Interview

Jobs in Games: Voodoo's Sophie Vo on the misconceptions of being a game lead

Jobs in Games: Voodoo's Sophie Vo on the misconceptions of being a game lead

The games industry plays host to a colourful cast of diverse individuals, from artists and coders to narrative designers and studio heads.

The skills to pull off these roles, however, are complex and differing, with each position requiring mastery in its field.

To highlight some of the brilliant work that goes on behind the screen, and help others who may be keen to dive in, PocketGamer.biz is reaching out to the individuals who make up the games industry with our Jobs in Games series.

This week we spoke to Voodoo game lead Sophie Vo regarding the misconceptions of the profession. 

PocketGamer.biz: Can you tell us about your current role and what it entails?

Sophie Vo: I am working as a game lead at Voodoo, leading one of the studios based in Berlin to explore new games beyond hypercasual. If I had to describe my role in one sentence, my main responsibility is to build an environment for amazing teams to create amazing games.

As for what I do on a daily basis, it can differ wildly. Some days I will focus on sourcing and hiring people, for others I will work on the studio strategy and vision and then I will also work hands-on with the games, concepting new ideas or iterating and testing our prototypes. Each day is different, and that's what I love about the role.

How did you first get into games and how did you progress into the role?

Each day is different, and that's what I love about the role.
Sophie Vo

I developed a passion for games when I was young, playing with my dad and siblings (I started playing on the Atari). But it was a hobby to me, I wasn't planning to make it my career. In fact, I studied business and marketing.

When I graduated from business school, I didn't feel excited by any of the jobs in that field. I was lucky with the timing, as around then was when the first games jobs in France appeared for profiles like mine.

So, I joined Gameloft as a producer for my first job in games. After over a decade in games and working at companies like Wooga and Rovio, I gained experience in shipping free-to-play mobile games, leading international teams and running live ops for big games. These experiences gave me the confidence to go on the journey of starting a new studio at Voodoo.

Is it something you ever imagined yourself doing?

Not at all. 20 years ago, games weren't considered a serious career path. Now that almost everyone on the planet plays or interacts with games (i.e. live streaming, instant games, e-sports etcetera), people are looking more closely at what is happening in games and the business of games.

What did you study (if anything) to get your role? What courses would you advise for aspiring professionals in the area?

It's a young industry, with a market that is moving fast. It is hard to find reliable sources on how to make great games or how to lead teams that won't become obsolete after a few years, if not months! So, all the most relevant knowledge I gained was through experience, trial and error.

I also read a great deal about creative leadership from other digital businesses, to get inspiration on what can be applicable to the process of making games in modern times. I follow companies such as Netflix, Disney, Google, Facebook, which is a big help.

What part of your role do you find most fulfilling?

Working with unique personalities and passionate people who share the same mission to create new incredible game experiences out there.

Do you think there are any misconceptions, public or professional, surrounding your area of expertise?

Misconception number one: The best leads have the best plans.

People need more purpose, context (implying transparency) and autonomy from their leadership
Sophie Vo

Realisation number one: The best leads have the flexibility and openness to know when to change plans and when to not enforce plans. In a context where the market is complex and hard to predict, our best tools are not planning but team intelligence to detect fast what works and what doesn't. What to stop or pursue.

Misconception number two: People need to be protected from the leadership.

Realisation number two: People need more purpose, context (implying transparency) and autonomy from their leadership.

Misconception number three: People care about perks and money.

Realisation number three: People care more about the team and lead they will work with, and the meaning of the daily work they will do.

Is there anything about the job/industry you wish you would have known when first joining?

I wish I had a mentor or coach earlier in my career. Someone to show me the possibilities of career development in the industry, someone to help me understand myself as a person and professional. It's been a few years since I have had a coach now and it really helped me to shape and crystallise my leadership style.

What other advice do you have for someone looking for a job in this profession?

Invest in your network: mentors, coach, peers, potential hires. Don't be afraid to try new things with your team, question what you do all the time. Gain the experience you need in design, production, or programming to build your confidence as a game lead.


Staff Writer

Matthew Forde is the staff writer for PocketGamer.biz and also a member of the Pocket Gamer Podcast. You can find him on Twitter @Forde999 talking about Smash Bros. and everything pop culture related - particularly superheroes.

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