Company culture takeaways from IGDA Leadership Day and Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki 2019

I participated two game developer conferences this week:

I went to see a few dozen presentations and panels in the events. Here are my best takeaways from both conferences, mostly related to some of my favourite themes:

  • leadership
  • fostering company culture
  • building great teams

IGDA Leadership Day

Mirella Keto from Ubisoft RedLynx talked about brain based coaching at the IGDA Leadership Day. The SCARF model is a really good tool for fostering creativity and motivation at a workplace.

If you want to grow your skills in coaching and live in Finland, I’d advise you to check out https://neuroleadership.fi/en/. Don’t forget to contact Mirella too!

Mirella also talked about the growth mindset — a mindset where one is open to feedback and personal growth:

Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning. When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation. In contrast, people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more of only one thing: cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race. (HBR)

This slide was about the benefits of not wearing the “tough lead” mask at work and showing how you actually feel to your team. It’s ok to say “today I’m tired, so I might not be able to concentrate so well in the meeting” or “I’m sad because X happened yesterday”. No need to hide these things at work if you want to grow a culture of empathy.

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve facilitated a lot of meetings and retrospectives. The get people to be really present and open in the sessions, I’ve used this check-in method:

  1. As a facilitator, lay 100 Dixit cards of the table or floor before the meeting starts.
  2. In the beginning of the meeting let everyone pick 2–3 cards that look interesting or resonate with them in some way at the moment.
  3. After the cards have been picked, do a round where everyone tells why they picked the cards or what feelings or thought the cards cause.
  4. Something magical happens everytime we do this. People will be more open towards others when the actual meeting begins, as we’ve lifted our masks at least partly.
  5. Do a quick check-out round after the meeting to let people share how everyone felt about the session as a whole.

Pocket Gamer Connects Big Screen Gaming track

Here are Redhill’s Miloš Jeřábek’s reading tips for leaders who want to foster a company culture that supports motivation:

Right now Miloš is building a team in Helsinki, and worldwide if I remember correctly, so if you’re looking for a company that takes building culture seriously, check Redhill’s open positions. If I got it right, they’re looking for both juniors and seniors.

Andreea Chifu from Raw Fury Games gave a long list of pro tips from a publisher’s standpoint. I really loved the metaphor for the games Raw Fury is looking for:

  • A game that’s like the odd kid in the school
  • Games that feel so special that they give butterflies to stomach

They’ve published a plethora of really amazing games, so keep them in mind when looking for a publisher for your IP.

Remedy’s lead producer Juha Vainio talked about how it’s important to shift the decision making power from the creative/game director to the lead/executive producer as the project’s timeline moves forward. This shift of power is essential if you want to ship the game in time.

After the presentation someone asked what happens when the game director and lead producer are totally unable to agree on something. Juha certainly has faced these situations as the lead producer of Control. This where you just have to walk to your superior to get a decision. In this case I would guess it’s the CEO or a member of the board, since both parties are already top execs.

Brooke Maggs from Remedy had good insights on how to start early on with narrative design. Here you can see a wall filled with both concept art and narrative design documentation. She emphasized how imporant it is to have this information visualised in a physical space for the team instead of buried in team’s Google Drive.

Pocket Gamer Connects Indie track

Harri Manninen from Play Ventures talked about a perfect pitch. According to him, the product and the idea are not nearly as important as the team and it’s story.

If you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they’ll still be able make a great product out of it. But if you give a great idea to a mediocre team, the product will still be mediocre.

Harri Manninen’s reading tips for landing a pitch:

And some extra tips from Harri. He also mentioned that your main pitch deck should be 10–15 slides + an elaborate appendix with 100+ pages. Also, avoid the holiday seasons.

I was impressed by the laser sharp focus of the presentation. If your team is in need of an VC investor, be sure to give Harri and Play Ventures a call.

Pocket Gamer Connects Vision & Values track

Sophie Vo from Voodoo held a really inspiring speech on how to recruit the right type of people to your company. Here are her reading tips for the leaders who want to build a truly great team:

Felicia Prehn from Nopia had a very memorable talk about accessibility in games. It was heartbreaking to hear how much hatred she and other people with disabilities have gotten in the gaming twittersphere.

If you’re looking for an accessibility consultant for your game project, look no further.

Nikolina Zidar from Unicorn Pirates had a presentation that was probably the best talk of the whole conference for me since I’m a strong advocate for diversity. Here are the rest of the relevant slides:

What an amazing company.

Huge thanks to all the speakers and organizers!

P.S. The most important decision in participating game dev conferences is naturally what T-shirt to wear. This time I went with Ropecon Pride shirt:

Written by

Dad. Geek. UX Director. Democracy activist. Founder of Silakkaliike and Safepoint community. Building a collective of researchers, scientists and activists.

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