Jobs Seekers, Remember The Thumperian Principle

The Thumperian PrincipleWhen the character Thumper first appears in the film Bambi, he remarks that the young, clumsy-footed Bambi is “kinda wobbly” but is quickly admonished by his mother, who makes him repeat what his father had impressed upon him that morning, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.  This moral is known as the “Thumperian Principle” and it is one that I advise job seekers to remember when on an interview or asking for assistance.

I was reminded of the wisdom of The Thumperian Principle this weekend when someone wanting to break into the game industry posted a request for advice on an industry messageboard.  Many people posted helpful suggestions, until the job seeker suddenly made a critical remark about the work of a well-known member of the game industry.  The mood immediately changed, with other members pointing out that the person he was criticizing was a well-respected member of the community and that it was rude to insult one of the members while asking for help of the other members.  “Good luck on breaking into the industry now,” wrote one of the posters.

That last poster was right.  Insulting or criticizing an industry you are trying to break into can ruin your chances for a number of reasons.

First, the game industry is actually very small, and many of its members, especially the more prominent ones, know each other.  You never know if the person you are criticizing is the best friend of the person you are speaking to.

Second, it’s just plain arrogant and ignorant to suggest that you, with zero years of experience, know better than someone who has had many years of success.

Third, it makes you look bad, especially if the person you are criticizing is a former boss or co-worker.  It’s not that we hiring managers don’t realize that that there are nightmare bosses out there (heck, I’ve worked for some of them), but right or wrong, the convention is that you simply don’t badmouth a former employer in a job interview, unless there are extremely extenuating circumstances such as gender or racial discrimination). Even if you have verifiable evidence that proves you were wronged in a previous job, the interviewer will only see a cloud of negativity around you, and negativity breeds more negativity.

When you badmouth someone in an interview, it immediately brings these questions to the interviewer’s mind:

  • What’s the other side of this story?
  • Is this person difficult to please?
  • Do they have reasonable expectations of the workplace?
  • Are they going to quit here too the first time something happens that they don’t like?
  • Are they going to be badmouthing me someday too?

Now, you do have a right to have your own perceptions and opinions, but the trick is to know when and where to share them.  That doesn’t mean you should lie, but it does mean there are times when you should keep your opinions to yourself.

And if you are asked to give your opinions of a former boss or the work of well-known person in the industry?  In the first instance, talk about how the experience how you learned to work with someone with differing opinions or tested your problem-solving skills.  In the second instance, discuss how your approach differs from the person in question and what contributions you hope to bring to your next project.

Always focus on the positive, because just as negativity breeds negativity, good will can breed good will, which is something that is invaluable when looking for your next job.

So, remember the advice of Thumper’s dad: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.



About David Mullich

I am a video game producer who has worked at Activision, Disney, Cyberdreams, EduWare, The 3DO Company and the Spin Master toy company. I am currently a game design and production consultant, a game design instructor at ArtCenter College of Design, and co-creator of the Boy Scouts of America Game Design Merit Badge. At the 2014 Gamification World Congress in Barcelona, I was rated the 14th ranking "Gamification Guru" in social media.

Posted on February 8, 2016, in Career Advice. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. A pretty long while ago I played a free tower (fortress?) defense flash game on kongregate. It was a well made fortress defence game, but one part of it stood out to me was it’s story: it was the worst game story I have ever seen but done in a really specific way that made it look to me as an interesting example.

    (Personally while I have not much experience in creating art, but I found myself that often playing bad games, watching bad movies etc is a lot more eye-opening experience than watching good ones, in some cases; I found that it gives me context, for example).

    Is it ethical to point it out and comment on it’s flaws? If so, in what circumstances? The more I look at it, the more it seems to me that the developers should never, ever be negative about other games (at least not out loud), for pretty obvious reasons :/ Are there any exceptions, when it comes to the situations and particular games? I feel like it always paints the one that utters it as self centered douche (unless they talk about about their previous games, in which case it makes them sound condescending towards previous customers), which is a pretty annoying change for me, because complaining was always my second nature :/

    • While this post is about the perils of badmouthing someone with whom you worked during a job interview, criticizing a game is another matter. Yet, it still is a matter of context. It’s fine to write a game review and critique a game’s flaws, and it’s fine to contact a game studio via it’s message board to let them know about issues you have with one of their games, hoping to get the problem fixed. But just badmouthing a game just to badmouth it? It’s better to focus on things you like.

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