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JJ Häll on the IGDA’s role in the Finnish games industry

Live from Helsinki: The Finnish IGDA chairman spoke at their Leadership Day
JJ Häll on the IGDA’s role in the Finnish games industry
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With PGC Helsinki right around the corner we’re at the International Game Developer Association’s Leadership Day today, an annual industry event consisting of talks and networking opportunities squarely focused on the subject of leadership in games.

We got the chance to speak to JJ Häll, operations manager at Metaplay and chairman of the IGDA about their role in the industry and the event’s success. What makes the IGDA so important for the Finnish games industry

JJ: IGDA Finland is really a culmination of the Finnish games industry, because it started from the demo scene and the mobile scene, with Nokia and their fall. You had a bunch of people who wanted to do stuff together but then, after finding this common ground was difficult, the IGDA Finland - kind of by happenstance - ended up existing. You got these people who wanted to bring others together to build a place for everybody to meet up, talk about things, create businesses and come up with ideas.

That started to grow and grow, and before you knew it - bing bang boom - you had IGDA Finland. It started right here in Helsinki, where we are now, we just celebrated 20 years. We now have 15 hubs across Finland from the furthest North to the South, East, West and everything in between. And I think it’s pivotal that we have one neutral area where everyone can come once a month, meet and exchange ideas. There’s no recruiting and no marketing, and that’s a very key part of it, it’s just a place where you can meet your old friends.

Friends drift apart if you change roles, that’s just a fact. But if you have a place where you can meet up that helps to keep those fresh, and it helps keep the industry together.

How important is it to keep up the bonds between people in the industry?

It’s definitely important. It came from a lack of events where you talk about leadership and management in the same way. That’s why we started pushing for this, and I think it’s important on another level. Our events are open to everyone. Events like the leadership day are also open, but the point is that this is targeted more for the management and then these people can share their knowledge and try to avoid people repeating mistakes from the game industry’s past.

One of the key things we do with the IGDA is that all our events are free entry, there’s no bar, there’s no gatekeeping. It’d be easy to make money on it, but we work hard to get the sponsors who support it.

It says something that for five years now we’ve had sponsors willing to put money into this to keep it free so that everyone can come here. We have support from Supercell, to Redhill, to EA and all sorts of sponsors who are willing to give money to keep this as it is and want to send their people here. There’s a definite need and want for this sort of event, both on the higher and lower levels, and everywhere in between.

Do you think having events like this happening at the same time as PGC Helsinki helps bring people together even further?

Yes! So, I’m not gonna lie, having PGC at the same time is incredibly useful because it also brings a lot of international people here. The first time we did this it was a little bit separate from PGC but we still got some international visitors. And we thought, ‘why fight the tide, why not go with it and be a part of it?’

So we start the week with the Leadership Day, they come here and meet up, then the next day - boom - PGC takes over. I think that’s a pretty natural continuation of it, and I think so far we’ve done it a couple of times and it works really well in tandem, at least on the IGDA Finland side I can say we’re really happy with the situation!