Category Archives: Game Production
People who don’t work in game development might be surprised by how much time game developers spend in meetings. At most game companies I’ve worked at, I spend about half my time at my workstation and the other half in meetings on a typical day. Both are work, but if the meetings aren’t run well, people’s time are not used as productively as it could be.
Most development teams begin their day with a meeting to update everyone with the team’s progress on the previous day. Many of these teams have adopted the daily stand-up approach for these morning meetings. As conceived by the Scrum agile development methodology, these Daily Stand-ups are governed by the following rules to keep the meetings short and productive:
- The meeting takes place at the same time and place very day.
- The meeting starts precisely on the time even if some development team members are missing.
- The length of the meeting is limited to 15 minutes, regardless of the number of team members participating.
Anyone is welcome to sit in on the meeting, but only team members may participate, and their participation is limited to answering these three questions:
- What did I complete yesterday that contributed to the team meeting our immediate goal?
- What do I plan to complete today to contribute to the team meeting our immediate goal?
- Do I see any impediment that could prevent me or the team from meeting our immediate goal?
Nothing else (e.g., the upcoming company picnic, the movie you saw last night, the morning news) is to be discussed at the meeting, and any discussion of any impediments raised by team members should be held at a separate meeting of the affected individuals. The daily stand-up should only be used to keep everyone apprised of the team’s current progress, plans and problems so that everyone can start the day’s work as soon as possible, but with the necessary information to be productive.
As for other meetings held throughout the day, the person running the meeting should have a clear idea of what the actual purpose of the meeting is. Effective teams usually hold meetings to achieve one of the following purposes:
- Kickoff Meeting: The meeting organizer gets a new project started on the right foot by sharing the vision for the project’s goals with the participants and hopefully get them excited about working on the project.
- Brainstorming Sessions: Meeting participants generate ideas for proposing new projects, creating content within existing projects, or solutions for problems.
- Information Distribution: The meeting organizer shares information and news with the participants. This could be information about things like upcoming changes to the project, company news, or industry trends.
- Planning: The participants must create a strategy for achieving a goal raised by the meeting organizer.
- Decision Making: The participants must reach a decision on a matter raised by the meeting organizer.
- Problem-Solving: The participants must find a solution for an issue raised by the meeting organizer.
- Feedforward: This is a more lengthy meeting than the daily stand-up, where participants provide more detailed information on progress, challenges, and next steps.
- Feedback: The participants provide reactions or assessments to a matter raised by the meeting organizer. That matter could be some idea that’s under consideration, a recent project deliverable, how well the team is working together, or the state of the project itself.
- Team-Building: Building and maintaining team harmony by allowing both the meeting organizer and participants to discuss news, important or not, in a more formal setting. Many companies hold such meetings at the end of the work week before everyone leave on the weekend.
- Combination: Meetings to achieve two or more of the above purposes can be effective but only if well-managed by the meeting organizer.
After determining the purpose of a meeting, the organizer next choose who should be invited (or required) to participate in the meeting, how long the meeting should run, and when and where the meeting should take place. Once all that is determined, the organizer writes a meeting agenda and distributes it to all participants prior to the meeting so that they will come prepared.
The organizer should begin the meeting with a short summary of the meeting’s purpose so that all participants understand what is expected from them, and during the meeting the organizer or another designated participant should keep notes on who attended the meeting, what was discussed, and what was decided.
However, even with meetings where the organizer is the one distributing information to the participants, the organizer should allow everyone to express their opinions about what was discussed so that they are not preoccupied with unvoiced concerns or opinions after the meeting is over.
In fact, the meeting organizer should try to read the expressions and body language of the people in the room to look for signs of someone who has something to say but doesn’t speak up in the meeting. The organizer can then ask the participant to contribute during the meeting or in a more private follow-up meeting afterwards, depending on the situation.
Regardless, it is imperative that the organizer minimize any irrelevant or otherwise non-productive conversation, and keep the meeting to its predetermined time limit.
The meeting concludes with the organizer summarizing any decisions, solutions, proposals or any other action items that were determined as the result of the meeting, as well as who is responsible for carrying out those action items. After the meeting is over, the organizer should send out any promised follow-up information or other resources to the participants, and follow up on how the action items and other next steps are progressing. The organizer should also contact participants who didn’t get heard at the meeting or seemed dissatisfied with the meeting’s outcome.
Feeling Isolated As A Lone Developer? Find Creativity, Community and Connection By Joining A Coworking Space!
When you are starting a game development studio, you are essentially starting a new business. Most businesses start small — often with just a single person — and one of the biggest challenges in getting your new business going is staying focused when it is just you. Many of us are more productive when we are surrounded by others, but it can be difficult to get the initial funding to hire a group of people to work with and benefit from their individual expertise. So rather than working out of their home or renting a large office space and hiring a lot of people on Day One, many entrepreneurs set up shop in a coworking space.
Coworking is a style of work that involves a shared working environment but independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those coworking are not employed by the same organization but rather are pursuing their own business ventures. Coworking offers a solution to the problem of isolation that many freelancers experience while working at home, while at the same time letting them escape the distractions of home.
I first became acquainted with coworking through a start-up business who had contracted me to help make their website and mobile application more engaging. It was a self-funded business that began in a coworking facility, where they met an angel investment firm that invited them to work in their own coworking space that had access to potential investors. What I found intriguing about this set-up was not just the reduced expenses from sharing the facilities with other start-ups, but the ability to share knowledge with another entrepreneurs in another office or even another table next to you. It made me wish that coworking spaces were a thing when I tried starting my own game studio many years ago.
So, I was very excited when I learned that my friend Tania Mulry had opened up a new coworking space in Santa Clarita, the community in which we both live. I first met Tania several years ago when our children were in a Boy Scout troop together. Tania owns a marketing consulting services and training company called Digital Detox and is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, where she teaches courses in Digital Marketing and Interactive Design for Mobile Devices. Tania brings her passion for teaching to her coworking facility, the Steamwork Center, by scheduling talks from experts in business development.
I hadn’t been able to attend any of the Steamwork Center events until last week, when I went to its “Tech or Treat” Halloween party,featuring video games and electronic party equipment supplied by Steamwork member GlowHouse Gaming. Before I unleashed my inner gamer on the games and Halloween goodies, Tania and her associates took me on a tour of the 4,000-square-foot space that she acquired last July. The two-story facility features eight spacious, modern offices for growing businesses, as well as shared meeting rooms and kitchen facilities.
More important than the physical facilities are the fellow Steamwork members with whom to share ideas and work as teams to achieve common goals. Sure, you can be a digital nomad working on your laptop at the local Starbucks, but research found that people who use coworking spaces see their work as meaningful, feel they have more job control, and consider themselves to be part of a community. “Technology has made working remotely easy, but remote working brings with it isolation,” Tania explained. “There can come a sense of complacency when you’re not meeting people and you have an over-reliance on technology to connect with other people. It’s not good for the soul or the heart, and people can become depressed. People don’t just come here to work, they come here to transform their businesses and improve their lives.”
However, before accepting a new member, Tania makes sure that they are indeed a good fit for the community. “I interview them first to find out if they have what it takes to be successful, and that they have knowledge or skills to bring to the other members. We want to plant the seeds for dynamic leaders who build companies with healthy corporate cultures.” Currently Tania’s members include entrepreneurs working in public relations, office services, construction, and insurance — as well as two companies involved in something near and dear to my heart, gaming.
GameGen conducts on site and online classes teaching aspiring game developers how to build a game portfolio. Both children and adults learn how about the programming, art, and audio skills needed to make and publisher their own games. The company has eight studios in the Los Angeles greater metropolitan area, including the one with a classroom at the Steamwork Center.
Class was not in session that night, but I did get a chance to meet one of the other members, Marcell Gordon, founder of Glowhouse Gaming, a startup gaming and entertainment company that partners with video game and eports organizations to develop pop-up events for both inside and outside venues. The party itself was one of GlowHouse’s glow-in-the-dark entertainment experiences that was set up in Steamwork’s 1,800-square-foot double height space and featured gaming consoles, high-end gaming PCs, s live DJ, party headphones, and a staff of friendly assistants. I particularly enjoyed playing Z-tag, a form of laser tag with electronic badges instead of guns and pitting human players against zombie players. Glowhouse Gaming also features branded LAN party events, webcasting leagues, tournaments, workshops, school field trips and girl-gamers’ camps.
While Steamwork’s office space is nearly full, Tania is looking to expand its training programming, so that others can find the success that some of the other members have found. Tania’s goals are high. She wants to help people developer business skills, partnerships and peer relationships that nurture economic growth and will create new jobs in high growth fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Now, why wasn’t there something like this available when I started my own game company back in the day?