“Slow Learners” might actually be Deep Thinkers

An aspiring designer asked me if I thought they were good enough for an associate role. I told them, “Not yet, but you’re almost ready for senior roles.”

Here’s what I meant:

People often think I learn extremely quickly. Nah, I’m a slow learner.

I am very bad at rote memorization, I need to understand the ‘why’ of everything in order to learn it.

I failed out of foreign language in high-school because I couldn’t figure out the ‘why’ of the grammar rules or word choices.

In physics class, I couldn’t remember the formulae until I derived them myself (one time during an exam!).

Over the years I’ve turned this worked hard to turn this weakness into a strength.

I *seem* to learn quickly because I want to understand how everything connects, and I have a strong foundation to build on these days. I “joke” that I spend at least as much time iterating on my design processes as I do designing games. It’s not an exaggeration.

My goals is that if you ask me anything about my designs, from why we chose a specific theme to why a button is in the lower right instead of the upper right, I can draw you a line of reasoning all the way back to the initial player experience and business goals of the feature.

(In this case, it would likely be because the game is seeking to expand to cross-platform play and buttons in the lower right are thumb-friendly)

I think many people are in a similar situation. I know many people in similar situations. I’ve seen people struggle and flail with “easy” work that is really just code for “mindless” work.

This aspiring designer is one of them, though I can’t call him aspiring any more. He leapfrogged past associate into a mid-level role. If he’s not a senior in a few years, I’ll be very surprised.

Engage your slow learners. Explain the “why” of every design choice, bring them into the high level strategy that they “don’t need to know”. Explain why your studio chose to make this game instead of another game, this feature instead of another feature. Codify what good looks like and why, then teach it to them.

Your slow learners may just be deep thinkers.

Give them the right guidance and they’ll build you a skyscraper. Those things need deep foundations.

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