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Hocking critcises "Viking" culture of dev studios

Wed 06 Jul 2011 8:46am GMT / 4:46am EDT / 1:46am PDT
PeopleDevelopment

LucasArts creative director says "we can do better", calls for more female developers

LucasArts creative director Clint Hocking has challenged the industry to improve the working environment at its development studios.

In a column for Edge magazine, Hocking compares the culture at most studios to that of the Vikings, "Minus the literal rape and killing, of course."

"Game development studios and their teams are largely staffed in the same way that Viking longships were crewed. Consequently, the culture is overflowing with beer and pent-up aggression, and a very significant portion of our overall cultural output is fart jokes. I think we can do better."

Hocking points out that the Vikings were ultimately defeated by a "better-balanced" culture in 1066, and suggests that establishing a more balanced culture within the games industry is the key to both future stability and reaching a "truly mass market audience."

The top priority, as Hocking sees it, is to bring more women into game development, so that studio culture better reflects the structure of society as a whole.

"This means that we need to better position the industry as a desirable workplace, one in which female artists, designers, programmers and project managers would want to be employed. It involves reaching out to universities and colleges to help them attract more female applicants to their programmes, enabling us to benefit from a greater number of female graduates."

"Like the Viking expansion itself, this transformation probably needs to be driven from the bottom up. Like it or not, the culture onboard your ships is the culture you're exporting. Fart jokes have their place in culture, but when fart jokes become your culture you have a problem."

33 Comments

Jenny Black
Looking for employment ex student

1 0 0.0

I'm a female Graduate from a BSc Computer science computer games programming degree, I'd Love to get a job in games even if it wasn't in development. I know other fellow woman games students who would love a job in games but simply can't get one. I think the problem isn't encouraging woman into games its the fact the few that do want to work in games, can't get a job in it.
May be the way to get more woman into games is to simply help female graduates who do want to work in it to get the experience to get a job, AKA Web based Game dev. groups which are recognised by the industry on a CV or even experience in local games devs?

Posted:3 years ago

#1

Nick McCrea
Gentleman

178 231 1.3
"Hocking points out that the Vikings were ultimately defeated by a "better-balanced" culture in 1066"

Normans == Vikings.

Sorry, I'm a terrible pedant when it comes to these things :(

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 6th July 2011 10:48am

Posted:3 years ago

#2
He's might be right,

But his metaphor is all kinds of wrong, uninformed, uneducated and insulting.

Posted:3 years ago

#3

Neil Alphonso
Lead Designer

48 17 0.4
Clint just criticised beer.. I think a bit of me just died

Posted:3 years ago

#4

John Donnelly
Quality Assurance

313 38 0.1
I think is demening to the Vikings. Their cluture was more advanced than fart jokes, beer, rape and pillage.
They where a highly advanced and industroius race who had trading links with many other clutures and races.

As for getting more women in to the industry, I worked with some women who where some of the best QA staff I have ever worked with.
I think a ballenced team is more important than 'just having more women' but the industry is still more attractive to men as is most IT related jobs including coding and testing.
Even where I work today there is a distinct bias in some roles gender wise but the same is true for other roles including HR and finance so its not as clear cut as it can appear.

Posted:3 years ago

#5
You could say the same of sexual and racial minorities as well. Possibly it would be better to just try to increase diversity across the industry as a whole.

Posted:3 years ago

#6

Ron Festejo
Creative Director

19 0 0.0
Are there still studios that behave that way? I'm not sure I've come across one... I've come across individuals that fit that description - but never a whole studio. The 'challenge' seems a little dated to me :-/

Posted:3 years ago

#7
I agree with Ron. Are there any studios that have such culture mentality? I've worked with many studios in Europe and have also worked in Asia, and have never come across a 'beer and fart' mentality.

True, more often than not I'm the only girl in the studio and have been taken for the secretary many times, but even that is changing. As more girls study and have an interest in game development, we're now seeing a healthy mix in the average game development studio.

There are a lot of things that need fixing with game development in general - work conditions, benefits, work hours, training - but I'd say that the office culture and the attitude of the people who work in the industry in general is one thing we are really good at. It's a work hard, play hard culture that's great for any creative industry. I feel sorry for anyone who experiences the kind of office environment described in the article, but I have yet to come across that experience with game development.

Btw, Vikings were also farmers who colonized most of Northern Europe and Britain, so they were not all that bad ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nataska Statham on 6th July 2011 2:03pm

Posted:3 years ago

#8
"Hocking points out that the Vikings were ultimately defeated by a "better-balanced" culture in 1066"

What a crock of ****. Someone obviously doesn't know their history - the Normans were lucky as hell, and certainly no more liberal:)

Posted:3 years ago

#9
Personally having worked both in games and business IT etc I think there are more females in games companies due to the fact that animation and to a lesser degree art isn't quite so male dominated.

However the problem is that the only people insane to work in the industry are gamers and love what they do as it's not competitive (roughly speaking) with the other industries that use similar skills.

Girls don't love games in the same ratio as guys at least not for the age range of people in the industry however that's improving every year so eventually it will correct it's self. Not need for anything else, if a girl is good enough she would have no problem getting hired.

Posted:3 years ago

#10
I'm with Fran and Nick on the History

The Normans were Vikings and the Saxons were... well Saxons stupid analogy and dated point

Posted:3 years ago

#11

Andrew Clayton
QA Weapons Tester

150 7 0.0
If he had talked about hiring more good, happy, qualified employees instead of talking about generic "female" employees I might agree with him. Gender should be irrelevant, quality of work is the real factor.

Posted:3 years ago

#12

Armando Marini
Product Development

16 0 0.0
I think everyone is missing the point of the comment. Many developers are still primarily staffed by men, and of those men many are immersed in geek culture. What Clint is trying to point out is that if games are to appeal to a broader audience, the team make up should be more balanced.

I'd applaud more women on staff.

Posted:3 years ago

#13
Guys seriously, normans aren't vikings thank you very much.

Whilst 1066 might be famous for conquest of England by Normans I think Hocking here refers to the battle of Stamford Bridge that same year where King Harold II defeated the Norwegian Vikings of King Harald III.

Though if my memory serves well it was there a single viking on the bridge challenged the entire English army, only to end up stabbed from beneath said bridge after hacking through several soldiers. Way to go for an inspiration toward civilization.

In fine: vikings < balanced civilization < the French.

There's a cool BBC video game about 1066, check it out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive...

Posted:3 years ago

#14

Jesse America
Executive Producer

1 0 0.0
A very cool look at the entire 1066 thing is Channel 4's 1066: The Battle For Middle Earth.

Posted:3 years ago

#15

John Donnelly
Quality Assurance

313 38 0.1
Armando, You make a good point but you can ballence a team in many ways just 'hiring more women' is not going to really help that much unless everyone has a passion for games and as its been pointed out that right now in the game industry and in the wider IT industry the tech roles (programming and what not) are more attractive to men but other roles including project management and appeal more to women.

Its not about gener but getting fresh blood with new ideas and opinions in to sutdios to make the games of the future which in turn will lead to more people looking to enter the game industry and futher ballence teams along many lines including gener.

Posted:3 years ago

#16
@ Ewan. I'm afraid you misunderstood me:) Harold Hardrada was a Viking.

And the battle of Stamford Bridge was a battle between Viking cultures. I think he was referring above to Hastings (or, more precisely, Battle:)).

Anyway, this is all besides the point of the article:)

Posted:3 years ago

#17
I'll put it another way. historically, Hocking doesn't know what he's talking about;)

Posted:3 years ago

#18

Howard Parry

23 13 0.6
Vikings, Normans, Saxons... it's what's inside that matters.

Posted:3 years ago

#19
I don't think there are many disagreeing with the point of the article."... we need to better position the industry as a desirable workplace.... reaching out to universities and colleges to help them attract more female applicants to their programmes..." Noone is saying hire more women unless they are the best for a particular job. It is just that there is a dearth of women at the hiring stage. Something that groups like Women in Games Jobs within the industry are working hard to do something about.

Posted:3 years ago

#20

Tim Carter
Designer - Writer - Producer

555 292 0.5
If he wants to do better, he has to support free agency.

Free agency is the traditional route of art. Has been, for hundreds of years.

That will put control into the hands of the key creators, and achieve it.

It sure as hell should not come as some top-down command dictate from an administrator (corporate or otherwise).

Posted:3 years ago

#21

Robert Potter
Programmer

2 0 0.0
@Philippe: Norman is equivalent to "Northman", and was another word for viking. Yes, the Normans were vikings.

Posted:3 years ago

#22
hooray Clint Hocking. too crude a portrayal, but the industry in general is overdue for some maturation.

Posted:3 years ago

#23

Roland Austinat
roland austinat media productions|consulting

125 62 0.5
The gaming industry is stuck in a studio system that Hollywood, the often quoted holy grail of many game developers, has abolished decades ago.

And yes to what Clint says. At least story wise, 95 percent of games wouldn't even make soap opera standards.

Posted:3 years ago

#24
I think this is just another case of a developer seeing something that works and making a blanket statement. Yes, a more mainstream culture in the studio is unquestionably viable. But some of us are just overgrown kids who still read comics and argue about which superhero can beat up which and we happen to also make great games despite (or perhaps because of) not always being politically correct. That philosophy has also been viable for many companies for many years (would the GTA franchise ever have come about if Rockstar was concerned with maintaining a "balanced" culture?). There's room for both philosophies in the industry, in my opinion.

Posted:3 years ago

#25

Christopher Bowen
Editor in Chief

405 539 1.3
I want the best people making the best games. I don't give a crap if they're male, female or if they have a third set of genitalia that hasn't even been discovered yet.

Posted:3 years ago

#26

Murray Lorden
Game Designer & Developer

199 72 0.4
I think it's a nice observation as a whole, even if he's taking the beer and farts things a bit far, I think it's still a nice metaphor at least for a largely male-infused workplace.

I miss girls. Sometimes I start to wonder if they were real at all.

I seem to remember them being at high school. But then, my memory isn't 100%.

Posted:3 years ago

#27

Murray Lorden
Game Designer & Developer

199 72 0.4
In all seriousness, though, we have some very talented women working here!

But sometimes I do yearn for a more 50/50 kind of environment, like I see out the window in the real world.

:)





Posted:3 years ago

#28

Michael Vandendriessche
Studying Computer Science

84 10 0.1
I agree with Daniel.
Balanced studios make more balanced games, most likely for a broader audience. While the 'viking' studios might make the more niche games. They're both needed for a healthy industry.

Posted:3 years ago

#29

Shane Sweeney
Academic

354 259 0.7
I think the greater problem is that we have to many Geeks in the Games industry. I'm a loud, proud geek, but I do tire of every game trying to be Star Wars, Indiana Jones or Avatar. If that's all film was, it would be a wasted medium.

Gaming at least in the mainstream is a wasted medium, at least until we get a shifting demographic. Obviously we do have fringe exceptions; Jenova Chen and Jason Roher are obvious exceptions.

Posted:3 years ago

#30

Emily Knox
Studying Creative Digital Media

2 0 0.0
As more girls are growing up with video games as a hobby, more will consider it as a career. I think this is something that will change gradually on its own over the years.
Before changing my degree route I originally started on a games programming course. I remember lecture 1, of around 200 students I could see just one other girl. I've heard female programmers being referred to as "the unicorns of the games industry".
However with the huge rise in tuition fees, I can imagine the overall number of graduates studying games programming, art and design declining, and therefore also the number of girls. But perhaps it will be more balanced by then.

Posted:3 years ago

#31

Rui Martins
Senior Software Developer

11 1 0.1
The real problem I believe is the "culture" in this Industry.
The ideia,that because we love what we do, we have to work like slaves, with almost no social life, with impossible schedules. And as soon as the product is finished or something goes wrong, firing the working crew is the first weapon on the arsenal.
This industry must change and value the people that work in it, since they usually are some of the most qualified and hard working people I have worked with.
If a programmer, for example, has to be that good to thrive on this industry, why isn't he payed at the same or higher level as in IT business, and the same goes for graphic artists, musicians, etc...
The companies in this business get the largest slice, instead of distributing it by its workers.

This mentality must change.

Posted:3 years ago

#32

Gemma Suen
Concept Artist, 3d artist, 2d artist

8 2 0.3
Some comments mention that not having enough 'females' specifically isn't the problem. Well, I disagree. As adult and non-sexist as we all are, we can't deny that too many men or too many women in one environment does cause an imbalance. Whether we are aware of it or not, there will always be a more manly influence to games, therefore a different interest/demographic. So yes, it does matter, and I agree with Hocking's view. Although not entirely sure about Vikings vs whoever. Bringing in more variety of workers will bring a better balance.
Hopefully resulting in more people taking interest in games, resulting to even more balance. It's already taking a turn for the best so this issue should solve itself eventually. As for Vikings, I assumed he was just using that as a metaphor for white male dominance that's pretty common in the gaming concept.

Posted:3 years ago

#33

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