Can the industry go fully remote?

by Brandon Pham
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“With all the other pressures that are happening in the world, it really makes working at home even  harder for folks, it’s definitely a mental health strain. Right now, everybody is pretty much doing it on ‘hard mode.” – Ray Graham

The game industry had the most anti-remote work attitude for decades before the pandemic. However, a major paradigm shift for how we make games have occurred and we beg to ask the question: can we handle going fully remote?

In this roundtable news episode, we welcome two experts, Ray Graham & Jason Lee who are managing their teams globally before and during the pandemic. We have discussions about how the industry is doing and if this new way to work is sustainable in this transitional year.

When the alarm was raised in late February and all game companies abruptly switched to fully working remote, most developers were thrilled. Of course, developers weren’t ‘thrilled’ about  the raging virus sweeping through the world, but how the industry presented some new opportunities. Primarily the opportunity to try out a working model that was a dream for employees but largely objected against by employers. There was a legitimate fear that people will slack off when not supervised, and managers can’t manage unless they are hovering over shoulders. Nonetheless, everybody got thrusted into this situation and now we have about nine months of data to analyze if the industry can handle fully remote? More importantly, since the vaccine is being made slowly available what is this transitional year looking like?

Like most abrupt changes, remote work presented both benefits and issues that everyone is still wrestling with. People in general are adjusting to the separation from work and home while working at home. It’s a challenge that I myself went through before the pandemic but had a healthy way of adjusting to it. Whereas, my colleagues, like Ray mentioned in this episode,  is doing this on ‘hard mode’ right now. Parents, in particular, have to deal with taking on more parenting and teacher responsibilities. Developers had to adapt to the new dynamics of  brainstorming over web calls (which hasn’t fully replaced physical interaction.) Furthermore, what was a five minute ‘water-cooler’ conversation  has turned into a scheduled group  meeting ordeal and can take up three-to-fives times as long. One can extrapolate and mix all these concerns on top of personal and family responsibilities, and feel overwhelmed. Universally, we all feel that this wasn’t what we had in mind about working remote. Since this type of remote working requires us staying locked inside our homes and away from family and friends for extended lengths of time.

It is a unfair position to be in for developers when discussing if this all works. But the situation was also the only way to forcibly make employers consider remote working in the first place. There are already some tech companies, like Netflix, that concluded remote working ‘a pure negative.’  Whatever the consensus is, work-from-home culture is now established and presents obstacles that we all have to tackle and make 2021 better.

Topics discussed in this episode:
0:00 Introduction to the going fully remote
2:06 What was dev life was like before the pandemic and it’s difficulty now
6:16 The extra challenge for parents and why companies may not be all in
10:09 Can online communication replace physical interactions between teams
13:20 The adverse affect of always meeting online
15:16 Work from home morale boost and manager’s responsibilites
19:38 Are there any underlying biases against hiring parents
23:20 Key differences having a physical location separation with work and home
24:53 Before the pandemic, game companies were resistant with remote working
28:57 Appfigures Ad
30:30 Global talent a threat?
38:24 Timezone syncs with teams spread out globally
43:58 Do remote employees have more leverage by switching jobs quicker without relocation?
49:29 The 9-5 model demolished forever?
54:51 Does remote working elimate crunch culture?
58:05 The void for social connection with colleagues

SELECTED LINKS FROM THE EPISODE


This episode is brought to you by AppFigures!

Appfigures is all about giving game makers the tools they need to get more downloads and revenue. You may already know them for Analytics and App Store Optimization. Now, Appfigures can help you track competitors, from how many downloads they’re getting and how much money they’re making, to their audience demographics, and even which SDKs they use. Their competitor intelligence gives you great context. Say a competitor adds a new feature or was mentioned in the news; with Appfigures you can see if that brought in more downloads. Got a great idea for an app or a game? With Appfigures, you can figure out how big the market is and how much money you could be making with it. And that’s just scratching the surface. Whether you’re growing your app or building a new one, Appfigures has the tools you need to reduce risk and get more downloads. You don’t need a large budget or a data science degree to do this kind of thing anymore. Appfigures has made it affordable and simple! On top of tools, Appfigures also provides a lot of guides and tutorials to take you step-by-step through gaining more visibility with ASO and increasing your revenue by learning from your competitors. They just released a free guide on that, actually.

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