Like many founders of gaming startups, we started our company with an idea to make games. Or rather one specific type of casual games with big emphasis on social. That is what we love and know how to do. It fun, natural and making games is something that we learned over the course of our careers.
However, making a game is only a part (surely, essential) of building a company.
Great games can’t come to life without a great team behind them. That team must be united and driven by the same work principles. I have to say, I made plenty of mistakes in my career, underestimating the importance of team culture and team values, rushing for deliverables and faster hires instead.
Indeed, building games is the nature of our business. But building motivated, effective, creative and happy teams is what really makes the magic happen.
How would one do that?
Each CEO I’d talk to would give me pretty much the same advice: ‘Take your time. Sit down and discuss where you'd want to see your business next year and in several years from now. Make sure that you are aligned on that. Make sure that you and your co-founders have the same idea of the future. Make sure that people you hire know where you are headed'.
Once we started PlayPack, we actually dedicated quite some time to define our values and align on our goals. Our idea was to create a few key principles that can drive our work culture.
As the industry matures and grows, many studios start this way. However, often when I’d look at websites, I’d find great calls to action that hardly tell me anything about the team or the people that work there. It’s a little bit along the lines of one of my favourite TV shows ‘Silicon Valley’, where every startup is trying ‘to make the world a better place’.
We were trying to avoid those generics. Our principles had to be clear, easy to understand and, most importantly, actionable.
There are two big questions to answer for every team: 'What?' and 'How?'
What do you create?
How do you get there?
So following the techniques we use to make game, we sat down and brainstormed, coming up with probably something like a hundred notes that we’d consider worthy of a good company to work for.
As the three of us spend many years working at the same place, it was a very natural process. We share similar values (and pains) coming from our former professional experience.
We ended up separating our cards into two big groups: Goals and Values.
Goals would define where we are headed and Values would define how we work. So if now I was to tell someone about PlayPack, it's try to explain it this way:
At PlayPack we create casual free-to-play mobile games
Our goal is to bring true social experiences back to casual gaming space. Remember when social was cool?
We want players to have a world that feels like a virtual home, where they go to meet friends, hang out, do chores and have fun.
We want players to come back to our games like they are coming back to social networks.
Our values are:
- We are all part of one company. Everything we do is for the benefit of the company, therefore all of the employees.
- We care about the clarity of ownership. Owners take responsibility to make things happen.
- Company objectives are clear to everyone therefore are serving the foundation for decision making.
- Everyone is encouraged to bring up things that are not going well and empowered to call for change.
- We are honest.
- We build trust through constant timely feedback.
- Our organisational structure supports and encourages candor.
- We are frank but oppose any form of discrimination.
- We have open KPI policy - all data for our games is available for all employees of the company.
- Leadership is transparent on P&Ls and plans for Growth.
- We encourage transparency of employees towards the company - share thoughts and be open on your plans.
Having fun at work
- Making games is fun. You are accountable for the way you work, there are little rules around it.
- We want players to enjoy their experiences in our games as much as we enjoy creating games.
- Everyone is expected to do the best to provide value for the company. It's everyones responsibility is to choose how they want to work to achieve that.
As we work together, we also learn new things about team dynamics. Every new team member in a small team comes with a tremendous impact on the team culture. It's important to keep those values alive and come back to them on the regular basis to make revisions. Which we are really looking forward to.