If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 15 or so years in the games industry, it’s that few aspects of the business are paid as much lip service as hiring.
“Yes”, your prospective boss may tell you as they take you on a tour of the office, “hiring is extremely important. Hiring is ultimately how we maintain our culture and value creation capacity, while at the same time ensuring that we have the drive and flexibility needed to pivot when the market so demands – and also to beat that same market to the punch through everyday grassroots innovations”.
So far, so good, you think. A bit bureaucratic an answer perhaps, but the theory seems on-point.
And then they introduce you to Jane, the company’s lone in-house recruiter. Jane has been left to her own devices to dig up potential candidates or at the very least ensure that the candidates find her. She is also expected to manage all the vetting and stage 1 interviewing of every single eligible and interested candidate, regardless of subject matter area. Additionally, she is not allowed to use outside agencies to track candidates down. Too expensive, you see.
As you start looking around for the nearest fire escape, or at the very least a window to jump out of, you’re told by your host in a magnanimous tone of voice that Jane “has one of those fancy LinkedIn Pro accounts”. When you ask how many people she’s expected to recruit this fiscal year you quickly wish you hadn’t.
It’s a caricature, but one that most of us with hiring experience have, at least partially, experienced in real life. The reason it’s so common is because the underlying reasons are often the same. They include a lack of understanding of how much work is actually required in order to bring good staff through the door, as well as outright arrogance; thinking that the reputation of the company will magically attract the right people. The filtering process and negotiation phases are also routinely under-estimated, as well as what happens once the candidate has actually commenced working at the company.
I have, however, yet to meet anyone who claimed that having the right staff is not important. Many people just suck at attracting and hiring said staff. So I thought I’d put together a list of my own personal best practices for not only “doing hiring the right way”, but more importantly “doing games industry hiring the right way”.
The blog’s been dormant lately for a bunch of reasons, but I’m hoping to drop some lines again sometime soon, seeing as I’ve managed to move house and do all the other big projects that were in the pipe.
In the meantime, I’ve had the chance to do two Let’s Play videos for Mad Max and Just Cause 3, and would like to share them here.
Thanks for checking them out!
Just a very short update for those following my blog. I’ve started streaming. The angle of the stream is kind of the same as that of the blog; I’m trying to be me, while also being educational and somewhat interesting.
The first Game Design Centric let’s play I’m doing focuses on Bloodborne. Take a look at episode 1 right here, if you would:
I’m pretty sure that everyone who follows the games industry has noticed the controversy that’s developed over the past few weeks around Peter Molyneux, his company 22 Cans, and the Kickstarter-funded game Godus. I’m not going to bother to recap the whole chain of events, but I think it’s fair to say that the culmination of it all was this RockPaperShotgun interview. Anyone who’s heard anything about this story has probably heard of this piece in particular.
For my part, I’m not really interested in discussing the interview itself too much. It doesn’t really concern me how it was conducted, or how Molyneux came across (if anything, it pisses me off how belated the reaction is, seeing as none of this stuff is really new when it comes to Peter).
No, for my part I’m mostly interested in the assertions about how game development is conducted, what it takes to make a great game and the nature of making predictions and estimates. Because even if we were to accept the premise that Peter is completely honest in defending his past statements and actions, he is still quite unforgivably and amateurishly incorrect about a lot of things. At the very least, he needs to be cognizant of, and responsible for, his voluntarily and stubbornly viewing the game development process as impossibly chaotic and unpredictable. Even more so, he should be ashamed of trying to pretend that his own inadequacies are in any way inherent in the game development process. Perpetuating that kind naiveté might be a great way to whitewash one’s own incompetence, but it also does great harm to both gamers’ understanding of games and the game development community itself.
I offer this link without commentary:
Recommend checking out this article:
My own comments below:
These are all good questions. I would offer the following advice:
For point 1: “Who is the project manager for this development?”
To be fair, not everyone has a “General Manager” of a project. Indeed, that’s an oftentimes bad role in a creative enterprise; most subject matter specialists don’t like answering to a person who has authority just by virtue of handling the money. That said, if they use a better model, they should explain that model. So maybe what we should be asking is:
“Do you have an Organizational Chart for the team?” (Also, asking for workflows will sometimes yield some interesting information, but that’s a bit more advanced.)
The Org Chart should define the roles and responsibilities, and should also help in answering question 2 and to a lesser extent 3.
To further answer question 3, and to answer question 6 at the same time, the team should provide a preliminary Product Roadmap, featuring key milestones and staff ramp-up schedule at the same time.
Questions 4 and 5 can both be answered in the same budget breakdown document (even if the tools are free, they should still be listed and indicated as such).
Question 7 should be answerable both in the body of the pitch, but also in the aforementioned documents. Early Access and the like should be in the roadmap. Other sources of funding should be in the budget breakdown (as that shouldn’t just feature the Kickstarter money).
Two more things I would ask are:
* Where are you planning to get the additional staff from?
Quality staff are hard to come by. If you want the best of the best, you may have to use agents. Or at the very least direct approaches (which are time consuming), and then you have to expect to pay a lot more than you would for students out of Uni.
If they have a core team of relatively skilled and experienced people, sure, that can go a long way. But if they commit to a timeline for the additional hires, that puts them under time pressure. So I’d like to know if the future hires are scoped out already or if they will post a job listing or what.
* What happens if the project attracts unexpected investment?
People were none too happy with the whole Oculus/Facebook thing. Maybe explain the team’s philosophical stance on working with large companies, and what happens to the backers’ investment if and when EA steps in and buys the whole shebang.