Here’s the short version of my Employer’s Rite of Passage, the first post I ever published on Gamasutra and also the first one that got featured. I love this article, not because I consider it any good or well written, but because I can read it after 3 years and still agree with my younger self. I really do hope that anyone in wish of a (new) job in the video games industry – and not only – treats this for what it is: a business relationship between you and a company (aka a bunch of people, because a company is never, ever a Thing) and, as such, you should never underestimate your role in this partnership.
The Employer’s Rite Of Passage
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
Most companies have a probation period policy towards new hires. It makes sense; it may take a lifetime to know a person, or even more, and so there’s always a degree of risk when you are prepared to work with somebody new. As an employer, all you’ve got is a handful of paper with facts that may or may not be true, and a limited amount of time where you get to test the candidate, after which you’ll have to trust your instinct or your recruiter (or both) to take a leap of faith in a pretty demanding and -hopefully- long term commitment. To counter that, as an employer, you may rightfully use a probation period or limited contracts or all sorts of other legal tools to back yourself up in case of failure. But I strongly believe in the idea that, as a worker, the probation period applies to me as well, to evaluate a company that I know only from fame and PR. In the end, it takes two to make a commitment.
So here’s my employer’s rite of passage. Here is what I expect from a company with which I want to build a long term commitment , especially when that company is a video game studio where I plan to invest a lot of time and passion; where I expect nothing less of me than to go above and beyond to help create great video games and, as such, where I know I’ll need the proper motivation from my colleagues, partners, friends.
By the way, whilst a company sounds more like an object, it is composed of people. So I’ll reffer to it as to a human being, which is usually expressed in the metaphoric image of a boss.
1. Have values and stay true to them
Making a profit is not a value, it is just a side effect from what you, as a company, provide. Whilst the world we live in is far from perfect, it has been proven many times over that if you provide something of value, people will pay for it. So please make me, the measly employee, aware and responsible to abide by your values! If you hired right, I should have the same values myself, so this is a win – win situation. By the way, respect and honesty are defaults for any value list, for any company and person.
2. Hire right
One can easily write pretty things on a paper but that doesn’t mean his mindset will fit your team. If you have a set of core values by which you guide your company, you must make sure that all the people you hire abide by those values as well. Some of them come “for free”, such as “thou shall not steal”, so why can’t “Thou shall respect one another and help each other” be just as sanctified as the rule about stealing? Remember, skills can easily be learned and/ or improved, but values are hardcoded.
3. Trust and respect me
If you hired me to perform a specific job, trust me at least until until proven otherwise. YOU are the one who hired me, after all, so please don’t make me feel like at school, doing homework. Instead of controlling me, especially if this involves yelling which I retain to be highly unprofessional, I invite you to know me and – yes – exploit me, give me the freedom I need to go above and beyond what you asked. In an industry that requires so much passion, oftentimes all your new hire needs is a push in the right direction. Also, remember that trust builds over time, from BOTH sides; it’s difficult to gain and easy to lose.
4. Acknowledge me
If I do go above and beyond my job requirements, make me understand you see it and appreciate it; one should never “appreciate” his or her employees by a raise alone. If I don’t, help me rise up to your expectations and appreciate my effort. But never forget the golden rule: always praise in public, always criticise in private. And also, I expect YOU to go above and beyond to get to know me, so you can evaluate me and reward me appropriately. If you at least try, I’ll notice and purr in my mind, because I will feel that I am appreciated – and man, does that feel nice!
Furthermore, don’t apply the factory style of management: don’t ask impossible goals, well aware that no one will reach them and so everybody will feel like they didn’t reach the goals. I am human, just like you; don’t prove to me that what you really wanted was a class A++ machine that spits results. Machines are known for their lack of creativity and innovation, both of which very important in this industry.
5. Be honest
This is really my number one rule. If you promise something, do it. Don’t tell me you’ll have 5 minutes for me after lunch and then forget. Don’t promise me no crunch in an interview, then make me live my life at your office. Don’t promise an evaluation after x months, then forget. In an industry as effervescent as video games, things happen and happen fast, but if you never have time for me and if you always forget what you have promised, I’ll become convinced I have no value for you so I’ll head to a place where I do feel like I have a value.
Generally, it is better to hold back on a promise until you can truly fullfil it and then use it as a suprise. It’s way better to get an unexpected bonus than to never get a bonus that was promised and expected.
6. Don’t drain me in Excels
Video games is about passion and, whilst the industry certainly has its mercenaries, most people start making games because they love them. Otherwise, the software industry is better paid and with way less crunch. So, especially if you hired me in a creative role, please don’t drown me in bureucracy. I came here to create the very thing I most love, not to learn accounting. Also, whilst I am certainly not against my collaboration in this, it is YOUR responsibility to make me be organized and helpful for your true acconting department. In fact, a timesheet can be extremely useful if done right; it can save me from Outlook’s calendar and keep me up to date with the project’s progress, something I should always be willing to be aware of, regardless of my trade. Please, think of me as a creative person, not as a resource that costs X per day.
7. Be a rolemodel
Be the person you want to hire. Be respectful, diplomatic and helpful, be gentle and make everybody’s day of work more pleasant (if that is the type of person you seek to hire, obviously 🙂 ). Be honest and wise; don’t yell, but don’t postpone talking to me if you have something to say. Value your word, get things done, share your passion. I consider it a very important perk to be able to learn, really learn, from your own boss. Also, please listen; encourage everybody to participate and listen, as you might find many golden eggs if you do just that.
8. Be fair
Don’t expect me to work for you for free if you are not yourself willing to work for free for your client. If you have a reason to ask for extras, share it, in both motivation and profits. You’ll be surprised to see most of us passionate devs are more than willing to put in those extra miles, if you prove to be honest and trustworthy and passionate, just like us.
9. Be humble and open minded
You are only human, too, so you’re not perfect; in fact, you’ll sometimes be wrong, just like the rest of us. When you’re wrong, appologise and correct. When you’re right, be humble and share your success, because it’s likely a result of your good team. And always be open minded; sometimes, the most unconventional ideas help save thousands of dollars, which can then improve the lives of all of you, if shared. Creating a game is a collaborative process and, unless you’re Notch, you’ve certanly did not get where you are alone.
10. Forge a long lasting community
Forging a team is hard work spent in many years, because trust is not easily gained. Speed up this process by making work not feel like work; we’re creating GAMES, after all. Invest in passion and passion will invest back in you. All of you. All of us, really.
This list was created in 11 years of working experience out of which 2 in the actual video games development industry. It is not a result of any of my experiences, but rather a conglomerate which was built based on everything I have read, heard and experienced in all those years. And I am only at the beginning 🙂