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Team Leadership in the Game Industry

Book Description

Team Leadership in the Game Industry arms you with the information you need to face and meet the challenges of finding, supporting, and retaining a talented team of employees. Specifically addressing the unique needs of managers in the game industry, this book recognizes a common issue: game development teams consisting of talented specialists who lack interpersonal and leadership skills. Filled with tips and advice from industry pros, you'll learn how to solve problems such as selecting your team, defining roles and identifying team leaders, meeting deadlines, and handling underperformers. You'll examine classic leadership traits, and take a look at specific team roles and their daily responsibilities. Real-world case studies illustrate solutions to each problem and hands-on exercises will help you practice the techniques presented. Team Leadership in the Game Industry provides you with a valuable set of best practices and advice to help you achieve efficient, cohesive teams.

Table of Contents

  1. Copyright
    1. Dedication
  2. Acknowledgments
  3. About the Author
  4. Introduction
    1. Why Leadership?
  5. 1. How We Got Here
    1. Problems Facing the Game Industry
    2. Growth in Scale
      1. Increased Graphical Depth
      2. Expanded Game Requirements and Coding Complexities
      3. Growth in Scale on a Company Level
    3. The Round Table Answers the Question...
    4. Practical Issues Remain
      1. Career Path Management Issues
      2. The Cost of Poor Leadership
    5. Interview: Lasse Seppänen, Executive Producer, Remedy Entertainment
  6. 2. The Anatomy of a Game-Development Company
    1. Small Company Organization Overview
      1. Strengths and Weaknesses of the Model
      2. Physical Organization
      3. Challenges for Leaders
    2. Mid-Size Company Organization Overview
      1. Strengths and Weaknesses of the Model
      2. Physical Organization
      3. Challenges for Leaders
    3. Large Company Organization Overview
      1. Strengths and Weaknesses of the Model
      2. Physical Organization
      3. Challenges for Leaders
    4. Conclusions
    5. Interview: John Chowanec, Development Director, 2K Games
  7. 3. How Leaders Are Chosen, Are Supported, Perform, and Why
    1. The Ideal and the Real
    2. Case Study: Rick
      1. Background: Wrong Person, Wrong Role
      2. Analysis
        1. Ego Issues
        2. Lack of Open Communication
        3. After Effects and Corrective Action
    3. Case Study: Victor
      1. Background: Right Person, Wrong Role
      2. Analysis
        1. Inexperience
        2. Founder’s Syndrome
        3. After Effects and Corrective Action
    4. Case Study: Xavier
      1. Background: The Best of What’s Available at the Moment
      2. Analysis
        1. Failure to Address Negative Performance and Take Effective Action
        2. Failure to Provide Support
        3. After Effects and Corrective Action
    5. Case Study: Yvette
      1. Background: There is No “I” in Delegate
      2. Analysis
        1. Inexperience
        2. Understanding and Supporting the Role
        3. After Effects and Corrective Action
    6. Case Study: Zeke and Alan
      1. Background: A Tale of Two Leads
      2. Analysis
        1. When Two Heads Are Not Better Than One
        2. The Project Staffing Trap
        3. After Effects and Corrective Action
    7. Lessons Learned
    8. Interview: Joe Minton, President of Digital Development Management (DDM)
  8. 4. A Litmus Test for Leads
    1. The Traits, Practices, and Motivation of the Ideal Lead
      1. The Cheerleader-General
      2. Accountability
      3. Communication
    2. Building Soft Skills
      1. Model the Behavior You Want
      2. Formal and Informal Training for Soft-Skill Development
    3. Build Your Ideal Leader: An Exercise
      1. Personal Trait Pros and Cons
        1. Honest
        2. Intelligent
        3. Wise
        4. Has a Sense of Humor
        5. Outgoing
        6. Persistent
        7. Passionate About the Product
        8. Compassionate
        9. Decisive
        10. Generous
        11. Trustworthy
        12. Ambitious
        13. Humble
        14. Spirited, Upbeat
        15. Calm Under Pressure
        16. Is a Good Mentor
        17. Patient
        18. Logical
        19. Contemplative/Able to See All Sides of an Issue
        20. Fair/Equitable
        21. Ethical
        22. Is a Consensus Builder
        23. Charismatic
        24. Consistent
        25. Responsible
      2. Professional Trait Pros and Cons
        1. Prior Game-Production Experience
        2. Prior Game-Management Experience
        3. Familiarity with Current Game-Production Practices
        4. Adept at Office Politics
        5. Great Speaking and Writing Skills
        6. Expertise with Project-Planning Tools and Concepts
      3. Additional Questions
    4. Where Do We Find Our Leads: External Hires Versus Internal Promotion
    5. Why Do Leaders Want to Lead?
      1. The Right Reasons
      2. The Wrong Reasons
    6. Dual and Equivalent Career Paths
    7. Interview: Julien Bares, Studio Director, 2K Shanghai
  9. 5. Leadership Types and Traits: Assessment and Development Strategies
    1. Leadership Versus Management
    2. Leadership Styles
    3. Control Versus Influence
    4. Internal Training
      1. Formal Internal Training
      2. Training Through Mentoring
    5. External Training
      1. Online Resources
      2. Books
      3. Industry-Focused Conferences
      4. Assessment Tools
        1. Myers-Briggs
        2. 360 Assessments
    6. Interview: Robert Martin, Management and Leadership Consultant
    7. Interview: Stephen Martin—Studio Head, Firaxis Games
  10. 6. The Project Team Leader: Roles and Responsibilities
    1. The Specialist Lead
      1. Role
      2. Responsibilities
      3. Qualifications
    2. The Lead
      1. Role
      2. Responsibilities
      3. Qualifications
    3. Lead Responsibilities
      1. Accountable for Leadership and the Timely Production of all Assets or Components for the Entire Project Within a Given Discipline
      2. Establishes the Overall Project Vision for His or Her Discipline and is a Champion for the Game
      3. Is a Strong Advocate for His or Her Discipline But is Able to Maintain a Holistic View of the Project
      4. Builds and Maintains Team Morale
      5. Reviews Assets, Code, and Features, from an Aesthetic (Where Appropriate) and Technical Viewpoint, to Ensure High Quality Standards Are Met and Style is Consistent
        1. Feedback Should Be Clear
        2. Feedback Should Be Complete
        3. Feedback Should Be Consistent
        4. Feedback Should Be Professional
        5. Review Stage Guidelines
          1. Concept Approval Schedule
          2. Model Approval Schedule
      6. Reports to the Department Director and is Responsible for Daily Management of All Personnel Within the Discipline Not Managed by a Specialist Lead
        1. Direct Reports
        2. Indirect Reports
        3. Reporting Up
      7. Coordinates and Communicates Well with the Producer and Other Project Leads to Ensure Efficient Interdepartmental Coordination
      8. Directs the Creation of Any Pipeline Documentation Needed
      9. Establishes Task Times and Schedules Tasks in Area of Specialization
        1. How Long is a “Day,” and What Does “Done” Mean?
        2. Under Promise, Over Deliver
        3. Damn the Torpedoes!
        4. Monitoring Scheduling and Resources Through the Production Cycle
      10. Mentors Other Leads Where Appropriate
    4. Lead Qualifications
      1. Displays Great Communication and Leadership Skills
      2. Demonstrates Compelling Vision and Passion for the Game
      3. Is Considered a Problem Solver and Self-Starter
      4. Always Pushes the Quality Bar
      5. Displays Consistent and Professional Demeanor at All Times
      6. Reacts Well under Stressful Situations
      7. Is an Active and Positive Force for Company Morale
    5. Knowing What to Do When
    6. Team Morale and the Last Firewall
      1. External Distractions
      2. Internal Distractions
    7. The Lead Role Versus the Lead Position
    8. Interview: Brenda Brathwaite, Game Designer/Department Chair, Savannah College of Art and Design
  11. 7. The Department Leader: Roles and Responsibilities
    1. The Department Director
      1. Role
      2. Responsibilities
      3. Qualifications
    2. Director Responsibilities
      1. Responsible for Departmental Direction, Leadership, and Management
      2. Responsible for Resource Allocation and Departmental Budgets
      3. Reports to the Studio Head or Senior Executive and is Responsible for Daily Management of Any Personnel Not Reporting to a Lead Within a Project Organizational Structure
      4. Supports the Leads in Establishing Overall Project Vision; Approves Processes, Assets, and Features; and Ensures That All Project Resource Needs Are Appropriate and Realized
      5. Manages All Performance Reviews, Hiring, Firing, and Personnel-Management Tasks Above What the Leads Are Responsible For
        1. Performance Reviews
        2. Hiring
          1. Phone Interviews
          2. Interviews
          3. The Wrap-up
          4. Reference Checks
        3. Disciplinary Action and Firing
          1. Progressive Discipline
          2. Termination
          3. Resignation
      6. Coordinates and Supports Departmental Training
      7. Leads Recruitment Efforts and May Give Presentations to the Department, Company, or External Groups Regarding the Direction of the Department, Project, or Studio
      8. Responsible for Building and Maintaining Positive Studio Morale
    3. Director Qualifications
    4. I’ve Gathered You All Here Today...
      1. Start on Time
      2. Have the Right Participants
      3. Have a Written Agenda
      4. Identify a Meeting Leader
      5. Stay on Topic
      6. Meeting Participation
      7. End the Meeting on Time
      8. Take Notes
      9. All That Being Said...
    5. Presentations
      1. Content
      2. Presenting
    6. Project Staffing Exercise: Selecting a Lead
      1. Developer: LotsaFun Games Inc.
      2. Mission: Choose an Art Lead for Each Product
    7. Interview: Steve Meyer, Technical Director, Firaxis Games
  12. 8. Difficult Employees, Underperformers, and Bad Leads
    1. General Thoughts
    2. Blamers
      1. Case Studies
      2. Approaches
    3. Cynics, Complainers, and Surly Folks
      1. Case Studies
      2. Approaches
    4. Underperformers
      1. Case Studies
      2. Approaches
    5. Bad Leads
      1. Case Study: Doug
      2. Approach
      3. Case Study: Evan
      4. Approach
      5. Case Study: Fiona
      6. Approach
    6. Resolving Disputes—Before They Enter the Fistfight Stage
    7. Interview: David Silverman, Director of Art, WB Games
  13. 9. The Effects of Great Team Leadership
    1. A Foundation of Trust
    2. Increased Retention
    3. Improved External Perception
    4. Greater Company and Team Morale
    5. More-Capable and Supportive Teams
    6. Healthier Employees
    7. Improved Succession Outcomes
    8. Creating a Successful Leadership Culture
    9. Interview: David Fifield—Lead Designer, Vicarious Visions/Activision
  14. A. Sample Skill Ladder
    1. Art Skill Ladder
      1. Core Values
    2. Level 10: Intern
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    3. Level 20: Artist I
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    4. Level 25: Artist II
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    5. Level 30: Artist III
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    6. Level 35: Artist IV
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    7. Level 40: Senior Artist I
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    8. Level 45: Senior Artist II
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    9. Level 50: Senior Artist III
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    10. Level 60: Senior Artist IV—Luminary
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    11. Lead Qualifications and Responsibilities
    12. Specialist Art Lead
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities
    13. Art Lead
      1. Qualifications
      2. Responsibilities