It is quite useful to learn from the mistakes of others.
When my business partners and I decided to devote full time effort to our company, we had seen lots of errors in our combined experience in the game industry, as well as from business in general. We thought that we had witnessed enough pitfalls that we could succeed merely by avoiding the many mistakes that we had watched others make. Alas, there are always new and interesting ways to screw things up, and we stepped in a few ourselves.
I have long believed that the best way to learn something is to make a mistake at it, and the greater the disappointment or embarrassment (or even pain), the better the lesson. A child does not necessarily remember all of the words he got correct in a spelling bee, but he always knows how to spell the one word he got wrong to eliminate him.
Of course, it is much harder to get people to take a written or spoken, rather than experienced, lesson to heart. Nevertheless, I will face this challenge and attempt to illuminate some of the pitfalls one may want to avoid to make excellent games, run a successful business, or simply have an enjoyable and respectable life.
Every once in a while, I will post a true “How Not To…” story showing a mistake made by someone, whether an individual or an organization. These lessons will be prefixed with “HNT:” in the title and will describe the incorrect method of accomplishing something. I may or may not change or omit names or details to protected the guilty, depending on my mood. The correct or appropriate solution(s) will be left as an exercise for the reader.
Note that if you recognize yourself in one of these scenarios, remember that it is an opportunity to improve. If people say negative things about you, there are two basic possibilities: 1) they are right and you can learn, or 2) they are full of it and can be ignored. Decide honestly which category applies, and then move on.
Microsoft is a favorite target of many, but one particular recent practice has ticked me off enough that it was time to write the first of these lessons.