Are you more suited to working in games than you think?
Hello! I’m Tifanie from Mighty Bear Games!
With my art skills maxed out at stick-figure doodles and programming knowledge that goes as far as ‘Hello World’, you might wonder: What could someone who once briefly aspired to be a part of Les Clefs D’Or and has lectured on the secret lives of animals at the world’s first nocturnal zoo possibly do at a game development studio?
Much like a crew member helping take care of the practical details so that the cast can shine, my role here at Mighty Bear is as a Studio Operations Associate! As I hope to demonstrate, there are plenty of inroads for those like me with non-technical — but no less essential — professional skill sets to join and help run a game studio!
How I joined Mighty Bear
A friend put the word out that Mighty Bear was looking for help with their operations and asked if I was interested. I was, but I had my reservations: the first thing that came to my mind was, “But it’s a video game company? I enjoy playing games, but I don’t know anything about making them — can I even apply?!”
Echoing my colleague Olivia’s article on her leap into the games industry, my friend allayed my worries and told me to try anyway, that at the very least I’d punch up my interview skills with some extra experience points.
After going through a multi-stage interview process for the first time in my life (which I’ll share more about in future!), I was elated to receive an offer from Mighty Bear — and now owe my friend a dinner for pushing me to try.
It’s easy to overlook the many behind-the-scenes personnel needs of a game studio because without the core party of programmers, artists, designers and writers there’s no game at all! However, there are plenty of other roles just as vital to ensuring that games are made to the highest standard, and I’ll be sharing how my work from the Operations side helps get us there!
I like to see myself as an office familiar, kind of like the knowledge-seeking fox spirits of Wan Shi Tong’s Library in Avatar: The Last Airbender: I help sniff out answers to my colleagues’ enquiries or procure an item they’ve requested.
As Operations Associate, my goal is to support the team by ensuring that anything and everything that is not directly related to development is running smoothly so that they can focus on their production duties. My daily work consists of routine administrative processes, with requests and enquiries sprinkled in as surprise side-quests to complete.
Some of the tasks include:
· Organising courier delivery and pickup requests
· Arranging company care packages, sent to all team members locally and internationally (Side Quest: +100XP!)
· Documenting the studio’s workflow processes
· Procuring equipment for the team (Side Quest: +50XP!)
· Staying on top of the government’s COVID-19 regulations for the workplace
· Liaising and coordinating with vendors for various operations, e.g. printing posters, setting up security access for the office premises, etc.
This is a small chunk of a perennial to-do list which some might dismiss as mundane. For myself, it’s gratifying to have tasks completed and know that my efforts mean a team member doesn’t linger on a little soot sprite of an errand and can focus their energies on delivering their project.
What qualities should you have?
While it’s not necessary to have technical skills (eg. programming) to work at a game studio, it’s important to have some basic, foundational strengths to be able to support your colleagues.
O rganisation is never a disadvantage in any setting. If you have a knack for keeping things tidy and easy to find, you’ll prove valuable as someone who can reduce the (literal and metaphorical) clutter your staff need to wade through to get things done.
As a company growing in strength and number, it’s essential for Mighty Bear to be able to keep track of the increasing volume of documents and to-dos on top of all regular paperwork and processing that needs our attention.
A couple of the software tools that help me to keep track of things are:
· Notion. We use Notion to document our workflow processes, and these easily-accessed, easily-edited docs are a handy way of ensuring I’ve followed the steps to existing processes and can pitch in live with suggestions on where they can be improved.
· Trello. Having stages of work broken down into “cards” and being able to update them with each completed step helps give each task a visible progress bar, making it a treat to look at once it’s completed and ready to be archived!
Communication is key, not to mention a cornerstone of Mighty Bear’s company culture. No one is a mind-reader, and keeping your questions or concerns to yourself only serves to sow potential misunderstandings. I don’t think I’m alone in worrying that I might annoy or frustrate someone by asking too many questions, but being here at Mighty Bear has helped me relearn that causing a small inconvenience is always preferred to acting on blind assumption.
Sharing updates on tasks I’ve yet to start, ones in progress and completed items helps keep my manager Clarissa informed when I need help, whether I’m overloaded or ready to take on more.
For shared visibility and communication, Mighty Bear holds regular company, department, and project syncs — group meetings to make sure everyone is aligned and on the same page at all levels of studio activity.
Being in Operations, I’m quite removed from the technical aspects of the game-making process. Despite that, I’m still more than welcome and in fact heavily encouraged to drop in on project syncs so that I’m able to follow along the stages of our work in development and build up my knowledge of industry-specific conventions and processes.
Personal growth is something you should always be aiming for — and at studios like Mighty Bear it’s facilitated in all kinds of ways. While Operations is my forte, it doesn’t mean that I should focus on that and that alone. Working a game studio reveals the many moving parts it pays to get familiar with, amassing a set of more specialised skills along the way.
I have regular check-ins with Clarissa and she often asks if there are any areas of interest I’m keen to explore. Departments like Art and Programming require technical skills and knowledge, all of which take years of sustained work to grasp and cultivate. As an initial step forward for a newcomer like me, an often under-appreciated discipline and entry point to understanding game development is Quality Assurance (QA). It requires playing through the games we’re working on, though not just for thoughtless fun: testers keep a close eye on the ease of use and functionality of all parts of the game and are essential for ensuring that everything we develop is robust and runs smoothly. One of our QA Testers, Nicole, broke down in her last Medium article — available here — going in-depth on what her responsibilities entail, and why they matter.
Being receptive to learning about your studio’s different departments and how their efforts and skills apply to the development and production of a game doesn’t just help you better appreciate each project — it also opens up opportunities for you to evolve your skills and plot a potential career path!
And that’s my experience of being an Operations Associate at Mighty Bear! I hope this sheds some light on the opportunities to be a part of the games industry without specifically specialising in game-making skills. Feel free to drop any questions you might have in the comments below! 🙂