Dundee developer Outplay Entertainment launched a new initiative in early 2017designed to promote a culture of continual learning and talent development at the studio.
Called Outplay Academy, the scheme aims to help staff improve their skills and develop new ones.
To that end, Outplay has invited various guest speakers, including DreamWorks’ Head of Animation, to meet the team and share their experiences, invested in leadership development and provided a suite of new development tools for employees in each discipline.
Not just aimed at its own staff, the academy has built up relationships with the education sector to support and promote career opportunities in the games industry. Learnings are also being shared with the wider dev community.
To discover more about the Outplay Academy scheme, we caught up with Outplay HR Manager Emma Purvey to discuss why it has invested in the initiative and what the early results are.
PocketGamer.biz: What are the benefits of such an initiative to a mobile game developer and its employees?
Emma Purvey: The benefits to the business are very similar to those of the team, growth. For growth we need to constantly learn and refine our approach, which is what we are encouraging our team to do. Just as new technology and market trends develop, so do we.
Outplay is creating and delivering world-class games, always pushing the bar on the quality of its games and the player experience. To deliver at that level you need to invest in and equip your team with the ability to perform at that level.
The academy caters for that through inspiring, encouraging and facilitating continual development in all aspects of each person’s role so we remain at the forefront of our sector. This may be through investing in learning tools, workshops or developing strong leaders to lead our teams.
Should other mobile game companies consider approaching learning and development in an organised way like this?
From Outplay's perspective, once we introduced the academy as a hub for learning and development, it became centralised within the studio. Handling personal development in this way has ensured that it is given the right level of priority, thought and investment.
We’ve always encouraged knowledge sharing and training, but we’ve found by putting our effort into one central platform has made this more useful to both the company and the individual. Outplay Academy is central to our talent strategy, as we’ve quickly seen the great impact it has had on our team and our products.
How important is it for individuals in the games industry to get an understanding of a broad range of disciplines and how they work?
Mobile games are developed and managed by many disciplines. Each of our products are delivered by a dev team but also supported by analysts, dev ops, customer support and marketing.
It's essential each game team and likewise our support teams understands and can view the part each plays and how we can enhance each other’s role in that.
The Academy created what we call the Outplay Journey, where our new starters spend time in other departments. It helps them to gain a wider understanding of the business and what we offer. It also makes them better at what they do.
Introducing the academy as a hub for our learning and development activity has centralised it in our studio.Emma Purvey
Understanding other perspectives and areas of the business helps each of us understand the impact of our work on others and the business. This not only broadens horizons, but also creates a more collaborative team. The more we know or experience, the better we are at what we do.
Tell us a little about the company knowledge portal and the steps Outplay takes to share knowledge internally.
We are in the process of putting an Academy intranet in place that will house all our activity in one space.
Knowledge is currently shared through our fortnightly town halls and a flow of regular workshops across an array of areas. We introduced a buddy system so each new developer has a mentor in place to bounce ideas with and learn from.
We are continually sharing our learnings from the various events we are all attending through our blog and @outplay_academy feed so our external community benefits too.
Do you feel there is a direct correlation between initiatives like Outplay Academy and better games?
We’ve found that our leads team are now more proactive in tackling problems before they happen. They have more confidence in themselves to manage their teams and also manage potential issues that might arise later on in the game development process.
Definitely, at this stage in our training process, our leaders are more engaged. There’s a thirst for learning and it’s a big positive for the company, and one we will continue to focus on and find new ways to support.