Successful video game studios require many things, hard work, talent, dedication, a little bit of luck can help-but it’s the dedication to the dream in the end that really pays off. One component often overlooked because of its seemingly “boring” nature is company management, but one producer warns new video game designers to pay careful attention to management because in his view it’s the “X” factor to any company that wants to realize their dream as well as their bottom line.
Chris Heady, producer for the software development company Safe Communications, sat down to discuss his perspective on effective management techniques and the vital strategies needed to break in to the professional side of the video game industry.
Having managed his company team for the past year and a half Heady explains what he believes gave him an edge in the management role, “When you can clearly and concisely communicate, both talking to somebody and receiving the information they are giving you it really helps your ability to learn new things and tackle challenging tasks,” he continued and added, “I think that good communication skills come out of life experience, you need to learn how to talk to people.”
Being in a position where he is responsible for interviewing and hiring new team members, Heady also gave insight into some of the properties he looked for in potential candidates. Having technical skills, knowledge of the toolsets being implemented by the project, and of course communication skills is a no-brainer but Heady also advises students currently studying with the hopes of finding employment in the games industry to always put their personal best forward in every walk of life because many of the candidates he interviewed were former classmates whose previous academic achievements spoke for them in many instances.
With all these factors being considered, Heady also explained one of the most important qualities he sought in any potential employee, “In any of the interviews I did whether it was for a technical position or an art position was just general confidence in the individual. If they exhibited confidence through tone of voice, eye contact, and other mannerisms, that stood out to me that they were confident in their abilities, and that they were not overly intimidated by the situation,” and continued, “You don’t want to be the guy not making eye contact or tapping your foot constantly.”
For those hoping to manage their own team as opposed to joining a pre-existing one, Heady also had plenty of advice on where to begin, “One thing I have learned about the game industry is a lot of people have ideas for stories. They come in and say ‘I’ve got this great idea for a game!’ And then they start explaining it and very quickly we start seeing we are not talking about a game we are talking about a story, which is fine, but understanding the difference between the two is huge.”
To anyone considering a game project Heady offers this important thought, “When you are talking about a game you need to talk about things like mechanics, how the game plays, how it functions, how do we monetize-which is a big one,” and elaborates, “I have heard awesome stories, I have heard awesome mechanics, I have heard lots of really good ideas, but one of the things that is not thought about is the monetization.”
Heady went into more detail as he explained the importance of factoring in monetization to a game development plan, “With any kind of business you need to make money so if you haven’t really thought out how you are going to make money that is a big one to figure out. The app markets do things like give an app out for free and sell Google ad space, that’s all fine and good but is that going to fund your next project or truly fund your current project? There is a lot more to it.”
For those not sure of what research is needed to answer the monetization question Heady offers some helpful considerations, “Demographic and platform are big ones. Who are you trying to sell to? Your monetization for something like Call of Duty is going to be completely different from Candy Crush Saga. Do some market research, find similar games, similar genres, and see how they are doing it. Find out what works what does not work. Not only is it going to take a fair amount of research, but a fair amount of forward thinking.” Heady continued, “We are in an industry that changes quickly. It wasn’t that long ago that the $14.99 subscription for World of Warcraft was the standard, that’s how you paid for MMO’s. As of now it’s been completely re-thought. Things are going free to play with micro-transactions, pay to play, pay to win, and so on. Be dynamic in your thinking don’t feel that there is only one right way to do something.”
Heady also discussed how dynamic thinking can be implemented in management tactics as well, “The game industry is still relatively young compared to every other industry out there, yet we are still operating under similar criteria used during the industrial era, 9am-5pm Monday-Friday and having things like Crunch Time,” Heady continued, “There is a lot of room for exploration in how we do things from a management perspective.”
Heady’s final piece of advice, “Anybody considering getting involved in this industry needs to realize, it can be very fun, and it can be very rewarding, but you really have to be self-motivated and have a desire to do this.”