By: Jack Baillie, Game Production ’21
I have spent the past semester working for the indie game studio Artifact 5, A5 is based here in Montreal and does all of its business out of the gaming hub GamePlay Space. Artifact 5 was founded in 2014 by Samantha Cook, Ramy Daghestani, and Mohannad Al-Khatib. The studio has released one game in 2018, “Anamorphine” is a surreal virtual reality experience where the player is taken on an amazing journey about the different ways people cope with mental illness.
Since I first arrived at Artifact 5 I have been completing a variety of different tasks. Due to my lack of knowledge of the gaming industry, my first couple of weeks were spent primarily doing research for one of the projects Artifact 5 has been working on. The main goal of this research was for me to help the studio find their ideal player and assist in creating different “player personas” for the game. I spent a lot of time diving into the Twitch and streamer market where I reported information like the gender split of users and streamers as well as the buying habits of the gaming market as a whole. These research assignments were a perfect starting point for me as it allowed me to learn more about the field that I was going to be working in the next couple of months while also providing the company with some valuable insights for their current project.
A few weeks into my stint at Artifact 5, Sam, (my primary supervisor) went away for two weeks and left me with two assignments to help me understand what her role as a game producer is and what is asked of a producer. One of these assignments was reading select portions from “Agile Project Management With Scrum” by Ken Schwaber and “Agile Game Development With Scrum” by Clinton Keith. The first book I read taught me various lessons on agile management with scrum and where it can be applied outside of game and software development. I found this first book particularly interesting as in my mind I had always assumed that scrum was only something that only game developers used. The second book that I spent time reading was the one that really opened my eyes to the world of being a game producer. Clinton Keiths’ book showed me the role that agile management plays in game development from having a concept to making a full-blown playable demo. Along with my reading during these two weeks, I had the privilege to meet with the heads of various game studios that like Artifact 5 are based in Montreal at GamePlay Space. The purpose of these interviews was for me to see how other studios here run their businesses and they were able to that in beyond. Not only was I able to see how other studios are run but I was able to see the different ways people view the gaming industry in its entirety. The highlights of each interview for me was asking the question “What do you think is the next big thing for the gaming world.?” It was this question that gave me the most intriguing answers, I found that one studio may think the next big thing is “gaming as streaming service” while another one believed that “women in gaming” would be the next thing to change the industry. After these interviews and reading, I definitely felt that I came out of this two-week session with a new perspective on the gaming world.
When Sam returned from her trip she and I debriefed what I had been up into two weeks she had been away. This process included my taking of a practice scrum master certification test and interviewing Sam so I could learn about the history of Artifact 5 and Sams’ perspective on the gaming world. The tasks that I have been completing up until the point I am writing this blog have been geared more toward the financial side of running a business. I have spent the past few working right alongside Sam as we have gone through Artifact 5s’ finances, the specifics of which I will not be revealing. This part of the job was extremely interesting to me because it gave me the chance to not only see how to run a game studio and a business in general.
It is very safe to say that since I started my time at Artifact 5 I have had a variety of different tasks that have each increased my knowledge of the gaming world and shown me all the work and effort that goes into the process of making a game.
Before interning at Artifact 5 the only experience I had with gaming and the gaming market was through the lens of a player as I have had a fascination with games for well over a decade of my life. Through my research, readings, interviews, and assignments I feel very confident in saying that I have learned so much more than I expected to about the gaming landscape. For example, through my research assignments, I was able to learn who exactly is playing video games today and what companies look for when scouting for potential buyers or partners. My readings and interviews allowed me to take a look at the “behind the scenes” process of managing a game development team and what role the manager of that team has to play in order to move the project along from a concept to a demo.
It has been made clear that before I spent time at a game studio I knew nothing about the business side of gaming. This lack of knowledge presented me with some unique challenges over this semester. I had obviously expected to encounter some challenges at this time and I had my fair share of difficulties. One of the first and hardest challenges I encountered at Artifact 5 was understanding the culture of a game studio. The best example that I can think of is a problem that I encountered early on in my time at the studio when I was assigned with doing market research I was given a list of suggested info that was needed. I assumed based on work that I have done for previous companies that my supervisor wanted these points exactly, that is how I presented the information. I learned after the fact that one of the reasons I was given this task was the company wanted to know my personal insights and ideas. This was where I learned the lesson that in [Indie] game studios it is very common for people to wear multiple “hats,” and just because you have been assigned one role does not mean you cannot help with others; a concept that I was not all that familiar with in the workplace. A second challenge that I ran into was learning the importance of asking for help and teamwork in a game studio. I admittedly have had a problem with asking for help when I get stuck and have found that I would rather work alone than be part of a team. I found that in-game studios not asking for help and working with others can not only hinder the work of the individual but also the work of the team. This challenge was much harder for me to overcome as it forced me to actually step out of my comfort zone as I began asking for help more often and making sure that I spoke up during morning scrums and weekly reviews. At first, I found it extremely challenging but in the end, I found it extremely rewarding as in a very short time I found myself feeling like a full-blown member of the team. This semester has provided me with experiences and memories that I have helped me learn valuable lessons about both the world of business and gaming, lessons that I will take with me for a very long time.