Since Helsinki studio Next Games emerged in 2013, PocketGamer.biz has been following its output with interest.
Its first release, Spaghetti Western-themed card battler Compass Point: West, turned heads with its profitable use of incentivised ads.
And, following a fruitful 2015 for the company, the reward came in January 2016 with a $10 million investment.
As such - and given that the studio is currently hiring - we reached out to HR Manager Anna Feodorow to learn about what she looks for in a Next Games employee, insights into company culture, and advice for those looking to gain a foothold in the industry.
PocketGamer.biz: Could you give us some background on Next Games and what you do?
Anna Feodorow: Back in 2013 our four founders decided to build a fantastic gaming company with a warm and inviting culture.
They all have years of experience from the gaming industry and being an entrepreneur and knew what they were looking for in their future company.
Since then we’ve grown to an international 70 people strong mobile gaming company, with employees of 13 different nationalities, developing and publishing games.
We’re headquartered in Helsinki, Finland and also have a branch office in Berlin. Last year we launched our first games Compass Point: West and The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land.
The wild west adventure Compass Point: West was the debut title of our to-be Compass Point franchise, and The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land, is based on AMC’s record-breaking TV show and is our first third party IP.
So, currently we have two live games and more are cooking.
We have plans to develop more games based both on our own IP and the world's most loved TV shows and movies.Anna Feodorow
I joined the company back in 2014 as the 12th employee. The way I see my role in addition to hiring and other basic HR tasks, is acting as an ambassador for our values and introducing people to our company culture.
It’s also important for me to ensure that we have a rich mix of people working here, so that we look at what we’re doing from different angles. It’s been a fun ride to be a part of building the company, seeing how both games have been developed, launched and now in full live operation mode.
What specific areas/disciplines are you currently hiring in?
Currently we’re looking for new additions to our backend team from server developers to full stack developers.
We’re also searching for a designer and QA manager currently but I’m of course always keeping my eyes open for new, interesting talent to join our team.
We have ambitious plans to develop more games based both on our own IP and the world's most loved TV shows and movies. There's a lot of exciting things happening right now and lot's of opportunities for developers with Next Games now and in the future.
As you're overseeing recruitment at Next Games, what do you look for in candidates?
Substance is naturally crucial. Beyond that I’m always on the look for attitude. We want our candidates to be people who have a natural passion for mobile gaming, and an open mind to change and challenge.
The mobile games market is fickle and it can, and most likely will constantly change. We do not only want to adapt, but be a part of the change.
We want to build teams where people feel secure and confident to speak their mind, present their ideas and challenge things.
The second big theme that’s important to us, is building a diverse team.
When you have enough different kinds of people from various backgrounds, we ensure that the teams together deliver a meaningful and well-thought through experience for the players - who also come from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and have different expectations.
Why do you think Next Games/Helsinki is a good place to work? How will you be trying to encourage a strong company culture?
Personally, I think Next Games as company is a true cultural gem.
We are all very focused on building a culture of caring: a players-first mentality, but also making sure we take other people into account and respect one another in our day to day work.
Next Games as company is a true cultural gem.Anna Feodorow
We’re in this together - everyone is listened to and we aim for transparency. We have this saying that “if it can be shared, let’s share it!” and we have stayed true to this statement made very early on when the company was founded.
If we talk in general why Finland is an attractive location there are two main things. Firstly, Helsinki is currently a great hub for game development.
The whole gaming industry here is booming and we have great events together with other gaming companies here.
The overall gaming scene is very approachable - it’s easy to make new friends quickly and local companies help one another here. This is very unique to the Finnish games scene and you have to be here to experience it firsthand.
Secondly, just like Zuckerberg, the gaming startup scene has grown up too.
What I mean by this is that the average age of people working in the gaming industry is rising and naturally people might have families at this stage.
What Finland can offer is the world's best education and daycare system, and what's best, it's all free. Finland is a fantastic place to raise a family.
We also have a very clean and safe environment, people are honest and trustworthy. The Helsinki metropolitan area is also easy to manage as it’s not too big and the public transportation is awesome.
Many people arrive to the interview without playing our games, and I always ask them why.Anna Feodorow
Our office is smack in the middle of the city centre and most of our people arrive to work by bus or tram. It only takes 10-30 mins to commute from anywhere in Helsinki!
What advice would you have for someone trying to get into the games industry?
I think working in games is so much fun because the industry combines creativity with technology and very precise analytical side to it. It’s fascinating to see a piece of narrative work or an idea turned into a game and follow what players do with it.
For someone who’s never worked in games, a good place to start is probably thinking a bit on what you already can do and your experience from previous jobs, be it coding, art or customer service.
Narrowing down your interests helps the recruiter to find a suitable position.
And to end at a very practical tip for interviews: surprisingly, many people will arrive to the interview without playing our games. And I always ask them why.
To view all current vacancies at Next Games, you can visit its jobs page.