Mighty Bear 2021 Review: What We Did, What We Need To Do Better, What’s Next
Last year was the first time we publicly shared our annual review (here). We were blown away by the reception so we’ve decided to keep at it. The Mighty Bear annual report covers Diversity, Culture and Wellness, and Product updates for the year.
As we wrote last year:
Companies sometimes make a big deal of their “diverse” workforce as a way of whitewashing (sometimes literally) a lack of diversity at senior levels by presenting only aggregate (company-wide) data. Our opinion is that if a company’s decision-makers all look the same or come from similar backgrounds, then you have no real “diversity” worth speaking of.
As a company which was founded and built in Singapore, our commitment to diversity includes having Singaporean talent at all levels (more on this later), as well as ensuring a healthy mix of different types of people across the organisation.
To evaluate our performance on this front, we sorted all full-time staff into two buckets — “Steering” and “Core Group”— and took a look at the gender and nationality splits of each group.
To give the most accurate possible representation of our full employment mix, we have included people who have signed an employment contract with Mighty Bear but are yet to start. We excluded people who are not full-time team members (no hiring a load of interns to fake the numbers — you know who you are!)
For the sake of transparency, we’ve included tables with the raw diversity data at the bottom of this post.*
*If your employer doesn’t share this data, you should ask. If they’re not tracking it, you should probably look for a new job.
Detailed Diversity Data
Total Studio Diversity
We’re presently above the industry average (the latest industry data points to 61% men and 30% women, with 8% identifying as non-binary), at 56% men and 44% women. The gender ratio did improve year-on-year but there’s no room for complacency and we need to keep pushing to do better.
Today the team has fifteen different nationalities in eight different countries spread across three continents!
Last year we stated:
One of our goals for the year ahead is to increase the amount of female representation within our ranks, and double down on our commitment to creating an equitable workplace where everyone has access to the opportunities and support they need to succeed.
This remains unchanged. Progress hasn’t been as fast as we would have hoped but things continue moving in the right direction.
The mix of nationalities has also adjusted toward having a greater mix of overseas staff than previously. This is down to two primary reasons:
- Since the pandemic started we’ve become better equipped to accommodate remote working*.
- This has meant that some of our Singapore-based staff have been able to work for short periods from overseas.
- It has also meant that we’ve been able to work with remote talent who we previously wouldn’t have been able to accommodate.
*We have not been completely successful in making overseas staff feel as if they’re a part of the core team. There are a number of challenges unique to remote working and this is especially true if someone is multiple time zones away and has never met the wider team in person. This is something we’re actively working to address.
2. Singapore has seen an influx of major overseas studios which has impacted the landscape in a number of ways:
- The experienced talent pool is spread even more thinly than previous years (there has been a shortage for a number of years) and is likely to require a greater number of overseas hires in the years ahead.
- Some major studios have a policy of not hiring fresh graduates*. When there are players in the ecosystem that do not contribute to nurturing the next generation of talent, this creates an inequitable distribution of both experienced talent and the work of nurturing the next generation of talent. It jeopardises the future of the entire ecosystem.
- The impact on smaller studios is hard enough when larger incumbents enter the ecosystem; after all, some talents at smaller studios will inevitably leave for the larger studios.
- This natural churn of talent becomes brutal when it is exacerbated by what appears to be a deliberate policy by some multinationals of targeting smaller home-grown studios. Instead of competing with and sourcing talents from the other big players in the local and global ecosystem, they focus on raiding smaller studios.
- Such behaviour is counterproductive as it ends up creating an even more limited pipeline of intermediate and senior talent for themselves in the future (especially because they do not nurture junior talents themselves).
This unsustainable dynamic is a challenge that needs to be addressed for the health of the local ecosystem: experienced game developers don’t spring out the ground fully formed.
The onus shouldn’t be on studios with the fewest resources to do the heavy lifting for everybody else. It can’t be that the wealthiest freeload from the efforts of the less well-off and give nothing back.
Up to 30% of the workforce at Mighty Bear at any given time* are in their first full-time role. Since founding the company we’ve developed good links with academic institutions and every year we hire people into full-time roles directly from our internship programme. Likewise, we promote from within our ranks as the default option — we don’t airdrop people in from outside the studio as a first resort.
We take our responsibility to the ecosystem very seriously and are fully committed to help to develop the next generation of talents.
*This number does fluctuate. We have a number of graduate roles and internships open across all disciplines so if you’re interested in joining then drop us a mail at email@example.com!
Our leadership team has a slightly stronger Singaporean core than it did a year ago (67% vs 64%), has more women, and retains a healthy mix of backgrounds, nationalities, and perspectives.
Note: We are currently interviewing COO applicants. If you think you would be a fit then please get in touch!
This group is made up of everyone else at the company regardless of whether they’re based in Singapore or overseas. We’re proud of the fact that the wider studio is almost exactly 50/50 split in terms of the gender and retains a strong Singaporean core.
Culture and Wellness
Culture will always be at the core of who we are and every year we launch new initiatives to continue improving. Two notable additions this year were the Quarterly Pulse Surveys, and virtual Team Nights to help everyone feel more connected despite our distance.
Quarterly Pulse Surveys
In all honesty, we should have started earlier with this. We got some help from friends who work in HR and have experience designing surveys and now send out a quarterly survey to get an idea how everyone is doing. It’s completely anonymous, and even though we have a culture of openness and actively encourage dissent and people speaking their minds, we’ve uncovered valuable insights as a result of conducting the surveys.
We make a point of always conducting them during the first week of the quarter come what may. This can skew the results (one survey took place immediately after the delivery of a very tough milestone), but we believe it’s better to be consistent than to cherry pick dates which will give us the “best” possible scores. After every survey, we review the results with everyone on the team, assess how we’re doing quarter-to-quarter, address anonymous feedback, and answer all the questions directly in front of the whole team.
Because the team is spread across the world, we have started running virtual team-building events on a semi-regular basis for people to have fun and hang out. These included activities such as quizzes, playing games together, etc.
In addition to these we’ve continued with the initiatives we launched in 2020. These were:
- Despite the studio still being almost 100% remote I tried to spend some time in person with everyone in Singapore (lockdowns allowing) to check on how they’re doing. We also arranged various different group meals for people to spend time together.
- Continuing with the company Zeitgeist sessions
- Kicking-off internal training (Task Management 101, Introduction to Web3, Cultural Awareness)
- Being incredibly strict on the cultural component of the interview process. We have a zero jerk policy, no matter how talented.
We also started sending team members and “friends of the bear” hand-written notes to show our appreciation when they go above and beyond. I usually send out two to three of these a week; they don’t take long to write and people appreciate the gesture of a hand-written note.
Giving a little back
This year we were unable to have our usual end of year shindig over at Bear Force One. We took the budget which would have otherwise been allocated to drinks and fun and voted on a charitable cause to donate the money to. In the end, the team decided to donate the money to One Tree Planted and we ended up paying for 10,000 new tress to be planted across the world.
Two weeks a year where the studio is closed
We realised that people were not taking enough time off because they didn’t want to let their colleagues down, or if they did take time off, they were answering mails and still being engaged with work.
To resolve this, we instituted a new system where for two weeks a year (one week around the middle of the year and one at the end of the year), the studio is closed and everyone is off at the same time.
We operate with an unlimited leave policy and therefore, this does not come out of any leave allowance — it doesn’t seem fair to us that a studio should decide to close its doors and force people to deduct that from their leave. Staff should take leave when it makes sense for them. People are also encouraged to take as much leave they need to throughout the rest of the year.
Wellness and Development Allowance
As a result of the first survey we conducted, it came to our attention that we needed to be doing more in terms of wellness benefits. The challenge was that every team member has unique needs: some people wanted gym membership, others health insurance with certain provisions, etc. In the end we decided that the best outcome would be to give each team member an annual budget they can spend as they see fit in pre-approved categories such as: health insurance, mindfulness apps, gym membership, yoga, dental, etc. We also allow people to spend this budget on books (both fiction and non-fiction) if they‘d rather spend it on reading.
Regular care packages, studio time off, wellness and development allowance, etc. are all part of a solid foundation but we will continue exploring new options to make sure that people are healthy, happy, and looked after.
This year was affected by a business discussion which took up a large amount of the founding team’s focus for five months (and ultimately we decided against pursuing the opportunity). This split focus certainly had an impact on execution during 2021, but despite that we are incredibly proud of how the team stepped up and delivered two new releases: Disney Melee Mania and Best Friends Cafe.
Disney Melee Mania
The first ever arena brawler featuring characters from Disney and Pixar, the team developed Disney Melee Mania in just a year. As if building a game from scratch in a year wasn’t a major achievement, the team also managed and cleared all the necessary approvals across a large number of IPs. This is even more remarkable given that we couldn’t travel to and from Singapore to the US to resolve issues in person — everything had to be managed remotely.
Best Friends Cafe
Developed in just a few months and currently in test on Android in Singapore and Canada, Best Friends Cafe is the world’s first social merge experience and another major milestone for the team. The game builds on the universe established with Butter Royale and is about friendship, positivity, and making the world a better place through the joy of food. It’s explicitly designed to be the antithesis of competitive mobile gaming.
Mighty Bear remains a studio with a track record for consistently shipping high-level games year-in-year-out. In the four years since our first funding round in 2017, we have successfully shipped five games and our sixth title is just about to enter pre-production.
The world is changing and the Internet feels like it’s at inflection point, with the rise of Web3 and global access to mobile payment wallets. The size of the global gaming audience is set to explode in the next few years as the next billion users join in, and even geopolitical considerations are now affecting the games industry. The only certainty here is that the next four years will look nothing like the last four.
There are a number of trends we’ve identified as part of the game industry’s direction of travel. We’ll be investing time and energy in developing our roadmap to meet these challenges, and there will be some mighty announcements in the months ahead.
The future is already here. Developers and publishers have a choice whether to be left behind or take steps to be at the forefront of games and the communities that power them.
Mighty Bear is going to be at the vanguard.
Detailed Diversity Data
Mighty Bear 2021 Review: What We Did, What We Need To Do Better, What’s Next was originally published in Mighty Bear Games on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.