So, probably like everybody else who kept working during the last couple years, I have learned some stuff.
So, in no particular order: here’s a bunch of tips for game dev in zoom times.
Let People Work However They Want. Especially Yourself.
Obviously let people work from home when they want. But also: let people turn off their cameras. Let them take PTO for two hours. Let them cancel zoom meetings because they ran out of milk.
I let myself pace around with headphones on, listen to music, and tap my feet and fingers because that stuff helps me concentrate and stay ‘present’ when a meeting is slow. Do whatever works for you.
Most of what people associate with “professionalism” is most usefully about respect. Studio culture is changing. Respect is suddenly much more about cutting your colleagues some slack about being offline for an hour while they were closing JIRAs in their pajamas.
Transparency is useful. Shared expectations are key.
I think that most human disagreement can be traced to not being aligned in expectations about how something was going to go.
Tell your boss if you’re not gonna get a task done. Let your employees tell you if they’re not sure they’re gonna achieve something. Be open to that conversation, whether it’s workload, task complexity, conflicting schedules, mental health, or just being tired. The entire internet has been telling us that a) we’re gonna get long covid or b) idiots are invading schools and hospitals or c) whatever the fuck it is now….. for years. It’s just more relaxing to be real with everybody about how you feel, and encourage them to do the same.
Be stupidly transparent about expectations. Define deliverables and schedules as openly as you can. If you expect something to be done and communicated in a certain way, tell people. Ask questions. I’ve been working with the same people on the same project for years but I now ask colleagues how they prefer to get my information (powerpoint? confluence? meetings? JIRA details?)…. just because being slightly annoying sometimes is worth it to me to have everybody aligned on expectations.
(Mid pandemic my therapist sent me on a kind of journey of transparency with my family and friends. Holy shit. Okay I realize some of y’all did not want that autism conversation but I feel so much better.)
Reset to Support Mode When Something Sucks
Making a video game is a complex miracle requiring millions of collaborative steps. Tasks get delayed. Departments fail to communicate. Teammates do stupid things. Sometimes the game crashes when you finally get 30m to review something.
My/your frustration is valid, by the way. All of that stuff sucks.
New Habit: “How can I help you with this?”. Somehow, forcing my mind to go from talking about the problem to talking about next steps diffuses the majority of my stress.
If you’re not stressed, other people chill out faster, and get back to fixing.. the actual thing. If you’re stressed, people talk about the failure for a while. And it’s mostly-useless. You talk talk another day about fixing a process. Getting the team back to feeling okay and working is the primary objective.