid example, and hopefully a solution. I scared a lot of new employees at that company by walking up to them and being quick to critique and very blunt, but in turn often asking for their own criticism of my work.

Gracefully taking criticism and politely giving criticism are important skills. My personal rule for taking criticism has been, “Never take criticism personally, even if they meant it to be.” It has served me well. Try to understand the critique and where it is coming from. Reflect on if it has real truth behind it, or try to understand why they may have that opinion. Sometimes personal attacks are a product of a person who is overworked or otherwise stressed lashing out unintentionally. Sometimes it’s just because they’re an asshole. Sometimes it’s because they’re an asshole who’s being honest and has a valid point. I find I really enjoy working with people from that last group.

My advice to you, or anyone starting out, is to seek out criticism. Seek out opportunities to learn. Try things you know you’ll fail at as these are often the best chances to learn something new. Ask for help when you need it, or get good at Google searches if that’s not an option. :wink:


The fact that you don’t feel like putting your real name on your throw-away account says a lot. You clearly don’t feel safe and that’s bad. If you can’t feel safe at work, start cutting your new reel and interview at places with a more trust-based and honest culture.

There’s a really great GDC talk from the bootcamp this year called “How to go from Good to Great” by Christina Wun of Riot games. She gave a great talk about building a feedback-positive workplace culture based on trust. IMHO it’s one of the best and most important GDC talks I’ve seen for any VFX artist. Having a team you can trust and be frank with is super important.

I think a lot of the time we focus and double down on strictly the technical and artistic pillars of VFX creation, and sometimes we ignore our workplace relationships because of that. Just as important is the trust you have between your teammates and your ability to give and take honest critique. It’s the only way you’ll improve your artistic and technical skills. It’s fundamental to feel safe at work giving and taking critique, and if you can’t get that from work (or if things are getting political), it might be time to find a new job. If you feel like they’re working on getting you fired, you might be correct.

If you want to stay, ask your lead for regular one on ones. I find it helps to have one on ones so you can talk about what’s troubling you. It could be that your lead isn’t sure how you feel yet because you haven’t told them. They might have some ideas on how to help you. Document what was said so you have a paper trail.

Another question to ask; what are the expectations for a junior artist? Making sure you are 100% clear on your expectations will help clear up any confusion, especially if you feel like as a junior you should be meeting expectations. A lot of these conflicts happen when there are expectations someone has of you that you didn’t know about.

More or less, the best thing you can do for yourself now is build trust, trust between yourself and your teammates. Once you have trust, honest to-your-face critique and safety will follow.

Good luck to you, that sounds really stressful and I hope you get your situation sorted out soon. If anything, this might just be a learning experience and growth opportunity for you, though a hard one.


yeah, it really sucks.

Things were find and then this one guy just flipped a switch and suddenly got very critical of me and he’s the guy that pretty much sets the standard for tech at the studio so his word is pretty much final when it comes to vfx, moreso than even the lead…

Then there’s the fact that people give me contradictory “help” and it’s just…ugh. The whole thing blows. What blows even more is that…they’re not bad people…they’re just been at the studio for literally more than a decade and I feel like there a certain amount of posturing from these guys and “not-wanting-to-step-on-toes” going on that it just creates a shitty environment for new guys.

In fact, there aren’t any new guys…just one and I have no idea how he got through it. It’s bloody hell and I just feel so anxious all the time and I feel like such a “snowflake” complaining about this stuff but the passive aggressiveness and unspoken micro-agressions are real and it gets to you after a while. I’d honestly prefer they’d come out and yell out at me and say what they mean instead of these thinly-veiled comments that make me want to barf.


Yeah, I like to think I take criticism well but maybe I don’t?

The thing is though…I’ve been to art school, worked at previous smaller companies, and the criticism wasn’t ever this…odd. I don’t mind criticism, I like it, but…right now…I don’t feel safe trying new things, making new stuff that might go anywhere.

I feel like a lot of the guys there are on auto-pilot and sure they make a lot of cool stuff and quick but it’s just muscle memory really. It’s a job, it’s something they just execute on.

As a Jr., I guess I"m learning their style, technique, tool and i I"m not quick about things I guess and I mean…I’m not trying to be inefficient. It just feels like at any moment they’re gonna call me in to one of the lead’s offices and tell me I"m done :confused:

You’re not a snowflake, it’s just a bad situation you’re in. I’ve been thinking about your situation and I thought it might help to just make sure you fully understand the expectations of your role, as defined by your lead and HR. If your studio doesn’t have those expectations shared anywhere, you can ask. The worst possible outcome is losing your job and if you don’t do anything, that might happen, and if you do this, it might also happen, so you don’t have much to loose.

A few things;

  • How long have you been at the studio, what are the 30, 60, 90 day expectations for an employee? How about after a year or more? Try to get those defined by your lead or HR (depending on the structure of the company). If you need too ask a director level person for help on this too.
  • Ask straight up how you can improve your performance and ask your lead for help with that. If she/he doesn’t help you (which is possible), see if you can find help from somewhere else.
  • If you feel comfortable with it try confronting the sr artist with what you overheard and just ask him for feedback about your performance, and then work on action items on how to improve.
  • Talk to the other people on the team about the work environment to get their take if possible.
  • Let them know they can trust you to take feedback and work on your problems.

I mean if you’re worried about losing your job now while doing nothing, the worst thing that can happen is you lose your job anyway.

If you want to PM me to talk more, feel free.

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TL;DR - Take a deep breath, talk to your lead and don’t leave without being 100% on the same page. If your situation improves, great, and if not, leave.

If you’re trying your best and this person or persons response to you working in a less than ideal way is to talk shit behind your back, then I’d say get out. A good lead or even more senior artist above you’s first response should be to point out what you’re doing wrong, go over your workflow with you, and try to offer some advice or pointers to help you get up to speed as quickly as you can. That’s not going to take more than an hour out of their day, maybe once or twice every other week until you get the hang of things? I get that they are in a crunch, but you not working as efficiently as you could with all of their resources and experience at your disposal is them shooting themselves in the foot, and I honestly believe they are hurting the studio and project with their elitism. At GDC this year it was discussed that VFX artists tend to hoard their knowledge and experience more so than other aspects of game dev, and I think your experience with this studio and these people is a prime example of that, almost to a toxic level.

Take a deep breath, try and get 100% on the same page with your lead, even if it’s intimidating. They should give you a solution or piece of advice for every bit of criticism they give you. There will be only two outcomes of doing this: you stay, or you leave. If you can work things out, find common ground and get up to speed, things should improve. If it doesn’t, you’ll either be dismissed or the situation will stay as bad as it is or get worse, in which case - leave. From reading all your responses in this thread it sounds like you aren’t making much progress at your current studio, and if you stay there it will stunt your learning speed and career growth.

I do understand that junior vfx positions don’t come along very often. I have no HR experience, but if a company is looking for a junior fx artist I would assume they either a) need lots of small effects done to free up their more experienced people to do more big stuff b) they are looking to bring up someone new and get them to a mid level quickly (in which they should be mentoring you as much as they can to get you up to speed) or c) Both A and B. If they hired you for A then that should mean your demo showed you could get the small stuff done that they need, an you should be able to bust it out quickly. If they hired you for B it sounds like they are doing a poor job mentoring you.

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Thanks, I’ve actually done a couple of those things and they help me but like I said, the help often varies (read: one person tells me something the other person says not to do) and since most of the guys there have been there for literally decades, I think they don’t want to step on each other’s toes by giving me advice that the other person may have said not to do.

I’ve talked to other newer vfx guys on the team and they told me they had this problem too but it was a different situation when they joined that I won’t get into cause it might reveal what company I’m working at, but yeah…they had the same exact issue and the new guys coming in are having it too but they’re still “new” so they’re learning the software more than anything whereas I’m expected right now to be producing work and checking them in and so it’s hitting hard right now.

Thanks for the advice and think I will start cutting a new reel soon :confused: A couple of recruiters have already told me to let them know when I was ready for a change in scenery and I know some guys and gals at Riot but lol, I just can’t get into League of Legends xD I swear I’ve tried so many times, but it’s just so ugghh

Ah well, thanks!

It’s a little of A and B.

They’re actually not very bad people, AAA is just such a machine, that I dunno…I don’t blame them for the way they are, it’s just what it is- ya know? There really isn’t any knowledge hoarding either, they’re completely open, it’s more the soft-skills I’m finding they’re severely lacking.

I feel like I have to explain to them why they kinda suck at being leaders which is both mind-boggling and frustrating that a AAA company has this problem.

I dunno, that’s why I wrote on this forum…I just wanted to see if I was just crazy to be so frustrated, or if I was maybe being a bit arrogant, or if I was just being a huge “whiner”, maybe a bit of everything…haha, I dunno. What I do know is working there right now is turning my stomach in knots.

I also did go to HR before writing all this and was told basically what y’all have been telling me to do but just wanted to get a second opinion before I blacklist myself from a bunch of sister studios.

Thanks for the reply!

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I did find myself in a somewhat similar situation in the beginning of my career, and it was a bit tough and did make me quite upset. I had to simply put up with it because I was an immigrant with a temp work visa. If I found myself out of work I’d need to leave the country and that would be too disruptive at the moment.

It was definitely not great for my mental health, but I made through it and things got much better later on. Some people start to trust you better, some people get shuffled around, so the situation overall might change.

So think about it - In the chance things do get better, would it be worth putting up with this? Studios that make games you like to play are not necessarily studios that you’d like to work at, and vice-versa.