In this LevelUp episode, Jasmine sits down with Sophie Vo, GM at Savage Games. Together, they dive into the the role of empathy in leadership, what leadership means and looks like in games, what the games industry can learn from others, and much more. 

Tune in or read the highlights here:

How games different from other industries

So games are really a very young industry. Sometimes we feel that it has been there for a long time, but when compared to other industries that have been there for centuries, it's still a very young industry.

It was started from the creative side, so many people who are passionate and driven by something they want to create and self-express - where companies and teams have been formed around a game, around a vision, around a creative director.

But we are catching up as an industry compared to the maturity of other industries when it comes to meta-management methods, in terms of how do you stabilize the company, how do you build a sustainable company.

So it's combining the best of the two worlds, where one is really creative, but then the other is structured professionalism while keeping it fun.

Balancing passion with expectations

Most people join the gaming industry because they love games or they have a passion for something that is either the games or the process of making games.

Starting with that as a baseline, it's about understanding the motivation of people. I always start by understanding what's motivating them.

Why have they chosen to be in this industry? Why they chose this company, this role, and these people - whether it's even the management team. Are they using their full potential to do the things that they really want to do or are they capable of doing? Especially in terms of leadership roles.

By leadership roles, I mean any kind of role where you are responsible for leading a group or project. My first step is really deconstructing with a person. Are they taking this role for the right reason or do they have the right skills?

And so we spend a lot of time in development. Why are they motivated, what are their strengths, and how are they being served in this role and what are the gaps. 

What games can learn from more mature industries

 Well, the structure of management. I joined games because I found it fun. You joke all the time. There are things that you would say in a corporate world are quite inappropriate, but it's in a different context and because it's games, it's silly.

I love this about games. If I have the choice I will make everything I do playful. But this is also where we can learn from other industries that have been more mature.

Like I said, there's responsibilities. When you want to hire people remotely, you need to have a legal entity. Those are not fun things, the corporate legal things, I don't enjoy that, but this is part of the responsibility.

So that I think is still missing, some maturity for especially younger companies. How do we professionalize ourselves so we are sustainable? And things like a code of conduct, you know, those are very common in corporations.

But in gaming, people ask why do we need a code of conduct? We just agree on things verbally and behave. Unfortunately, when you scale a group organization, you have to think of these things. 

Let's put these tips to good use

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