Audio director at Raven, Mark Kilborn (found here), recently posted to Twitter a number of short nuggets of wisdom on the topic of Leadership in games, spurred on by seeing ex-Bungie audio director/composer Martin O'Donnell give a talk at Nordic Games talk. Aside from thinking that that Mark obviously knows his stuff, they got me thinking and I felt like compiling some of my reflections on some of Mark's ideas of good leadership from the perspective of an employee.
These three are all in the same category, and they're spot on. I've worked for people who "follow the company line" in favour of common sense/treating people well in the past and all it does is create resentment. If my Lead is understanding and human, it creates an environment where I want to make the best game possible not only for myself, but for my Lead! It fosters a positive relationship which is only going to result in better work and better attitudes all round. And if you hire the right people, those lost hours won't really be lost, because the right hires won't let their work suffer.
This is one that Valve have been talking about for a long time and it's a total no-brainer. I've never seen someone with a huge ego spouting arrogant nonsense and thought "I'd love to spend more time with that person.", regardless of their achievements. I've heard countless Leads say they'd rather hire someone easy to work with and keen to improve over someone brilliant but a total nightmare, and it's the same for people I'd like to work with. Give me humble and hardworking over someone who thinks they're God's gift any day.
I think this is maybe the most important one, and I think it's also one that's often overlooked. Working in games isn't "just a job". We do this because we're passionate, and we fought to be here. We know making games is hard and we all care deeply about our work. Creating an environment where you really feel like a team and not just like random people thrown together is, in my opinion, absolutely key to getting the best out of people, to ensuring the labour of love you're all working on continues to feel like a collaborative effort. The times when my Lead has bothered to show an interest in my life and over time, become someone I would trust as a friend, these are the times I've worked hardest and learned the most. I'm not suggesting that without this, I stop caring about my work because of course that isn't the case but when you actively look forward to being around your Lead and discussing the project, but also games, or music, or art, it makes you a lot happier and as a result makes you a lot more productive and excited to contribute! I feel like I have to mention that, in particular, I'm thinking of my Audio Director at Rocksteady, Nick Arundel, when I write about my own experience. He was able to combine the perfect balance of personal and professional development while I was at Rocksteady, an experience I cherish dearly and an environment I miss working in.
Mark posted a number of other pieces of wisdom, all of which were well worth reading. It made me glad to know that there are other Audio Directors out there fostering excellent environments to work in. Cheers for sharing, Mark!