I think shouldn't be far from true to say that often beginners feel lost and don't know the best way to improve their skills, especially if they are self-thaught in wathever they are learning, being it 2D, 3D, Programming or wathever. There could be many obstacles and pitfall to learning, it could be that since one is begginner he/she doesn't realize that the scope of his project is just too big, or maybe one can't come up with a good story/gameplay for his life so lack the motivation to even attempt doing anyting on his own, and maybe one is stuck in a situation where would like to have the story/gameplay aspect figured out by someone better at it (by joining a team) but lack the technical skill to join said team and has an hard time gaining said skill because is not in a team to begin with.
So I thought, something that can help beginners grow faster is something I saw in other communities around the web, which is friendly competitions.
The ones I know of are mostly 2D-3D related, for instance polycount.com "Bi-Monthly CHARACTER ART Challenge" and "Monthly Environment Art Challenge", or conceptart.org "Character of the Week", "Creature of the Week", "Environment of the Week".
Of course there are many more of this challenges I would like to see come into existence related to programming and game engines, for instance challenges in making certain games (see usual tetris/pong but also something more unique and specific, given some guidelines) and challenges like "Create a Water shader in Unreal Engine", or "Create a water ripple particle effect" and so on.
The cool thing about this is that begginner could compare each other works (professional hopefully join in the challenge as well) and see how the best resoult where obtained, with everyone focusing/researching on the same task and learning from the best examples. This stuff is not far from something like school exercise from my point of view, therefore something invaluable for self-taught beginners who are at higher risk of getting lost by lack of direction.
And here's gamedev.net twist on the subject, by joining and completing the current challenges one would get "achievments" or "medals" that are visible in his profile and under his avatar, as a cool way to improve his rep and keep the community active
This is the kind of place I would like to see, where one join, check the current challenges list and decide to join in and learn something new or improve on the subject during that day/week. Also often I open the forum and there are no new topic that need to be replied, therefore this would keep us all busy in the free time
Of course, maybe this sounds fun on digital paper but could end up not working, I have no idea if this stuff can work smoothly on sites that have less than a certain treshold of traffic, and it also require the time from someone actively creating this challenges content.
Well anyway, I think it is worth thinking about it, let me know what do you think