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Why games industry staffing is broken

TheXPlace's Maya Rand details the post-pandemic struggle to acquire and retain video game talent, and the need for a change in 2022
Why games industry staffing is broken

Maya Rand is CEO of TheXPlace

The way we work and find work is broken, and it has been for a long time.

In an industry experiencing massive growth and expected to generate more than $268 billion by 2025, it's astounding to see that the games industry's phenonmenal talent still can’t find suitable work easily and great studios are struggling to find much-needed talent.

The pandemic accelerated both the volume of people playing games and also the amount of content consumed, and with more demand for gaming comes more demand for talent. Yet the games industry is experiencing a tremendous global skills shortage. Nor is it not getting easier to match the right talent with the right opportunity, especially given the additional challenges brought on by remote work and distributed teams. A change is desperately needed.

So why is it so difficult for companies and talent to find each other?

An endless search for needles in a haystack

Opportunities should be in abundance for gaming companies of every size, from indie to triple-A. But staffing a specialised role is a lengthy and costly process, with companies spending as much as 25-60 per cent of the annual salary per role in their search.

“The way we work and find work is broken, and it has been for a long time.”
Maya Rand

Finding the right talent is crucial for capitalising on the massive growth trajectory that the video gaming industry is experiencing, and speed is of the essence. But staffing a specialised role is like finding a needle in a haystack because there is no easy, straightforward way to discover, access, and assess the current talent pool’s diverse skills, credentials, and portfolios.

Talent appears faceless

While companies are struggling to find talent gems, it’s even more challenging for games industry professionals.

In pursuit of suitable opportunities, talented game professionals can send hundreds of resumes for months into an unanswered void. It’s the result of the industry sticking with archaic practices and systems that waste time and effort for everyone.

As an industry that produces visually striking content, it’s underwhelming that the systems we all use today are driven solely by words, lots of words, entered in online forms. Professionals have very limited ways to be discovered and they don’t have opportunities to showcase themselves and their work with rich visuals, personal videos that punch it up.

Meaningless job titles waste costly time and effort

On the main job hubs today, professional profiles are one-size-fits-all for any industry. We continue to use generic titles ("UX designer", "lead developer") to describe our past roles, but it makes professionals indistinguishable from one to the next and requires companies endless time and effect to dig into what the person has actually done, what they specialise in, and care about. Similarly, the generic job descriptions make it difficult for professionals to assess suitable opportunities in the market.

Today’s systems are rife with fraud and false credits

Systems that are used today - job sites, freelance websites, social networks, and "professional networks" – are rife with fraud and false credits. These systems don’t require identification or content verification at the user and company level.

“Systems that are used today are rife with fraud and false credits”
Maya Rand

As a result, they serve as a breeding ground for false information and fuel the sense of distrust in the industry. The burden of deciphering the truth falls to the studios and talent who must spend additional time deciphering validity, with the risk that they may not get it right.

In recent years, there are many stories of fake companies and fake projects as well as fake identities or professionals claiming credit for others' work. As long as there is no vetting of identities, commercial entities and content, claims can be made whether they are true or not. To find each other, both companies and professionals need peace of mind to trust that what they see is what they get.

Busting bias in hiring practices

While there’s a desire among companies to bring more diversity and inclusion into their hiring practices, the big question is how? There are many steps on the path to truly diverse and inclusive hiring practices, and it all starts with your talent pool and ensuring that your hiring team is aware of, and mitigating biases in the qualifying process.

Research shows that while people have the best of intent, they are held back by inherent biases they might not even be aware of. Technology can certainly help remove the biases we bring to decisions, but there haven’t been technology solutions adopted by the games industry to date that address hiring bias head-on.

The future of work with Gen Z and Millennials

Expectations for a change in work are a reality across the board. The latest generations to enter the games industry already make up the biggest portion of the professional workforce. They want higher salaries, greater flexibility, variety, and diversity. They want to be more in control of their career and their destiny.

“It’s clear that the legacy practices of the games industry, which also perpetuate the closed-circle club, just don’t work for the newest generations”
Maya Rand

The great resignation highlights similar ambitions that have evolved during the pandemic even with tenured professionals, studios are feeling the brunt of these expectations for change in how they are staffed, managed, and offer career growth. It’s clear that the legacy practices of the games industry, which also perpetuate the closed-circle club, just don’t work for the newest generations. That is why change is not optional but rather crucial.

What companies and talent must recognise now

The nature of work is changing, and there are issues to resolve so that the industry can grow and evolve. Shaping the future of work in the games industry starts with recognising that sourcing career opportunities and talent is broken, and then taking action. There should be a better way for companies and talent to find each other. Our reliance on social networks, “professional networks”, and existing job hubs don’t meet needs.

The solution is a superior form of professional network that serves as a trusted community with a high level of transparency to instill much-needed trust. Where vetted companies, vetted professionals, and verified credits give peace of mind to all parties. Where talent gets access to creative and rewarding opportunities that are unbounded by geography. Gaming companies gain unparalleled access, and they can mitigate bias while hiring with confidence proven and specialised professionals from a wide variety of disciplines.

This way benefits both professionals and gaming companies equally. It helps people flourish and feel valued, it creates access to opportunities, and a more diverse and inclusive industry, and it’s time we mend the way we work together.