Senior game industry individuals, showing the tricks of the trade.
Mentoring as Commitment
Basically, a mentor is a veteran in the industry that accompanies a young game development company to maturity. The difference to a coach doesn’t necessarily lie in the depth of experience, but in the approach. Mentoring is an informal, often volunteer commitment of the mentor towards the team. Often a mentor has produced games similar to the vision of the novice team.
While a coach will be able to coach teams with many different types and modes of games, a mentor would be chosen for their specific experience in line with the ambitions of the incubatee team. In short, a coach need not be an expert in serious games to be a good coach for an incubatee team interested in serious games, but a mentor would typically have to be experienced in creating and marketing serious games.
Mentors most often follow the same company over multiple sessions / meetings and over a longer period of time. Depending on the complexity of the topic they mentor in, a mentor may focus entirely on one single company. Alternatively, a mentor can run mentor-sessions with multiple companies at a time. The frequency and length of sessions depends on the topic. Like the coach, the mentor follows the teams closely and keeps track of their progress.
Becoming a Mentor and Choosing a Scope
Mentors are external additions to the incubation programme and as they are volunteers, they often need to be motivated. Frequently, they have fulltime jobs, and need to take time away from that. So how do we motivate them and what do we expect in return?
Though the game community shows a great willingness to share and support each other, which makes it easier to find a mentor, it depends strongly on the maturity of the industry to have big enough a pool of experienced game developers to take on the role of mentoring.
What motivates experienced game developers to take on the role of mentor?
- Personal satisfaction of giving their knowledge to the next generation.
- Boosting their self-esteem, talking about their own accomplishments, and teaching others through it.
- Personal branding, building your resume and reputation in the industry.
- Being part of building the local / national incubation network or building the industry and its community in your own country / city.
- Learn something new (first-time mentors), learn to be a mentor, learn about new tech.
- Money (some mentors make a living as expert consultants).
Incubators expect mentors to provide:
- Practical knowledge and experience, and share this readily for the benefit of the mentee.
- Spend the time that is necessary / agreed.
- Familiarise themselves with the mentee situation and product. Possibly research that sub-business area of the industry (new tech).
- Help make contact to their networks, e.g. publishers, experts for specific topics, other companies working on the same type of game, and investors.